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Sunday, August 24, 2014

LADIES IN LAVENDER (2004)

With its pastoral title, double dose of Dames (Judi Dench & Maggie Smith) and period setting in Cornwall, there’s good reason for dread: Forbear!, another cutesy retread with lovable eccentrics in an adorable town that time forgot. Chortle away as they put one over on those pesky government authorities who follow the rules & think they know best. But no!; think again; this pleasing little film turns out to be something else entirely. A different sort of fable about two elderly spinsters whose well ordered routine is upset when a young man (Daniel Brühl) mysteriously lands on the shore near their home. There’s a pleasing, vaguely D. H. Lawrencian undertow to it, as the sisters take the boy in like a rescued pet, only to find differing levels of affection & possession coming between them. All while the increasingly independent fellow reveals layers of personality associated with country (Poland), flight (the run-up to WWII) & vocation (violin virtuoso). The film was a one-off directing gig for actor Charles Dance, and he’s certainly cast it well, with superb turns from a jealous David Warner, Miriam Margoyles as the sisters’ housekeeper, Natascha McElhone as a gorgeous holiday painter, and what must be the most alarming fish pie e’er seen on screen. Less welcome are the crowded interiors which overtax director Dance’s abilities, and some dramatically contrived last act events that require telegrams & telephones to alternately show up or be forgotten about. It’s all a little too convenient, a little too pat, a little too sweet-natured. But the Dames make it worth your while, especially Maggie Smith in the less showy role.

LINK: The violin solos in Nigel Hess’s original score, and on some brief classical excerpts, are all dubbed (beautifully) by Joshua Bell. In fact, he played the main film theme as an encore at his recent BBC Proms appearance. Listen here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04dqdc4 (about 56 minutes into the broadcast). But hurry, it’s only online for the next three weeks.

DOUBLE-BILL: Lillian Gish & Bette Davis go thru similar paces in Lindsay Anderson’s odd, but touching THE WHALES OF AUGUST/’87.

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