Andrzej Wajda’s excellent adaptation of the Stanisława Przybyszewska play about the last days of Georges Danton, as Maximilien Robespierre’s Great Terror directs revolution against revolutionaries.
Made in the early 1980s, Wajda turns it into a modern day parable flavoured by the Polish military government’s crackdown on Solidarność; Danton and his supporters are played by French actors (led by Gérard Depardieu), whilst Robespierre and allies are generally portrayed by Polish actors (headed by Wojciech Pszoniak).
I remember this from late night on Channel 4 or BBC2 sometime in the early nineties, nestling amongst all those Greenaway and Jarman films, yet another minor Film 4 feature, all grant money in search of an arthouse audience (remember Welcome II The Terrordome? Or The Kitchen Toto?)… Recall it having an awful lot of chubby Ian McNeice too.
But on rewatching it’s pretty good (and Ian McNeice is only it it for a few short minutes as a randy Royal). It’s all about the effects of the Franco-Prussian War on ordinary people, leading up to the Paris Commune, and its aftermath. It focuses on those working at a populist theatre, run by shamelessly money-motivated Ramborde (Timothy Spall). Young actress Severine (Ana Padrão) becomes politically aware as war and hunger come to the city, whilst becoming embroiled also in a love triangle between secret Irish republican O’ Brien (John Lynch) and British spy Grafton (Roshan Seth).
Artist-cum-director Ken McMullen pulls together a passionate picture with some interesting, witty touches, and memorable performances (including Med Hondo as Karl Marx, and South African actor and academic Jack Klaff as Gustave Paul Cluseret).
David Hayman – who so memorably played notorious Scottish prisoner Jimmy Boyle in A Sense Of Freedom (the best gaolhouse drama I’ve ever seen) – here directs Iain Glen as another real life Caledonian convict, killer Larry Winters.
It’s very much an attempt to get into Winters’ head, to understand. It is a sensitive call for genuine rehabilitation. It doesn’t suggest there are easy answers.
The Silence Of The Lambs
Revisiting the Thomas Harris/Lector films. I was never much of a fan of the Jonathan Demme one, but it’s grown on me, a little. Ted Levine is thoroughly watchable as Jame Gumb. Scott Glenn’s Jack Crawford is much more of a calculating user than Dennis Farina in Manhunter.
Silly stuff like the geeks, and the HUT-HUT-HUTting SWAT guys (including Chris Isaak, FFS), do distract, though. The tedious cross-cutting misdirection in the final act is a cheap, misfiring gag as well.
Theatre Of Blood
What a way to celebrate Hallowe’en! A classic British horror film, with ham actor Vincent Price taking his revenge on theatre critics in all manner of unspeakable Shakespearean ways…
With Diana Rigg, Arthur Lowe, Jack Hawkins, Coral Browne, Harry Andrews, Joan Hickson and a stack more top talent – a sort of gentler way of approaching the Dr Phibes movies.