Saturday, September 29, 2007

In the Bleak Midwinter (A Midwinter's Tale)

This is one of those little Kenneth Branagh films that disappear into the aether. I'd always wanted to see it, but apparently it wasn't on DVD for sometime. So it came on TV last week and we made a point of watching it.

It has a great cast, many of the people he was making his "actual" Hamlet with around the same time, Richard Briers, Michael Maloney, Julia Sawalah, Celia Imrie and John Sessions (as the actor playing Gertrude no less). Also quite amusing cameos by Jennifer Saunders and Joan Collins (yes, Joan Collins).

The plot is basic--let's put on a show, only it's a slapshot version of Hamlet staged over Christmas to raise funds for a church, by an out of work actor. The only other actors he can get are also unemployed (read bad actors). Because in Britain most actors are working in pantos at Christmastime. The panto is a fairytale or other children's story done with as much innuendo and topical reference as possible. EVERYBODY does Christmas panto, from Judi Dench down to some bit player on Doctor Who. If you're not in a panto at Christmas, well, you must be really bad.

So they all come together and of course all their problems get dumped out on the table and things are terrible and people explode, and then finally it starts to come together.

AND... the director/Hamlet gets cast in a Hollywood blockbuster on the day they are to open--must catch plane immediately.

Well, duh. Because it's a movie he turns it down and comes back and saves the day and the movie director decides to take the actor playing Laertes instead.

But in real life? Opportunities don't come again--do you want to be a nothing, or do you want to be paid and get to a point where you can greenlight projects? Who wouldn't take the movie?

I've had friends lose actors at the last moment for bigger opportunities and sometimes those moves are only laterally and you think--why did they screw up relationships with some people to curry favor with some others with not much of a step up. But a movie?
Likewise, I myself have turned down auditions for movies and commercials because the shooting dates would conflict with a current commitment, but again, that's a possibility--not a sure thing.

Ok, it's a fun little film with great dialog, shot for some reason in black and white. Watching Celia Imrie swan about as the "Designer" Fadge was delightful, and the fine acting makes it worthwhile. There's a scene between Sessions and Briers in the middle that makes it all worthwhile.

I still don't get the change of title between the British release and the American though.

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