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Thursday, June 5, 2008

TRISTAN & ISOLDE (2005)

This almost distractingly handsome adaptation of the old Celtic tale hews closely to the Camelot legend (Launcelot=Tristan, Guinevere=Isolde, King Arthur=King Mark), which can't help but make the illicit lovers look ungrateful to that nice King. To have any chance of pulling off this old tale, the leads need sexual chemistry that's strong enough to destabilize our natural sympathies, but neither James Franco ’s pretty-boy posturing nor Sophia Myles ’ pouty Kate Winslet stylings set off depth charges of romantic inevitability. Instead, it's King Mark, in a typically outstanding perf from Rufus Sewell that draws us in. Perhaps it's those empathetic 'Bette Davis' eyes and a voice that sounds naturally wounded, but he just wipes everyone else off the screen. Isolde comes off as an immature dope for looking elsewhere. Helmer Kevin Reynolds (the man who made that guiltiest of guilty pleasures, RAPA NUI/'94) keeps the story running nicely, but his action stuff and battle scenes are by-the-numbers.* And there's no love potion! In Tristan & Isolde?
*SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Oddly, speaking of story sense vs. action chops, exec producer Ridley Scott has the same sort of problem, but reversed! Great action chops . . . and no story sense. If only these two directors could have a child!

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