Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Friday, 26 July 2013

Quartet - and some I don't want to see ...

Finally, the dvd of QUARTET gets an airing - this is the recent one with Maggie Smith and Tom Courtenay, directed by Dustin Hoffman (not Maggie's 1981 Merchant Ivory QUARTET with Alan Bates, as per review at  Bates/Smith labels).

At a home for retired musicians, the annual concert to celebrate Verdi's birthday is disrupted by the arrival of Jean, an eternal diva and the former wife of one of the residents.

How can I count the ways I hated this film? It is from a play by Ronald Harwood, who scripted, but it just makes for a very dull movie. Maggie Smith seems quite muted - she and Tom Courtenay (Miss Brodie and Billy Liar) just don't look right together. Billy Connolly is as annoying as I always find him, and Pauline Collins makes up the quartet as Cissie who seems to be losing her mind.

You will never see a more opulent retirement home than 'Beecham House' here - it almost rivals Downton Abbey. So these are a very fortunate group of retired musicians, living in what seems a stately home, giving lessons and teaching the less unfortunate. The scene where Courtenay discusses opera versus rap with some inner city street kids is EX-CRU-CIAT-ING.  
Oddest of all, this lavish retirement home seems to be managed and run by young Sheridan Smith on her own, with some assistance from The Help - we see a black woman hoovering, a black waiter, and nurse. The lavish grounds too seem to be in the middle of nowhere. There also seems to be nobody gay among these elderly artistic types, unless Michael Gambon is essaying another type of vicious old queen. The likes Andrew Sachs, Michael Byrne and singers like Gwyneth Jones make up the supporting cast. One presumes Hoffman was drawn to the material by the theme of these retired performers/musicians still wanting to strive and do their best ... pity the characters are so dreary/annnoying.
We expect fireworks when diva Jean (Dame Maggie) moves to the retirement home, as her ex-husband Courtenay is still resentful and wants nothing to do with her, but that soon peters out and they are all friends again - but Jean won't sing at their annual Verdi concert, as she feels her voice is not what it was. This too of course is all sorted out before the end. One nice touch is as the final credits roll, photos of each of the supporting cast members of retired musicians is shown beside a picture of them during their performing careers. It all though is another example of movies for oldies - that growing market of older folk who want civilised movies packed with thespians (usually led by Maggie Smith) - well I loathed the previous one THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL with a vengance - as per my review at 2000s label. QUARTET is more of the same, but at a much duller pace, thankfully it runs at just over 90 minutes - it is the complete antithesis of everything I want cinema to be: exciting, vivid, artistic. We usually try to find positive things to say about movies here at The Projector, but this one defeated us. It makes one wonder did Dustin Hoffman learn nothing about drama or pacing from all those directors he worked with ?

After QUARTET what a pleasure to turn to ROMAN HOLIDAY. Wyler's 1953 classic is back in cinemas for its 60th anniversary, but was also on tv. This is the pleasure of seeing a real film, with warmth and charm, and wonderfully shot and created - so what if its not in colour, Rome looks marvellous as usual. Peck (like William Holden) is the perfect post-war leading man (as he was with Audrey, Ava, Jean, Lauren, Sophia, Ingrid etc)  and Audrey is sheer bliss. No wonder this and Wilder's SABRINA made her the new '50s star who still enchants today. It is just a total blissful experience no matter now many times one has seen it - it would be great on a big screen, preferably an outdoor one in this warm weather. I had not seen it for some time so was fascinated again by the effortless class and charm of Hepburn in her first main role. Her sightseeing tour of Rome leaves journalist Peck with a dilemma, as he - along with us the audience - has fallen in love with her.

I mentioned that Smith and Courtenay did not seem quite right together to me in QUARTET. Neither do Vanessa Redgrave with Terence Stamp in SONG FOR MARION: two more '60s icons teamed at last - which now seems to have a new title for its American release - how odd! It is now UNFINISHED SONG ! Regulars readers will know how much I like Terence and Vanessa, see labels - but they just seem another mismatched pair here. He is the grumpy old husband while she sings in the choir and is dying. Naturally he too will be coaxed into the choir .... seeing the trailer of this was enough for me. More cloying sentiment for old folk then.  
I also thought I would want to see HITCHCOCK but it turns out I don't - this total fiction about the filming of PSYCHO is another I can do without. It may be amusing to catch on television at some other date, but its not one I need to spend money on - unlike the upcoming Ozon and Almodovar releases (IN THE HOUSE, I'M SO EXCITED). Theres quite a lot on the real Hitchcock at label after our Hitchcock summer last year.

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