Friday, 27 July 2012

‘Melancholia’ - DVD watched… Thursday 26th July 2012

(Rated 4/5 )

Billed as a psychological disaster movie, this is the self-admitted melancholic Lars von Trier at his best. The visual imagery is stunningly beautiful and extraordinary. Really riveting! The film opens with a sequence of slow-motion snippets from the film, so powerful it’s hard to blink even! And hints at what we are to expect.

And then flows into normal motion and sequences of highly natural acting and direction. To me this felt like a documentary – really like the camera discovered scenes that mattered to best show us who and how these characters are, and how they interact with each other, and recorded them for us.

Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg play sisters, Justine and Claire, and the story is told in two parts; the first more from Justine’s POV and the second from Claire’s. The melancholic Justine is getting married and attempting to live a ‘normal’ life. Claire does her very best to try to make everything work for Justine, but in a way with all her fixing makes matters worse. We get an excellent insight into Justine’s psychology through witnessing her family’s behaviour at the wedding and how she responds to it. The camera sees into her soul via her eyes and body language.

Then, in a slightly bizarre twist we see how Claire and Justine handle the prospect of the planet Melancholia on a possible course towards an impact with earth. So much metaphor at work here! But also questions as to who is more able to handle real impending catastrophe – the sister with self-created anxieties and distress, or the more positive and apparently capable one.

A wealth of great names inhabit the characters in this film, but the core and heart of the acting and emotion come from Kirsten and Charlotte. They are superb and so revealing of their characters and the subtle twists and turns of the relationship between them. All so beautifully and artistically exhibited in the direction. Amazing and wonderful as well as truthfully insightful and disturbing.

Melancholia – Review by TheRestrictedReviewer © 2012
Twitter: @RestrictReview

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

‘Richard III’- Part 2 - Shakespeare’s Globe - Thursday 19th July 2012

(Rated 4/5 )

As promised, I am revisiting my experience of this production of Richard III. I wanted to say more and didn't feel I had the time and energy to do so, so here it is now... part 2.

As I've said before, I personally don't find this play that interesting aside from the character of Richard himself - or perhaps that should be multiple-characters/personalities of him - and how he became as he did. Unfortunately I didn't see Anthony Sher's portrayal of him, but Sher wrote a book on his experience and acting process during that time; Year of the King. Sher and his then psychotherapist, Monty Berman, analyse Richard and conclude that it all has to do with the fact he wasn't loved by his mother! That does come through in the play. And that he is bitter about his disability and the world owes him. And perhaps like Dexter (of TV fame, played by Michael C. Hall), and other psychopaths, once he has started killing he can't stop. In fact some of his arguments, though crazy, seem almost reasonable. Again, like Dexter Morgan, Richard Plantagenet confides in his audience a great deal, so we get a fascinating insight into the workings of his mind and plans - then to see them carried out and we can enjoy even more the horror and humour of his manipulations. And yet it is difficult to sympathise with him on the mother front - unlike Dexter, Richard's mother wasn't murdered horribly right in front of his young child's eyes and he doesn't take out his compulsion to kill on bad people - Richard's victims are innocents; amongst them women and children. Also, most disabled people don't go round murdering others. In fact of those I know, disability rather gives them a heightened compassion towards others and a strength in dealing with life's struggles. It does seem to be a well-used dramatic ploy for villainy though - other examples including The Phantom of the Opera and a few Bond villains!

This production was in traditional Shakespearean costume. I think that also helps us believe the men as women, in their skirts right down to the ground - they glide instead of walk along the stage. The young princes, played by Shanu Hazzan and Dylan Standen, looked just like little men in their royal garb. Very cute and I was very impressed by their delivery of Shakespeare's language as though it was the most natural way to speak in the world. 

The new Globe is a very special theatre. It has been reproduced as accurately to the original as possible within available knowledge. It has such an amazing atmosphere and you feel transported back in time. For someone with disability problems it is a little difficult. You are sitting on hard wooden benches with no support for the back - though you can hire cushions and fold up 'chair-backs'. Well that is of course if you are sitting at all! Many stand where stalls would normally be - great view but tough for a typically 3-hour long play. Actors and audience alike are open to the elements - best to take layers of clothing in case. That said, with the insistence on air conditioning in many closed theatres, it is often warmer in The Globe. I was far too cold in the Donmar on my last visit.

Really great job, and will be a great experience for anyone going instead of, or as well as a trip to the Olympics. For foreign visitors this troupe make Shakespeare easily understandable. I look forward to them, with the addition of Stephen Fry doing Twelth Night...

