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Archive for the ‘Charles Dance’ Category

Woman In Gold

16 Apr

Woman In Gold – directed by Alexei Kaye Campbell. Docudrama. 109 minutes Color 2015.

★★★★★

The Story: A Los Angles shopkeeper explores her right to reclaim a painting stolen from the walls her the family’s apartment by the Nazis 70 years before.

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Whether or not you consider Gustav Klimt’s work to be Liberace on canvas or not or have no view of or knowledge of it one way or another, this docudrama is simple, straightforward, and arresting. There is nothing special about its acting or its direction, and there doesn’t have to be.

Rather there is the sense of a thread unfolding into an enormous carpet stretching from California, right through The United States Supreme Court, to the grandeurs of Vienna where it encounters a bureaucracy of Olympic rigidity.

The painting in question is not simply worth over $130,000,000. Its real worth is that it is the portrait of the belovèd aunt of Maria Altmann and hung over the fireplace of the luxurious home she lived in until she was married and the Nazis came to steal everything , kill its occupants, and deposit the painting in the Belvedere Art Museum of Vienna, where it became the iconic painting for the city itself. It was called The Woman In Gold rather than the portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, for, of course, she was Jewish.

The movie covers all the unlikely sides of this attempt at restitution. The case is handled by an inexperienced lawyer, well and honestly played by Ryan Reynolds. Frau Altmann is played by Helen Mirren, as the upper class woman she was, well bred, and resigned to forget the past, until she wasn’t. They are ably supported by Daniel Brühl, Elizabeth McGovern, Charles Dance, Frances Fisher, Jonathan Pryce, and others.

The story, rather than the picture, carries the picture. It is a plain basket and does its job stoutly. It never betrays its material. And my suspense in its outcome, even though I knew it beforehand, since its headlines involved the most expensive painting in the world, continued until I was gratified and enlarged to learn how it ultimately came to survive.

 

The Imitation Game

24 Dec

The Imitation Game – directed by Morten Tyldum. BioDrama. 114 minutes Color 2014

★★★★

The Story: An odd duck of a mathematician becomes the goose that lays the golden egg when he breaks the German Enigma Code, thus hastening the end of WW II.

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Many BioDramas just now. Selma, Wild, Rosewater, Foxcatcher, The Theory Of Everything, Unbroken, and this. Why is that?

The reason is that no one can write film drama. At least not for the silver screen. Drama has been swallowed by junk food, Blockbuster Candy. Drama has been subsumed by SciFi, Horror, and GagComedy. Drama has been gorged up by theatricalism and special effects of Action Adventure. All non dramatic genres. Drama has been devoured by series on paid TV. Besides there are too few grown-up stars to play it. To come close to making a “serious” film,” then, make a BioDrama, instead. BioDramas look dignified when the Oscars loom.

And even in BioDramas we have the foolish action sequences, as here, when haymakers fly and bodies are thrown against computers. One knows those people wouldn’t behave like that. For the English a stiff upper lip was Sufi practice.

But that is the worst of it, for, while the movie is not well directed, it is well conceived, and it has a story natural to it.

Benedict Cumberbatch plays him well: Alan Turing, a quirky lot, was the finest mathematician in England, though young – though most mathematicians show their genius only when young. He enters into the top-secret task of breaking the unbreakable Enigma code, and to do it builds what seems to be the first computer. His off-putting personality is not one to inspire overpowering amity for him in his crew, however, until the only female mathematician, well played by Keira Knightley, induces him to loosen up.

The breaks in the team’s bad luck are well recorded here and we root for them all as the code yields itself to them. How exciting!

But the breaking of the code must be kept secret. And another secret must also be kept: Alan Turing is an active homosexual. To reveal either secret would be against the law.

This is a fine and bitter story. You yourself when you see it will experience the killing imbalance in the situation. And when you do see it, you will experience also the excitements of science in the moment of breakthrough, just as we did in the old days with Paul Muni in Louis Pasteur, Edward G. Robinson in Doctor Erlich’s Magic Bullet, and Greer Garson in Madame Curie. A tedious persistence in the task precedes those thrills, but therein the drama also lies. We want so much for mankind to take a step forward. And when it happens we take it too, even in a movie theatre.

Charles Dance is particularly fine as The Adversary as is Mark Strong as the M-5 intermediary. They both threaten very particular harm. But the wireheads win through.

Except do they?

 

 
 
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