Film Reviews by CV

Welcome to CV's film reviews page. CV has written 56 reviews and rated 69 films.

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Prince Regent

A King Redeemed

(Edit) 23/01/2022

I don't remember this series at all in 1979 but was delighted to have watched it now. Interesting to hear King George's frequent statements against female politicians as the year the series was made, Margaret Thatcher entered the first year of her premiership! The series of eight substantial episodes covers strictly the Regency period which also covers King George III, magnificently played by Nigel Davenport who commands such presence even on a small screen. But the whole is really dominated by the ever engaging character portrayed by Peter Egan. Whatever prejudice one has for this king, who is always imagined as a frivolous dandy, one is won over to a sympathetic understanding and even a fondness for this "merry" monarch as he seemed always to have had good intention and generosity of spirit. The condition of the series is excellent and the aging processes are incredibly well done in make-up and acting style. Well done Cinemaparadiso for preserving these wonderful forgotten series!

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Dombey and Son

Dickens is Allowed to Speak for Himself

(Edit) 28/12/2021

The influence of theatre is still present in this early 1969 production in the respective of stylized acting and small sets and the camera work also adds a creative and meaningful dimension to the whole. The casting is excellent and acting vivid and well-differentiated. I haven't read the book but one feels the dialogue is verbatim and that most of it is retained in the script. The black and white production also adds a Dickensian shade of atmosphere. You will notice that the introduction boldly says "Dramatized by" rather than vaguely "Based on" as so many modern productions are obliged to. I do remember watching this series at the time with my family and the catch-phrase "Stand by!" has always been with me!

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Franz Lehar: Paganini

Lehar as Broadway Musical

(Edit) 19/11/2021

I was intrigued to see if the singer Antonio Theba was actually playing the violin and found out that he was! Although the picture is excellent for 1973, the singing for this operetta by Franz Lehar was badly dubbed in this film version . In fact it felt more like a popular Broadway musical and one of the two lighter numbers didn't seem to be by Lehar at all as they were dance-band style with trumpets and drum-kit. Mildly entertaining and interesting but I had hoped for a staged version despite the scenic locations on the film.

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Satyagraha

Paint Dries Quicker

(Edit) 18/11/2021

I'm afraid many will find this the aural equivalent of paint drying. While the audience seem to be an appreciative beard-scratching lot, I can imagine the boy up the tree (in the Emperor's New Clothes story) shouting out "But it's just four simple chords repeated over and over again!" Maybe I did nod off but I saw no references to Martin Luther King and there was just a hint of Tolstoy in the first act. Bland, very concordant and simple harmony but do give me that old, old piercing dissonant kind of music instead! The picture quality was also poor. How performers memorized such repetitive music and posed in static tableaux for minutes on end I know not.

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Nero

While Rome Burnt and Nero Fiddled, I Struggled to Keep Awake

(Edit) 01/11/2021

This film is just over three hours long and you feel it. The story of Nero is presented as a Greek tragedy, his hubris being his allegiance to a slave-girl romance in tension with his desire to change the world for good by seizing power. The film relies too much on the romance, which all looks too modern in style, and the dialogue is ever soporifically banal. There is one character, a veteran senator, who attempts profundity with lines such as "All liars believe what they say - until they've said it." That's as good as it gets.

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The Favourite

Anne Heap of Trash

(Edit) 25/07/2021

With a big smile the producer said he wanted to make a film that was not the usual BBC Period Drama. So we were presented with an unbelievable exclusively Lesbian sex story that had the flimsiest connection with real history with only nominal reference to what was happening politically outside the queen's court. Too silly to be serious and too bad-taste to be funny. Surely the challenge for a producer IS to make actual history interesting and captivating and not make your own imaginary sexed-up history instead. All three female characters rapidly became tedious, revolting and despicable in their own particular selfish and ambitious ways. And the modernistic dialogue with all its expletives - colourful language of the time was much more imaginative - clashed with the effort of providing lavish period costume. One star only for artistic presentation, none for content.

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Fanny by Gaslight

Faithful Portrayal of an Unknown Classic Novel

(Edit) 28/06/2021

I was pleasantly surprised that Cinemaparadiso had this film as I had recently read the original novel hidden away in the "Classics" section of the local library. The dominant theme is that of class prejudice where a government minister falls in love with a young lady of dubious background. She had been born out of wedlock and was adopted by her mother's subsequent husband who ran a brothel "downstairs". The girl is educated and is innocent of her step-father's double occupation. The family falls on hard times and Fanny has to make her way relying on family friends and a long-standing friend, Lucy, who has becomes a dancer and actor. Made during the war, the film does well and is a good Sunday afternoon watch. Note a young James Mason as a villain and a very young Stewart Grainger in their early careers.

Incidentally, the novel is told by an elderly Fanny who has retired in a French Pension, looking back over her life. There is much that is poignant in the novel, more detail of the brothel activities and characters who are staunch, generous and kind despite their lowly circumstances.

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The Resistance

Bravery and Ingenuity in a Treacherous Time

(Edit) 28/06/2021

I suppose you would call this film an acted documentary and it is fascinating to see acted scenes spliced with interviews with the actual characters recounting their wartime experiences many years later. It is a testament to both the bravery and ingenuity of a group of Jewish students who change their identity and live a precarious existence constantly evading detection by the Gestapo authorities and trusting Jewish-sympathising Germans who also put their lives on the line. Even though the various personae live to tell the tale, as it were, there is still nail-biting tension in the acted scenes. Germans who defied the Nazi regime must be the greatest heroes of the war as they must have felt everyone was their enemy and had everything to lose. How good it is to have this document so well made by the people themselves.

