Tag Archives: Helen Mirren

Woman in Gold

What surprised me the most about Woman in Gold was how much it was about the war. That might sound stupid, but I’d mainly thought about the process of getting a stolen work of art back now, long after the war. And the trailer had been mostly lighthearted, with clever and amusing lines.

Woman in Gold

Don’t misunderstand me; I believe the film was better for all its background, reminding us – and in the case of Daughter, showing for the first time – of what went on in Austria not only during the war, but before it as well. Without it, Maria Altmann could have seemed to be simply greedy and grabbing. In a way this was one of those occasions when you feel that both sides are both right and wrong. Were it not for the fact that Austria took away Maria’s right to the life she was living, when they pulled the rug out from under her feet. As I think she said, it wasn’t so much getting the painting of her aunt back, as getting some recompense for what they did to her family, breaking it up, and killing most of them.

Woman in Gold

I had looked forward to seeing more of Vienna, but in the end it was almost painful. I appreciated seeing the old Vienna, as Maria knew it when she grew up. I’m not Austrian, nor quite that old, but I could recognise some of the life she lived.

Had not realised that Daughter didn’t know what the outcome was going to be, but then it had been some years since we read about Maria and her Klimt painting in the news.

Woman in Gold

I enjoyed Woman in Gold, and more so for it being so European, and not just Hollywood gloss. Helen Mirren can do anything she puts her mind to, and Ryan Reynolds was a lovely Randol Schoenberg. Good to see so many actors employed who are not necessarily English language household names, but who were able to portray Austrians in a believable way.

A surfeit of diarists

Leo Tolstoy seems to have been surrounded by mad diarists. Almost all those around him towards the end of his life were scribbling away furiously at all times, wanting to note who said what and why and when. The 1910 solution to the lack of Twitter one imagines.

The Last Station provides a useful insight to the last months of the life of Tolstoy for someone like me who has to admit to knowing next to nothing. However, my companion pointed out that they made a few things up. Sofya Tolstoy offered to throw herself under a train like Anna Karenina, and was generally fairly neurotic, but who wouldn’t be when surrounded by Rasputin types? Especially when some of them were your own children.

Helen Mirren, Anne-Marie Duff and Paul Giamatti

Tolstoy was clearly a superstar in his day, and had his crazy followers like Chertkov, as well as his lovingly devoted fans, like Bulgakov, the celibate vegetarian who sneezes when nervous. Achoo. Tolstoy’s ideas may have been both interesting and revolutionary, but his little clan looked mostly like premature American hippies.

James McAvoy and Christopher Plummer

Very nicely filmed, in Russia and in Germany, The Last Station had more birch trees than you could shake a stick at. Some good train sets too, but I fail to see why Tolstoy had to rattle off in what looked like third class, when the Countess had her own ‘royal’ train to follow him in.

Good story if you want to know a little about Tolstoy, but perhaps not the most riveting film this year. Star studded cast, and perfect for fans of James McAvoy, what with him being in almost every scene. Christopher Plummer has aged well and Paul Giamatti did benign evil perfectly. And Helen Mirren is Helen Mirren.

At Cornerhouse from this weekend.

Inkheart

What a relief! A good film, and a good film based on a children’s book at that. I didn’t see this coming, as I hadn’t managed to find the time or the will to read Inkheart by Cornelia Funke, despite the book sitting around for ages. It’s about a man and his young daughter who can both bring to life characters in books they read, after which there is no controlling these people. 

Thus the Italian hills are full of bookish villains, plus a few accidental fictional characters, when the man and his charmingly eccentric aunt, and the daughter, are held to ransom by one of the worst characters. There are some very likeable ones, and some fairly scary ones, and the hurricanes and tornadoes are awesome. Lovely scenery, and some good acting from Eliza Bennett as Meggie, the girl, in particular. Helen Mirren as the aunt is reliably good, and whereas I had never heard of  Brendan Fraser before, I gather Cornelia wrote the part with him in mind.

We don’t get enough really good fairy tale films nowadays. Go and see this. I’ll have to work out if I want to read the book now. Will it make for a better experience, or will it ruin my film?