Richard III – Review by TheRestrictedReviewer © 2012

Twitter: @RestrictReview

‘The Hollow Crown: Henry V’ - BBC2 - Saturday 21st July 2012

(Rated 6/5)

And this time...
Better than perfect!!
Glorious, Highly Sensitive, Beautifully Moving, Tingling, Exciting, Inspiring, Uplifting, Heart-Wrenching and Tragically Sad. In fact I am welling up with tears of emotion as I write this. It may seem over-the-top to give it all those adjectives but - here's another one coming up - it really was the most exquisite production of this play that I have seen. And I do think Brannagh and Olivier's versions were excellent.

Hiddleston was convincingly different as now King Harry and gave an electric, yet emotional performance. He hit the mark absolutely, showing us just how much his character was feeling and yet not too much so as not to allow us the empathy to go through it all with him. He really was a King in mind AND heart. 
I had goosebumps galore! Especially in his:-
"We few, we happy few, we merry band of brothers..." speech. I would have willingly fought alongside him and I'm hardly equipped to do so!
Someone close to me commented how hard it was for the kings of that time - expected to constantly go to war and conquer this, that and the other country... as Harry says...
"Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more...
Cry God for Harry, England and Saint George!"
In some ways it does seem a little bonkers. Constant conquering does not make a great country - looking to the needs of that country and nation does. Isn't it enough to rule just one? And really focus on looking after the citizens of that nation? 
But still provoked by a load of tennis balls from the Dauphin - harking back to Hal and his playing around - what is a King to do but conquer France? 
Harry V also refers back to Harry IV and wanting to make things right for his father.

Sir Richard Eyre presided over Henry IV and did a very good job. Taking charge and great care this time was theatre director Thea Sharrock. I really don't want to come across as biased, but the understandings and sensitivities of a woman enhanced this production in the extreme. There is no doubt at all this is one of Shakespeare's best plays, but work still has to be done in the interpretation and Sharrock brought out the absolute best in her actors. It is also a truly beautiful film. 
John Hurt lent his voice to the Chorus and truly brought out what seems to be Shakespeare's own feelings triggered as he went through the research and writing of the piece. And there were no weak links at all in the performing armour.

For lovers of Shakespeare and history this is a MUST-SEE! :)

The Hollow Crown: Henry V – Review by TheRestrictedReviewer © 2012

Twitter: @RestrictReview

Friday, 20 July 2012

‘Richard III’- Part 1 - Shakespeare’s Globe - Thursday 19th July 2012

(Rated 4/5 )

Ok, dear readers, no Shakespeare’s Richard III is NOT one of his 2-parters. However, my energy is restricted, such that I’m not sure I will be able to write all I want to say on Mark Rylance and The Globe company’s interpretation of this in one go. Yesterday involved a fair amount of moving around and it was all a bit too much for this body of mine. That plus the strange weather we’re having – just passably warmish then very cold wind and rain… lots of rain – it’s playing havoc with my ex-broken parts…
So enough moaning. We were very fortunate with the weather in the end last night. No rain and not too cold. So thankfully not Richard III within The Tempest!
And here I am complaining about my restricted body whilst Mark Rylance keeps putting his well-able body under the strain of being disabled – his Richard with a limp refreshingly different to the one he used for Jerusalem, and all hunched up and small compared to that other role for which he puffed himself up and became so famous and rightly highly-celebrated. And from the word go Mark injected his supreme talent into Richard. He was a funny Richard, even a strangely gentle psychopath, sensitive and gloriously charmingly manipulative, then dangerously brutal – making this a black comedy version, yet still dramatic and somehow not farcical. He was believable in his transitions from one way of being to the other, and had us really thinking about why and how this character – and I say character given the real Richard III had such bad press and was not a psychopath – became who and how he did.
As far as I recall I have only seen this play once before. That time it was Kevin Spacey playing an apparently far more serious and unsympathetic persona and I didn’t understand the plot, lost track of the Queens and felt bored. We were too high up to really see facial expressions though and when Kevin’s face loomed large on a screen it did get a lot more interesting and the charming psychopath was well visible. I looked up the plot before I went this time. In essence Richard kills lots of people to get the crown, and is then killed himself. The End. And when he is not on stage, for me it is a pretty boring play. What makes it interesting, or not, is how the actor chooses to embody Richard. And then how he interacts with the other characters…
In this production everyone is played by men, back to the tradition of Shakespeare’s time. And I was actually surprised that I was having to remind myself of that when the Queens – as in royal not gay; though they may be that too! – were performing. They were all superb, but particularly Samuel Barnett as Queen Elizabeth.
And once the play has ended and the epilogue has kindly informed us what happens next in the ‘real’ history, the original tradition of dancing and prancing around is also revived within the replica of Shakespeare’s own Globe Theatre and up gets Mark as himself and joins in. We are all reassured this was only a play and nobody is actually dead!

