Showing posts with label charles dickens. Show all posts
Showing posts with label charles dickens. Show all posts

18 September 2013

The Invisible Woman - TIFF 2013

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Rating:
15
Release Date:
9,10th September (TIFF) 17th& 19th October (LIFF)
Director:
Ralph Fiennes
Cast:
Ralph Fiennes, Felicity Jones, Kristin Scott Thomas, Tom Hollander,

In 2011 Ralph Fiennes made his brutally impressive directorial debut with Coriolanus, a raw back-to-basics modern retelling of the lesser known Shakespeare play. Fiennes second feature is a brave departure from this, a perfect opposite to Coriolanus. Essentially a love story, The Invisible Woman follows the relationship between Charles Dickens (Fiennes) and his young lover Nelly Ternan (Felicity Jones), the pair had a controversial extra-marital affair that surpassed Dickens own marriage and continued on until his death at the age of 58.

Fiennes pays close attention to the roles of men and woman at the time in this, his carefully crafted essay on Victorian relationships and –more subtly- fame. The doomed role of the lover in a male writer’s life is perhaps the most heart wrenching aspect of the piece, carefully relayed in the fantastic performances of Jones and Joanna Scanlan- who personifies Victorian reserve in her often tragic portrayal of Dickens’ wife. As Nelly and Dickens draw closer and closer to the inevitable affair, the world around them sniffs scandal and forces them to take a more covert approach. Even if Dickens’ London is a man’s world, it is no place for divorce.

Fiennes is as magnetic as ever as the larger-than-life author at the height of his career. Tom Hollander deserves note for an energetic performance as the mischievous Wilkie Collins, the only grievance regarding Hollander would be his lack of screen time. The wonderful rapport between Fiennes and Hollander is electric and constitutes a large portion of the truly enjoyable scenes of the film. Bring on ‘Wilkie and Dickens: the college years’.

Here I have perhaps touched on the problem with Fiennes’ second feature: it is a period drama, and thus flirts consistently with surrendering to a certain brand of tedium. Aside from fantastic performance and Maria Djurkovic’s impressive production design-which ensures Fiennes’ Victorian London is realistic and aesthetically gorgeous, the film does lack that fine daring edge that might maintain the viewer’s absolute attention. Technicality, Fiennes is a good director, but merely good. His keen ear for diegetic sound helps pull the viewer into the world, but an as-of-yet unfound style leaves some of his frames wandering, left to be gathered by his actors. This leads us to another issue: particular scenes of magnetic performance, those between lovers and family, break the softly-spoken jib to deliver moments that surpass a large portion of the film.

The Invisible Woman is unfortunately a meandering film, beautifully realised but lacking in truly riveting subject matter. There are moments of startling clarity and splendour, a stand out performance from Felicity Jones, but by the end a point could be raised that there’s more beauty than brawn at work here.

★★★☆☆

Scott Clark

22 November 2012

The Muppet Christmas Carol Review

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2012 has seen not only the bi-centenary of Charles Dickens' birth, but also celebrates the 20th anniversary of one of the strangest screen adaptations of perhaps his most famous ghost story (of which he wrote several), A Christmas Carol. Directed by Brian Henson, the son of the late Muppet master Jim Henson,The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992), starring Kermit, Miss Piggy, Gonzo and Rizzo the Rat, as well as a wonderfully sour Michael Caine, is sheer bliss from start to finish.

Charles Dickens' seasonal tale, which is not only a warning against greed and the love of money, but also a classic example of the benefits of doing good to your fellow man, is brought to life by noneother than that loveable team of misfits, the Muppets.

No matter who you are or where you come from Jim Henson's mad offspring have an indefinable quality which has universal appeal. As their successful reinvention in The Muppets (2011) proved, their brand of magic is timeless, which also means now is the ideal opportunity to reissue one of their most succeful and best loved big screen outings.

The quirky characteristics of the various members of the Muppet troupe make them the perfect candidates to bring Dickens' supernatural tale to life. The role of the quick tongued and buxom Emily, matriarch of the Cratchit family was tailormade for Miss Piggy whilst Kermit is ideal as her kind hearted husband Bob. There are a few diviations from Dickens' original version, but giving Scrooge's dead partner Jacob Marley a brother called Robert, allows for grouchy Muppet regulars Statler and Waldorf to perform their popular rountine of putdowns and corny jokes. The casting as a whole is pure genius on the part of Casting Directors Suzanne Crowley, Mike Fenton and Gilly Poole, and brings a breath of fresh air to a story which often appears stale through overfamiliarity.

The humans, though mainly in supporting roles, add believability to the whole affair whilst not detracting from the impact of the film's main stars. Other than Steven Macintosh as Scrooge's nephew Fred, Caine is the only other human to play a major role in the film. His interpretation of Scrooge, the crotchety and miserable moneylender, is marvelously chilling yet pitiful, inducing sympathy from the viewer as he is shown the mess he has made of his life and given one last chance to mend his ways before his time runs out.

If there was to be any downside to the film one would imagine it would result from the addition of the sacharine and fluffy songs without which no Muppet production would be complete. However the clever placement of these serves to strengthen the storyline, bringing a lighter touch to what can sometimes be a brooding and cautionary tale.

Christmas is ultimately a time for children, and the rerelease of this magical family treat will be the perfect antidote to the big budget blockbusters which take over many local multiplexes at this time of year.

Cleaver Patterson


★★★★★


Rating: U
Re-Release Date: 23rd November 2012 (UK)
Directed ByBrian Henson
CastMichael CaineSteven MackintoshKermitMiss Piggy