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The Talented Mr Minghella and Being Stanley Kubrick

Posted by: Matthew Turner 27/03/2008 @ 12:08
Subject: Film

Films seen so far this year: 83

The Talented Mr Minghella, RIP
Like many film fans, I was saddened by the death of director Anthony Minghella last week, aged just 54. He only made one film that I genuinely loved (The Talented Mr Ripley) but I always looked forward to seeing what he'd do next. As it turned out, his film of Alexander McCall Smith's The No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (screened on BBC1 on Easter Sunday, the precursor to a forthcoming series) was a fitting final send-off: it was perfectly cast and it captured the laid back nature of the books beautifully, tying several different story strands together with warmth and humour. Gorgeous photography, too. I found myself wondering why it couldn't have had a theatrical release, as it was better than several other films I've seen this year.

Please Release Me: Colour Me Kubrick
Colour Me Kubrick is yet another film that still shows no sign of being released, almost two years after I saw it at the 2006 Edinburgh Film Festival. It's not a masterpiece or anything but it's packed with British talent, tells an enjoyable story and is frequently very funny. Surely it deserves a release, given some of the rubbish that's inflicted upon us on a weekly basis? This is what I wrote on my Edinburgh Film Festival Blog at the time:

Subtitled “A true…ish story”, this is an engaging, frequently funny comedy-drama with a superb performance by John Malkovich. He plays homosexual con-man Alan Conway, who spent a large part of the 1990s impersonating legendary reclusive director Stanley Kubrick, even though he appears not to have actually watched Kubrick’s films or learned his filmography. The film isn’t especially deep – we never, for example, really get to know Conway or understand just why he did what he did – but it’s no less enjoyable for that. There are some wonderful touches throughout, such as the film being scored with classical tracks from Kubrick’s films. This is frequently used to amusing effect, such as Thus Spake Zarathustra playing over a scene of Conway going to the laundrette, or a telephone ringing in time with The Blue Danube. Malkovich is clearly having a lot of fun, using a variety of weird accents and getting thoroughly carried away with the whole thing (“Little Tommy Cruise would like a part…”).

There are also a series of increasingly bizarre celebrity cameos scattered throughout (e.g. Leslie Phillips, Honor Blackman, Richard E Grant, Peter Bowles, etc.), culminating in the frankly astonishing sight of Jim Davidson playing a Dick Emery-type entertainer and singing “Hello…is it me you’re looking for?” (I’m a confirmed Davidson hater, but it has to be said, he’s very, very good in this). The only time the film loses its way is during the asylum sequence (“I’m Stanley Kubrick!” “No, I’M Stanley Kubrick!” etc.), when his fellow patients (Ken Russell, Shaun Parkes and Peter Sallis – that’s how weird this film is) are all mugging horribly and it looks very amateurish. There’s also strong non-comic support from Bryan Dick (who should be Doctor Who after David Tennant – the campaign starts here) and Robert Powell as a journalist, who, for some reason, is the only character who talks to the camera. Worth seeing, assuming it gets a proper release – at the time of writing, a) it doesn’t have one and b) it’s already available on DVD in France. Three out of five stars.

Top 10 Films On Release This Week (as recommended by me):

No change to the top five this week, but a slight rearranging of the bottom five.

1. There Will Be Blood
2. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
3. No Country For Old Men
4. Out of the Blue
5. The Orphanage
6. 27 Dresses
7. The Spiderwick Chronicles
8. You, the Living
9. Lars and the Real Girl
10. Juno

DVD of the Week: Beowulf (two disc Director's Cut, out now, RRP £22.99)

This week's DVD of the Week is the two disc Director's Cut of Beowulf, which sadly comes without the theatrical version's stunning 3D effects. Instead, you get some fairly decent extras, including a hugely enjoyably Making Of documentary that features all the actors (well, most of them – there's no sign of Angelina Jolie) prancing around in the motion-capture studio. (To be fair, it's not the same as just providing the voices and they basically do all the actions in the film, including the more difficult bits.) Director Robert Zemeckis comes across as a thoroughly likeable chap and there's even a brief set visit from Tom Hanks. Other extras include several informative featurettes  and some 12 minutes of deleted scenes (none of which are properly animated, which is quite amusing), but no-one explains just how the animated Ray Winstone came to look so much like Sean Bean. Also, if anyone knows just how the Director's Cut differs from the theatrical version, please let me know, because I couldn't spot any notable differences.

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