Richard III – Review by TheRestrictedReviewer © 2012

Twitter: @RestrictReview

Monday, 16 July 2012

‘Blackout’ - BBC1 - Monday 16th July 2012

(Rated 3just/5)

I was hoping things would improve for the final episode but the hoped for complications and twists didn't materialise. Instead confusion reigns. Either what happened is very simple or I'm missing something. Again, this is a case of me longing to love something but feeling let down. I wanted to be on the edge of my seat. I wanted to feel with and for the characters. The actors acted their socks off with a script, which I do think contained some important concerns about the nature of government and mayoral office today - exploring lies we are told and how would it be if someone in that position of power was genuine and wanted to do good? All that is interesting and important and credit to the team for that. But wish we'd been shown more than told! It could have become a cult classic.

Oh and apparently the therapy (of which we had more) wasn't really therapy, which is a relief as it was full of cliches and far too quick recoveries and fixes. Reminds me of the nature of the most popular therapy used by the NHS today! Maybe again showing us a system that simply doesn't work. If that was deliberate then well done :)

I'm so sorry but for me too superficial to be very good and a poor relation to The Shadow Line.

Blackout – Review by TheRestrictedReviewer © 2012

Twitter: @RestrictReview

‘The Hollow Crown: Henry IV Part II’ - BBC2 - Saturday 14th July 2012

(Rated 4/5)

And this time...
Not quite perfectly excellent so I'm taking a mark off ;)!
Still great cast, great writer, great production! But perhaps in a strange way it can't quite match up in emotion and drama with its prequel. Reports on Shakespeare's own writing history differ; some say he planned the entire Hollow Crown series - in effect as the story of the legacy on Henry V of his father's gaining the thrown by killing Richard II, others that Henry IV Part 1 was so well received by the audience, that William wrote a sequel. And are sequels ever as good?! In my experience of current movie sequels usually not.

Still, this is powerful drama. What does it really mean to Henry IV to die and how is he coping with the guilt of the manner of his gaining the thrown? What is he feeling about the prospect of his errant son, Hal, becoming King? How do they resolve things between father and son if at all? And does Hal really banish "plump Jack" and his other non-Royal friends? Or instead does he favour them and honour them?

Life as a royal at the time of these Henrys, and even later in Shakespeare's time was so different to today. Watching Tom as Hal in Part I, I couldn't help thinking of our young Prince Harry and how he would face these issues? He is happily interacting with 'common people' but these days that is so encouraged! (Of course it is his brother William, who we expect to be in Hal's position, but I'm sure William will also not even consider banishing anyone or stopping his friendships with his more lowly subjects! The very idea may seem farcical to us now.) The pressure on them is so much less in that sense. They have been part of revolutionising the monarchy in any case. The crown is perhaps not such a heavy burden as it was. The responsibility and power less. But monarchs still a sacrifice of normal life and cope with being celebrated (or not!).

And so Hal fully becomes Henry V next Saturday...

The Hollow Crown: Henry IV Part II – Review by TheRestrictedReviewer © 2012

Twitter: @RestrictReview

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Dreams of a Life - DVD - watched 10th July 2012

(Rated 6/5)

