I was nominated by Andrew Grimes Griffin – One movie poster a day for 10 days. The no explanation bit is annoying people so: I loved British cinema in the 80s. The diversity: The Long Good Friday, A Private Function, Mona Lisa, The Merchant-Ivories, Dance with a Stranger, Brittania Hospital, The Greenways and Jarmans, the Bill Forsyths. And these of the top of my head. All were much discussed and remain memorable. My favourite of these was the run of films Stephen Frears had in the mid-80s: Launderette, Prick up Your Ears and my favourite of all: Sammy and Rosie Get Laid. I loved the interracial aspect, the visual inventiveness, the sexyness and cool embodied by Roland Gift, the social critique. Little did I know that it´s a film that inspired vitriol by the people I liked best in Britain….and for the moments in the film I liked best, e.g. the description of a Sunday (or was it a Saturday), holding hands with your loved one after a night of passion, walking through the Southbank, visiting a gallery, going to a movie and catching a lecture. My idea of a perfect Sunday. Who knew that would invoke all kinds of class hatred. That , if I remember correctly, it was Colin McCabe who gave the lecture in the film might have had something to do with it. But still. Anyway this raised all kinds of issues of cross-cultural analysis, what does one need to know? We understand knowing little can be a problem. But can it also be a problem to know too much?
This wasn’t as cringey as I expected it to be. I hadn’t realised Stephen Frears is the director. And he does a fine job indeed.
Judi Dench is absolutely extraordinary in the role that first made her a star twenty years ago (Mrs. Brown, John Madden, 1997): she not only brings all her stage-craft and know-how but gives her body up to the camera so that it too can contribute to what’s being dramatised: those hanging folds over the lonely eyes, the wrinkled skin of someone who’s lived too well and lived too long. Frears put the camera on Dench and she no longer fears it or ‘performs’ for it: the camera is placed and then she places herself in it to offer her eyes and skin, a tone of voice, pitched just so; a glance, line-readings that know cadences and haven’t forgotten the power of timing. She’s in a league of her own. But Ali Fazal is very good as the munshi and an excellent counterpoint both dramatically and visually — he’s tall, dark and handsome. And it’s great to see Osborne, and the jewels and the outfit.
It’s not much of a story really, and what is shown is a bit of a whitewash: the establishment was really racist, but the queen who’s on top of everything isn’t etc etc. Eddie Izzard is very good but my favourite was Olivia Williams as Lady Churchill, eavesdropping at every opportunity, glaring her indignation at all passersby, having an eye cocked to every opportunity. Only great actors do so much with so little.