Archive for April 29th, 2010

by Allan Fish

(US/UK 2001 138m) DVD1/2

Awfully long repertoire

p  David Levy, Robert Altman, Bob Balaban  d  Robert Altman  w  Julian Fellowes  ph  Andrew Dunn  ed  Tim Squyres  m  Patrick Doyle  art  Stephen Altman  cos  Jenny Beavan

Kelly MacDonald (Mary Maceachran), Clive Owen (Robert Parks), Alan Bates (Jennings), Michael Gambon (William McCordle), Kristin Scott Thomas (Sylvia McCordle), Helen Mirren (Mrs Wilson), Maggie Smith (Constance Trentham), Richard E.Grant (George), Jeremy Northam (Ivor Novello), Ryan Philippe (Henry Denton), Emily Watson (Elsie), James Wilby (Freddie Nesbitt), Eileen Atkins (Mrs Croft), Derek Jacobi (Probert), Jeremy Swift (Arthur), Bob Balaban (Maurice Weissman), Stephen Fry (Inspector Thompson), Charles Dance (Lord Raymond Stockbridge), Sophie Thompson (Dorothy), Adrian Scarborough (Barnes), Geraldine Somerville (Louisa Stockbridge), Camilla Rutherford (Isobel McCordle), Tom Hollander (Anthony Meredith), Finty Williams (Janet), Trent Ford (Jeremy Blond), Claudie Blakley (Mabel Nesbitt), Frank Thornton (Mr Burkett),

It took a trademark ensemble piece to inspire Robert Altman to his last really major film, a return to the glory days of Nashville and Short Cuts.  It was more than that, of course, but it was often mistaken for something it was not.  It was not, and was never meant to be, a whodunit.  There is a murder.  Check.  Everybody is suspected.  Check.  Yet who did it or why is merely an ends to a means, allowing Altman and screenwriter Julian Fellowes to weave a tapestry of a film that is worthy, if not quite of placing alongside Altman’s very best, then only fractionally behind it. 

            The plotline likewise merely serves as a means to an end.  In 1932, an American film producer is invited by Ivor Novello to a society gathering at the estate of a distant cousin of his to allow him to do research for his next project, Charlie Chan in London.  Along for the ride is his Scottish valet who, it transpires, is an American actor doing research of his own while trying to add a few romantic conquests to his resume.  The host William McCordle is hated by all, from relatives, prospective and past business associates, even many of the servants.  When he is then murdered – poisoned and then stabbed – there are any number of suspects.  (more…)

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