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Nicholas A. Deutsch (Tarrytown, NY USA)

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Last King [DVD] [2003] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Last King [DVD] [2003] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Rufus Sewell

60 of 64 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Avoid this cut & censored U.S. version!, 20 Oct 2009
This is NOT the original 4-hour, 4-episode version of Joe Wright & Adrian Hodges's excellent Charles II: The Power and the Passion, but the 3-hour, 2-episode version shown on A&E in the U.S. The longer original is vastly preferable, and there is no reason for anyone who has the capacity to watch Region 2 DVDs not to get that version instead. On that 2-DVD set, you also get interesting commentaries on the episodes. Oh, and in the scene where Nell Gwynn (sp?) poses topless for a painter, you get a glimpse of her, er... oranges. (Too much for the tender sensibilities of American audiences, apparently.)
Seriously, this is an outstanding collaboration between writer, director, designers and cinematographer (with the Czech Republic standing in for England!), and with an exceptionally fine cast. It was director Joe Wright's "breakthrough" film - before Pride & Prejudice and Atonement - and conveys real passion for its subject on the part of its makers.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 20, 2012 9:44 PM GMT

A Waste of Shame: The Mystery of Shakespeare and His Sonnets  [DVD]
A Waste of Shame: The Mystery of Shakespeare and His Sonnets [DVD]
Dvd ~ Rupert Graves

37 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars First-rate period drama with outstanding performance from Rupert Graves, 1 Aug 2009
From the known facts of Shakespeare's life, scholarly theories and his own imagination, screenwriter and novelist William Boyd has fashioned a fine speculative drama about the creation of the Sonnets. He does this by projecting the poems' subject matter back onto the lives of two historical figures - William Shakespeare ("Will S.") and William Herbert, future Earl of Pembroke ("Will H.") - and an invented one, a Frenchwoman named Lucie (the "Dark Lady"). Yet the film is best viewed not as a "solution" to "The Mystery of Shakespeare and his Sonnets" (as the subtitle puts it) but as a fictional story focused on universal themes of love, lust, disease and mortality, and on the relationship between personal experience and artistic creativity. And while there is plenty of wit and humor, the choice of title - from Sonnet 129: "Th'expense of spirit in a waste of shame / Is lust in action..." - underlines the fundamental moral seriousness of the project.
"A Waste of Shame" is more an intimate chamber piece for three actors than a period spectacle or costume drama like "Shakespeare in Love." Fortunately, it's been cast from strength. Rupert Graves is a wonderful Will S., suggesting in many subtle ways the complex character of the "country boy" who has learned the proper way to act (in all senses of the word) in order to further his career in London. He reads (in voiceover) the fragments from the Sonnets that punctuate the film's progress beautifully, yet several of the most memorable moments are silent, allowing us to sense Will's emotions from Graves's highly expressive face. Even among his many excellent performances of the past few years - including "God on Trial," "The Waiting Room," "To Be First" and "Clapham Junction" - this is a stand-out. Tom Sturridge as Will H. projects the perfect air of adolescent androgyny in the early scenes, and finds a satisfying balance of aristocratic arrogance, seductive charm and deference to artistic talent. Indira Varma has the hardest task, since her character must be created out of whole cloth, but she manages to convey both Lucie's sexual allure and her hardheaded practicality convincingly.
The supporting cast, with roughly a dozen named roles, is also splendid, with Zoe Wanamaker a warm Countess of Pembroke and Anna Chancellor an embittered Anne Hathaway. My personal favorites, however, are Andrew Tiernan as a fiercely competitive Ben Jonson and Ian Hughes as publisher Thomas Thorpe, whose palpable dismay when Will S. brings him poems instead of a play is delightful.
John McKay has done a fine job of directing, the production is handsomely designed and shot (the DVD transfer appears first-rate), and there's an exceptional musical score by Kevin Sargeant. Way down in the credits, you will see listed as "Academic Advisor" Katherine Duncan-Jones; as editor of the current Arden Shakespeare edition of the Sonnets, she has written the best introduction to them that you could wish for. One of the many virtues of this modest but moving film is that it led me back to read these extraordinary poems again after many decades.

Paul Sacher Collection
Paul Sacher Collection
Price: 14.58

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Caveat Emptor: Strong performances, but Deceptive Billing, 23 Feb 2009
This review is from: Paul Sacher Collection (Audio CD)
As this CD is headed "Collection Paul Sacher", and as the 3 pieces here were all commissioned by the 20th century Swiss conductor and music patron, you'd assume he was the conductor - but no. In tiny print on the cover, and only there, we read that these performances by the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra are led by the late Armin Jordan, and were recorded in 2002, 3 years after Sacher's death. No complaints about the quality of the performances, though: the solo instruments in Frank Martin's Petite Symphonie Concertante are too closely miked for my taste, but both it and the Etudes for String Orchestra (Jordan's only recording of the latter) are given warm, committed readings, as is Richard Strauss's Metamorphosen. Martin said in an interview that Sacher had the insight to commission composers to write what they already wanted to write, and these 3 works - all masterpieces - certainly bear him out. At the end of the CD comes a 4 1/2 minute interview (from 1995) in which Sacher talks (in French) about meeting and working with Richard Strauss. Notes in French and German.

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