The Singing Detective

The published screenplay of The Singing Detective is dated 1986. Dennis Potter’s masterpiece is approaching its 20th birthday. When one views again the TV series which stars the excellent talent of Michael Gambon as Philip Marlow, one feels truly humbled, as this was and is television at its finest. Re-released on two DVDs (and an additional CD with “extras”); this three pack DVD would be a bargain at twice the price.

It is hard to fault a single performance in this chronicle of a patient emotionally, as well as physically, crippled by psoriasis. Over the six episodes of the series, the viewer is taken through a journey which reveals, through the character of Gambon’s Marlow, the ability of emotional guilt to poison a person’s life. We also come to believe that many emotional demons can be expunged over time.

There are a great many fine performances over the six episodes of The Singing Detective and although one attempts to acknowledge as many as possible, there will be omissions for which I apologise in advance.

Michael Gambon’s genius has been cited above but both Janet Suzman as wife and Alison Steadman as mother of Marlow, exhibit extraordinary performances.

Patrick Malahide also is outstanding in his performances as Mark Binney/Finney/Raymond respectively.

For special mention are: Bill Paterson (as the “shrink”), David Ryall, Gerald Horan and Imelda Staunton. All of these actors and their characters make the hospital ward both a place of conflict while ironically also, a place of forced passivity.

Last of all, Kate McKenzie creates a superb portrayal of a stereotypical WWII Russian spy. The air of mystery she exudes transcends dialogue. Janet Henfrey plays a totally detestable and manipulative schoolteacher with aplomb. Finally, it would be remiss not to cite Lyndon Davies (Marlow as a child) whose youthful insecurity and confusion with his place in the world, leads him to commit a wanton act of malice.

The major DVD extra is a commentary on the whole series by Jon Amiel (director) and Kenith Trod (producer).

I have to confess an absolute love of this brilliant series and both the fine performances and the excellent Dennis Potter script which the series follows. If you have never seen The Singing Detective, take 6 plus hours out of your busy routine, turn on the DVD and enter the world of Philip Marlow. I guarantee that it will be a world that you will revisit many times.

The Crop

The best summary of the plot of this film comes from the publicity material:

The Crop is a tongue-in-cheek look at a larrikin night club owner, Ronald ‘Blade’ Gillette, who realizes two months after random breath testing has been introduced that he is going broke.

From this initial premise, the character of ‘Blade’ (played by George Elliot) embarks on a money making scheme that involves the cultivation and sale of marijuana. To fulfill this objective, he draws on the resources of his best friend, Wack (played by Rhys Muldoon) and relies on the emotional support of his girlfriend, Geraldine (Holly Brisley).

Major obstacles to ‘Blade’s’ dreams of success come in the form of corrupt police demanding protection money (personified in the character of Tony Barry’s Senior) and repayment of debts owed (Bruce Venables’ Wally Eye is particularly menacing).

Although the film is directed by Scott Paterson, it is really champion racing car driver, George Eliot’s “baby”, as he is not only the film’s writer but also competently functions as lead actor in the film.

There are a number of interesting performances in the film and some hilarity in the interactions between Blade and Wack. The loose “wheel” in the film is, however, Brisley’s Geraldine.

The wide-eyed naïve in a world of hucksters doesn’t work for Brisley. She appears “at sea” and unable to create a believable character in this film. Given the time that the film is set in, she does elevate her character of Geraldine from the ranks of “dumb blonde” but her character remains two-dimensional nonetheless. Watching her performance over the course of the film made me feel awkward; almost as if I was watching her in a rehearsal for the part that she really wanted to play.

Problems aside, The Crop is worth the watch. It has attitude. It has spirit. It has confidence.

interMission

interMission marks the directorial debut of John Crowley, who has assembled some of Ireland’s finest actors to create a cinematic pastiche which the film’s publicists describe as an “urban love story.”

There are some fine performances here, particularly outstanding being Colin Farrell’s, Lehiff, and Deidre O’Kane’s, Noeleen. Veteran actor Colm Meaney’s character of Jerry contains dual elements of menace and irony. Particular mention needs to be made of Ger Ryan who displays great subtlety in “underplaying” her role of Maura.