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Mary Shelley

Could be Better

(Edit) 08/06/2021

My feelings about this film are similar to those of Alphaville below: I wonder if film actors of today have lost the benefit of the once requisite experience of theatre and have passed their drama exams by just the experience of film settings with microphones about their person which minimises their need to project - not just in vocal terms but in also in terms of characterisation. Why go to the length of getting costumes right when the dialogue and way of behaving doesn't match the period either. Interpreting the novel of 'Frankenstein' in this way was interesting as it was not what I have understood the received interpretation to be.

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The Man Who Knew Infinity

Mathematics is not Dull

(Edit) 16/05/2021

It was truly wonderful to see a film about a mathematician I had only heard about in lectures where even in these his ascent to greatness was referred to as phenomenal. Jeremy Irons is true to form as the crusty bachelor Cambridge don Dr Hardy with Dev Patel the wonderkind from India. There were so many themes in this film which would make it so appealing to almost anyone and it certainly has an emotional impact despite the low-key stiff-upper lip portrayal of post-Edwardian England. For me it raised questions about the supremacy of proof-bound serialist thinking of the west where Ramanujan's inspiration came from a holistic view of nature perhaps more typical of the east. An obvious theme was also the overcoming of racial prejudice where you would think that genius recognising genius would transcend national boundaries. Praise must go to Littlewood and the softening of Hardy to promote Ramanujan's colossal contribution to modern mathematics.

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Robert the Bruce

Great Moment of Scottish History Looked Small

(Edit) 16/05/2021

I'm afraid I was quite disappointed with this account of Robert the Bruce. The action starts where Bruce is a fugitive having disbanded his forces after defeat from the English. There is a price put on his head and former comrades turn traitor and attempt to hunt him down. After one attempt to take him, where he incurs an arrow wound, taking brief refuge in a cave with a spider, he is rescued by a family, who still remain loyal to the King, who live in a remote cottage and keep a low profile. After this point the film seems to borrow a Hollywood formula where the family of mother and children nurse the wounded Bruce back to health and together fight a heroic "battle" against the "baddie" traitors at the end in the manner of the Unionist soldiers defending the fort against an overwhelming force of marauding Indians. I waited in vain for the Battle of Bannockburn - it was mentioned briefly at the end. There was no sense that this was vital history for Scotland and if the film was made in view of a second referendum for independence the moment was lost with a rather family-adventure style film to plead the cause.

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Interlude in Prague

Disappointing

(Edit) 22/04/2021

For all its splendid costume and lighting this is quite disappointing. Mozart looks more like Boy George, even the hair colouring is wrong. Some of the dialogue sounds like two Darleks with their batteries running low.

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The Love School

A Great Insight into the Lives and Careers of the PRB

(Edit) 13/04/2021

I was not aware of this series when it was first broadcast in 1975 but I was very impressed with it seeing it decades later and there was no need for an apology for the mechanical quality of production. Despite its twee-sounding title, the series follows the careers, including their, at times rather incestuous romantic relationships, of members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood which include men and associated women who excelled in often more than one art form. They set out to oppose the current academic dogma of contemporary art and instead champion truth and nature which meant painting scenes conveying emotion with realistic detail of background settings so that the picture does not lead the viewer to read in further hidden and arcane meanings: everything is as you see it.

The series excels in having a group of highly-talented and committed actors playing the parts with such distinction and convincing aging process: no one personality dominates although I personally liked the humanity and eccentricity of William Morris. There is still the influence of theatre in the acting style: everything is orated and made big with gesture and movement though the set itself may look a bit flimsy at times. One reviewer elsewhere has lauded the enthusiasm and skill of actors in the 70s and there are many other classic historical series that still maintain the sense of live theatre in this way. No basking in opulently expensive settings, fantastic costumes and mumbling of two-word phrases in this era! The dialogue is typically rich in expression with much insight into the technical and aesthetic ambitions of the various artists.

I hope to be able to buy the series at some point.

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Land and Freedom

A Contemporary Message

(Edit) 13/04/2021

George Orwell, and I think, Ernest Hemmingway, volunteered themselves to back the Spanish Republican cause in this Spanish civil war and so I liked the viewpoint that this film took, emphasising that the issues of democracy were of international concern. This film was made in 1995 but the issues are of no less concern than they are now where our own democracy is threatened with authoritarian government. The film takes pains to bring out complications in the campaign where the POUM are dedicated to doing the war in their own way but are compromised by more professional Soviet-backed groups who have ulterior motives for being involved.

There is a great naturalistic feel where the director seems to let his actors "play the action out" in their own way and the dialogue is very naturalistic too with occasional stutterings and word-stumblings. The film is also a "play within a play" which also helps to apply the themes to our own day where a grandaughter finds the letters of pictures of her grandfather's interesting past.

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Che: Part 1

Fair Tribute to Noble Revolutionary

(Edit) 10/03/2021

Contrary to the reviews I have just read, I quite appreciated this leisurely documentary style portrayal of Che Guevara. I found the detailed incidents: the interaction with individuals of the public and the comradely relationship with his fellow revolutionaries quite informative and gave rounding to the character of the man. The drama held my attention throughout and the switch to black and white sequences for newsreel scenes was very effective. The film is also in Spanish, as the director says, to avoid the irony of revolutionaries speaking the same language of the imperialists they are opposing! The director has deliberately omitted details of Guevara's private life which also kept the film distinctive from Hollywood forms. I'm looking forward to Part 2.

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