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Archive for January 17th, 2012

by Allan Fish

p Steven Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy d Steven Spielberg w Lee Hall, Richars Curtis novel Michael Morpurgo ph Janusz Kaminski ed Michael Kahn m John Williams art Rick Carter cos Joanna Johnston

Jeremy Irvine, Peter Mullan, Emily Watson, David Thewlis, Tom Hiddleston, Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Kross, Nils Arestrup, Celine Buckens, Robert Emms, Eddie Marsan, Liam Cunningham, Pip Torrens, Patrick Kennedy, Toby Kebbell, Matt Milne, Leonhard Carow, Hinnerck Schönermann, Rainer Bock, Philippe Nahon, Gerald McSorley, Johnny Harris, David Dencik,

Let’s start at the very beginning, as Julie Andrews once sung of on that green hill over Salzburg in The Sound of Music. A sweeping overhead helicopter shot over the Austrian Alps. Sorry, make that the west country of England; Devon, bathed in a nostalgic sunset glow the likes of which never happen in real life. But suspend your disbelief, for real life makes just one appearance here. A horse is being born. All very charming and rustic, and we see said foal gambolling around with its mother under the watchful eyes of young Albert Narracott. Albert (a very enthusiastic and occasionally touching Jeremy Irvine) lives with his dad and mum (Peter Mullan, out of place, and Emily Watson, very good but a character of cardboard) in a small house with a few fields of land and a hefty rent from the arrogant local squire (an utterly wasted David Thewlis). Mum is salt of the earth, dad likes a tipple or twenty and has a beard you could lose a badger in. And if the reference to Blackadder’s Red Beard Rum may seem irrelevant, take a look at the screenwriting credit. The temptation for a chorus of “ha-hars” must have been overwhelming. And then think of a later Blackadder, of cat’s vomit, university boating songs and Baldrick’s war poetry. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(UK 1939 97m) DVD2

A million tonnes of flood water

p  Isadore Goldsmith  d  Carol Reed  w  J.B.Williams, A.J.Cronin  novel  A.J.Cronin  ph  Max Greene  ed  Reginald Beck  m  Hans May  art  James Carter

Michael Redgrave (David Fenwick), Margaret Lockwood (Jenny Sunley), Emlyn Williams (Joe Gowlan), Edward Rigby (Robert Fenwick), Nancy Price (Martha Fenwick), Allan Jeayes (Richard Barras), Linden Travers (Laura Millington), George Carney (Slogger Gowlan), Cecil Parker (Stanley Millington), Ivor Barnard (Wept), Milton Rosmer (Harry Nugent, MP), Desmond Tester (Hughie Fenwick), Olga Lindo (Mrs Sunley),

It’s impossible not to think of John Ford’s How Green Was My Valley when thinking of Carol Reed’s drama.  It’s the light to Reed’s dark.  No question, Ford was at the peak of his film-making powers, but it’s a film I cannot stand.  It’s not just the idea of having a load of Irishmen play Welshmen because the average Hollywood audience wouldn’t know the difference (only Rhys Williams is authentically Welsh, only Donald Crisp tries to join him in preserving authenticity).  No-one can deny the beauty of Arthur Miller’s photography or the performances of Roddy McDowall and, especially, Crisp, but it leaves me not with a lump in the throat but a barely suppressed choke.  Here’s a film that almost deified mining, made it something almost otherworldly, and while Richard Llewellyn applauded the film for its sentiment – and his book was full of it – there can be no doubt that the 1975 TV version, with authentic welsh leads in Sian Phillips and a never-better Stanley Baker, then poignantly dying of cancer, is a richer achievement.  But when I think of mining, I think neither of it or Berri’s Germinal, I think of Reed’s film. 

            It probably has something to do with the location used.  The fictional town of Tynecastle in the book suggests a mythical location in Catherine Cookson country, but it was actually shot at Workington on the coast of my home county.  Add to this the fact that mining is, quite literally, in my genes.  My grandfather died of illness picked up in the mine when only in his 40s, over a decade before I was born.  Other members of my family also went “down t’pit.”  It seems a lifetime ago now, decades before Thatcher’s indiscriminate attack on an industry, the unions, and the whole industrial North.  (more…)

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