The look of the film is outstanding as it is “quasi-documentary” achieved by the use of hand-held camera work and disciplined framing; all courtesy of the genius of director of photography, Ryszard Lenczewski.

Crowley’s theatre background may have been an asset in his juggling of the eleven different narratives in the film. Over fifty speaking characters aid in the generation of these narratives.

It would be unjust to claim a dislike for interMission then. It is an entertaining film never betraying a lag in action nor any plot anomalies, as the characters’ lives intertwine to create and maintain the tightness of the stories unfolding.

What is disappointing, however, is that one leaves the cinema without having cared. None of the characters really evokes our sympathy, nor our disdain, nor really any emotion at all. When the film is over, the intermission is over also. The only problem is that here, the interMission is the main feature.

interMission is distributed by Hoyts.

Evelyn

Name of the Film: Evelyn

Director: Bruce Beresford

Evelyn is a film which expertly combines scenes of fineness and tenderness with others of exuberance, to produce a quality work which both inspires and delights. It tells the story of a father in Ireland in the 1950’s who, after his wife walks out on the family, is forced to surrender his children to the state. The two boys and the girl, Evelyn are then placed in Church administered orphanages.

Sophie Vavasseur is excellent in her first major role as Desmond (played by Pierce Brosnan) Doyle’s daughter, Evelyn, who joins her father in standing against the power of the Irish Catholic Church and the Irish Supreme Court as they challenge these institution’s right to fragment families in hardship.

Refreshing also is the screen appearance of Frank Kelly. One sees his acting talent in this role as Doyle’s father and his part here is a far cry from the monosyllabic mumblings of his character of Father Jack Hackett on television’s Father Ted.

So many actors in this cast shine in retelling the true story of a relatively uneducated father’s courage and determination in his stand against a stubborn and often brutal system. Julianna Margulies as Bernadette Beattie exhibits a feisty and patiently reforming zeal in her relationship with Desmond Doyle, and the legal counsel represented by Michael Beattie (Stephen Rea), Nick Barron (Aidan Quinn) and Tom Connolly (Alan Bates) are everything that one would expect from three such distinguished actors. Special mention also needs to be made of John Lynch as Mr Wolfe, Senior Counsel whose restrained performance allows the audience to suspect an internal villainy.

Clearly the film is also a labour of love for Pierce Brosnan, who not only plays the lead character of Desmond Doyle but also co-produced, and sings two of the songs for the film (“On the Banks of the Roses” and “The Parting Glass”). Evelyn is a beautiful film, skillfully directed by Bruce Beresford who demonstrates more than adequately, what a mature filmmaker can deliver.

Colour Me Kubrick

Alan Conway feels that being Alan Conway renders him insignificant. He wants the world to paint him with the same brush that painted Stanley Kubrick. He seeks for the world in fact, to “colour him Kubrick.”

Based on a series of real-life events engineered by Kubrick impersonator Alan Conway in the UK between 1988-89 this Brian Cook film sees John Malkovich give an entertaining performance as the film’s slightly daring and totally pathetic lead.

Every bit as pathetic though are those so eager to have a brush with fame that they eagerly embrace Conway’s fraudulence thereby allowing him to perpetuate his facade.

From expensive London bars to an opulent hotel in one of England’s seaside resorts and through a series of exclusive clubs and chic restaurants, the viewer is dismayed at the willing gullibility of people who embrace Conway as Kubrick. (For the record, Stanley Kubrick was himself a little camera shy, making it more likely that few people would have recognised the real Stanley Kubrick at the time.)

This is not to suggest that Conway never gets caught out. He didn’t research the life of Stanley Kubrick nor his films very well and a particularly humorous scene in the film occurs when he claims to have directed Judgement at Nuremburg (thus confusing Stanley Kubrick with Stanley Kramer.)

The film has a fine supporting cast in the likes of Richard E Grant, Peter Bowles, Marisa Berenson (who worked with director Brian Cook when he was first assistant director on Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon), Robert Powell and Jim Davidson. There is also a brief cameo by famed director, Ken Russell.

Colour Me Kubrick is distributed by Hoyts.