The caption on the DVD label says:
"Joyce Vincent's skeleton was found in her London flat three years after she died. Nothing was known about her. A quest to discover who she was and why she became so forgotten" 
Just that sent shivers down my spine. How could it be that someone dies and is not discovered for such a long time?! How can it be that not a single person in her life wonders where she is? Does/Did she have anybody in her life? Do they not care? My immediate conclusion was that she was elderly, with no children and all her friends and acquaintances had passed before she did. That seemed the only rational, human, 'acceptable' reason for this to be possible. BUT no, Joyce was fairly young, had family living - sisters and nephews and nieces, had friends, even had people living near her... and nobody seemed to actively question why they hadn't seen her in all that time.
This is an extraordinary film - billed as a drama documentary, though no box seems to really fit - and about one person's life, yet about all our lives and society today. It is a real story. This happened to one lady, and could happen more and more. We have lost so much in terms of community values and care. It is possible to live a highly independent life, especially in London, to be amongst a crowd of people and yet not seen, make no impact and disappear with nobody batting an eyelid. The film involves interviews of those found who did actually knew Joyce. And in those interviews, and portrayal by Zawe Ashton, Joyce can be sen as a vibrant, beautiful, attractive woman, who would draw attention to her and make those around her feel special, warm and entertained. She was aspirational but gradually the story reveals traumas in childhood and how they had a profound impact on her emotional and psychological make-up and way of being in the world. As Zawe explains there are both light and depth/darkness in Joyce and comedy and tragedy reside together on a knife-edge. I personally think that is true for very many of us. We could all be Joyce, even though the precise circumstances and personalities may be different. We all know people like her. EVERYONE has a story but so many are unknown.
I often sit on London Underground tube trains, noticing the people around me and feeling certain I will NEVER see them again. I wonder what has happened in their lives, and what will happen. It can feel mind-blowing. You get used to being aware of people in your life, but going for days, weeks, maybe months without making contact with them. We may assume they are still in the world - somewhere in the world even if far away - but in a split second they may not be and how would we know?! In many cases we have lost that close connection. I check in with my friends and family by text or email - the replies may be immediate or take a long time - we've got used to that being 'normal'.
I'm terrified of dying alone, of being the last to go, yet I also value my independence. Many couples these days love each other but only manage to stay together by living apart so they can have their space. It's something I completely understand. I related to much in Joyce's life. Her dreams. Her difficulties in attachment. Bringing sunshine into a room - as I've been told - and yet feeling empty inside. Loving others but wanting to be alone.
The film, as Zawe and director Carol Morley note, is a celebration of her and her life and a way of fulfilling her aspirations - she would have loved to be famous they conclude. In the process of playing Joyce, Zawe found closed doors within her opening. She hopes they did for Joyce too. And perhaps for all of us so that we do not close those physical and psychological doors on hope, life and connection.
This is a tender, sensitive... absolutely gorgeously emotive film... that really makes the audience think and feel.

                               Dreams of a Life – Review by TheRestrictedReviewer © 2012

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

‘Blackout’ - BBC1 - Monday 9th July 2012

(Rated 3ish/5)

Okay definitely more range from Chris in episode 2 (please ref back to last post on this). In fact some absolutely beautiful and highly emotive close-ups - stunning emotional expression. BUT, but,I find the dialogue cringe-inducing. What a massive shame. I think alcoholics and their therapists will have gasped in horror at the therapy session! It has an exciting plot now - not sure what is going on any longer - and some very good performances, but sadly the writer has let them down IMO. Maybe all will be much improved for the final episode next week.

Blackout – Review by TheRestrictedReviewer © 2012

Monday, 9 July 2012

‘The Hollow Crown: Henry IV Part I’ - BBC2 - Saturday 7th July 2012

(Rated 5/5)

And again...
Perfectly excellent!
Great cast, great writer, great production! Flawless!

This time the exchange between Hal (Tom Hiddleston) and Falstaff (Simon Russell Beale) - playing Hal's father and himself - gave me goosebumps!
Falstaff as Hal                        "...Banish plump Jack and You Banish The World..."
Hal as his father... himself     " I do... I will"

A friend and I met Tom Hiddleston when he came out of the Donmar Warehouse having played in Othello with Chiwetel Ejiofor in the title role. Tom had made a big impression on my friend - yes she fancied him big time ;) - but also she saw something startling in him - she told him that he would make it big in Hollywood. She was so right! Tom has incredible sensitivity, a very high EQ, is gently and beautifully eloquent and such an understanding of the human condition; our feelings and our struggles. As he says and does so convincingly: An actor can "inhabit every extremity of the human condition." 

For me Simon Russell Beale was an unexpected Falstaff but very good. Julie Walters was a delightful Mistress Quickly.

I am very much looking forward to Part II and then to Henry V.

Meant to say this play is also very dear to me as I studied it for English Literature at School :)

The Hollow Crown: Henry IV Part I – Review by TheRestrictedReviewer © 2012

Twitter: @RestrictReview

Friday, 6 July 2012

‘The Hollow Crown: Richard II’ - BBC2 - Saturday 30th June 2012

(Rated 5/5)

Perfectly excellent!
Great cast, great writer, great production! Flawless!
As always 'This sceptered isle' gave me goosebumps!

