In 1919 several young men develop and nurture a passion for running, and all aim to compete in the forthcoming Olympics in Paris in 1924. Amongst them are the Jewish Harold Abrahams (Ben Cross) and his friends at Cambridge (Nicholas Farrell, Nigel Havers) and a Scottish former rugby player turned Christian missionary Eric Liddell (Ian Charleson). Continue reading →
Whilst attending a carnival, well-to-do surgeon Mr. Treves (Anthony Hopkins) sees John Merrick (John Hurt), a 21-year-old man born with such severe physical disfigurements that he is displayed as “The Elephant Man”. After Merrick receives another in a series of beatings from his “owner” Bytes (Freddie Jones), Treves takes Merrick into the hospital and cares for the man, slowly uncovering the person behind the appearance. Continue reading →
A funeral is being held for British World War I soldier and novelist Brodie (John Gielgud). The thing is, he isn’t dead, as Brodie has been recruited as a spy and renamed Richard Ashenden, and is being sent by the Q-like R (Charles Carson) to Switzerland in order to apprehend and kill a German spy, with the help of an overzealous assassin nicknamed The General (Peter Lorre). Upon arriving in Switzerland, Ashenden discovers a woman has already booked into his room, saying she is his wife, and when he enters his room he finds her to be the not-too-shabby form of Elsa Carrington (Madeleine Carroll), a fellow agent posted to assist Ashenden, but she is already entertaining another guest at the hotel (Robert Young). The three spies must work together, despite not necessarily all getting along, in order to find and stop their adversary before he completes his mission.
There are some films on the List that I’ve no idea when I’ll get to them. These films fall into three categories – the ones I absolutely adore but have no clue how I’ll even start writing about them, the ones I desperately do not want to watch (but am too much of an anal completist to ignore) and the really long ones. This four-hour-plus cut of Hamlet obviously falls into the latter, but fortunately for me, my girlfriend opted for Kate Winslet as her Film-Maker of choice, and seeing as I’ve reached that point in Winslet’s career in which she appeared in Hamlet as Ophelia, I can cross off Kenneth Branagh’s opus from the Empire 5-Star 500. As for the unspeakable films I don’t want to see, whenever LoveFilm drop Salo through my letterbox it shall not be a good day, though I could pull an In The Realm Of The Senses and bottle it when I’ve taken as much as I can stand. Continue reading →
Though onscreen for less than half the film, Geoffrey Rush won the 1997 best actor Oscar for his portrayal of the adult David Helfgott, a real life pianist barely known outside of his native Australia.
As a child, the young Helfgott (Noah Taylor) suffered an overbearing, paradoxical father who could never be proud of his son until he was a renowned concert pianist, yet refused to allow him the tutoring to achieve it. This pressure strains David’s personal life – a promising young romance is quashed at its initial meeting by his father’s interruption – eventually causing David to develop mental illness, not helped by trying to learn a particularly tricky Rachmaninoff.
All the performances are exceptional, particularly Rush mumbling and stuttering at lightning speed, occasionally unintelligible, revelling in the small moments of joy, be they from the discovery of a vacant piano in a restaurant or trampolining wearing nothing but sunblock and a billowing overcoat. The great John Gielgud crops up as the encouraging, kindly, cravat wearing tutor David so rightly deserves, but the tale cannot escape the cliché of the tormented artist, becoming better at his craft the greater the trauma he endures. Also the ending is too uplifting and fairytale, regardless of whether it is based on fact or not.