The Hollow Crown: Richard II – Review by TheRestrictedReviewer © 2012

Twitter: @RestrictReview

‘Blackout’ - BBC1 - Monday 2nd July 2012

(Rated 3ish/5)

I wish Chris Eccleston would be in something properly 'good' again that shows his full talent... something like... Dr Who!! Blackout I found disappointing and predictable, formulaic in plot, dialogue and, sadly, I felt bored. Chris was good as he is at the intense looks... but I so want to see more range!
However, it's only the first episode and may well develop into something great...
More on this here as it develops...

Blackout – Review by TheRestrictedReviewer © 2012

‘The Physicists’ - Donmar Warehouse - Thursday 5th July 2012

(Rated 4/5 )

The Dear Donmar looked extra small walking into it last night. I have been in some of the bigger theatrical spaces, which London provides, more recently, and also I guess I have dramatically (no pun intended) lowered my expectations of Donmar productions, and indeed productions in general – both on stage and on the small screen, having experienced some disappointments. I say that, but I think it’s really important to acknowledge my feelings come from having been truly spoilt by some sensational productions in my fairly recent past. But this time, I am very pleased to say the smallness of the Donmar space was deceptive in several ways. Indeed it did reflect a confined space – a ‘lunatic asylum’ as it might have been termed at the time The Physicists (written by Friedrich Dürrenmatt in 1962, this version by Jack Thorne) was set. The ‘lunatics’ (I seem to have adopted that word though it was not used in the play!) apparently believed themselves to be Albert Einstein (Paul Bhattacharjee), Isaac Newton (Justin Salinger) and the third, Möbius, a channel for King Solomon (John Heffernan). The play opens with the murder – although psychiatrist and head of the institution, Dr Mathilde Von Zahnd (Sophie Thompson) tells us, we must not use that term; it’s rather an ‘unfortunate incident’ – of one of the nurses by Einstein, who is calming himself down with some violin playing. Detective Inspector Richard Voss (John Ramm) investigates and this whole first act turns straight into a farcical comedy, which does not seem to quite work. It brings up some interesting considerations on responsibility of the mentally ill, the nature of mental illness, is mildly amusing in parts, seems to be a little over-acted but with good portrayals of Newton et al., and has us wondering if this is a poor version of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest meets The Pink Panther, but here we have yet another deception.  After the interval, Act Two opens in much the same way as Act One, this time Möbius has murdered his nurse, whom he claimed to be in love with. I wondered if this was making some comment about the mentally challenged in relationships and maybe that they couldn’t handle love and closeness – by this time all 3 patients had murdered their respective nurses. But the actual message of the play was far more wide-reaching and frightening. If I had read reviews, or even the programme beforehand I would have had some idea as to what the play was actually about. At the time it may have helped me forgive what I thought to be a poor first act, but I am pleased I had no idea, as the plot twists are very clever, interesting and really have you thinking and discussing afterwards. It surprised me in an excellent way! But to give them away would be to spoil it so I will avoid details. This play had myself and my friend discussing concepts around brilliance versus madness, and are they maybe highly linked? The legacies of the well-known physicists and philosophers and how they and other lessons from humanity over the years have all fed into our collective unconscious (Jung) and been built on. What it may mean both personally but also to the wider world if someone hides their insights from science or art – in this context Da Vinci lost the credit for his marvellous discoveries on the heart and circulation to Harvey so that help to humanity was delayed – but could the consequences be far worse and for harm rather than good. Are discoveries always a good thing? Is science dangerous in the wrong hands? Are we humans developed enough spiritually to handle our knowledge?
Though, as I mentioned I thought there was some over-acting at points, this was a very good cast and the stage was made great use of. Sophie Thompson delivered in the slightly manic but marvellous way she can, John Ramm was an amusing detective, Miranda Raison did very well in two very different roles as wife and then nurse to Möbius. The physicists themselves hit their marks beautifully. For me, Paul Bhattacharjee did the best job at portraying his famous scientist alter-ego Eistein, but John Heffernan reslly shone as Johann Wilhelm Möbius, especially considering he was struggling with a very runny nose from cold or hayfever. Maybe I’m a bit of a wuss when it comes to such things, but I really doubt I’d have been able to do the job he did under the circumstances!
Well done Donmar People and Josie Rourke. An excellent effort with its sights on brilliance.

The Physicists – Review by TheRestrictedReviewer © 2012 

Twitter: @RestrictReview