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My Beautiful Laundrette [DVD]
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Set within the Asian community in London, My Beautiful Launderette is an unusual love story concerned with identity and entrepreneurial spirit during the Thatcher years. Omar (Gordon Warnecke) takes over the running of his wheller-dealer Uncle's launderette with the intentionof turning it into a glittering palace of commerical success. When he employs childhood firned and ex-National Front member Johnny (Daniel Day-Lewis) they become lovers as well as working partners. However, complications soon ensure as the anger of Johnny's deserted gang begins to build and Omar is forced to face increasingly difficult family issues. Written by Hanif Kureishi and skilfully directed by Stephen Frears, My Beautiful Launderette tackles the difficult issues of racism, bigotry, violence and politics in early 80s Britain and still manages to be compassionate, humourous and hugely entertaining.
In case you'd forgotten, My Beautiful Laundrette will remind you of those mid-80s days when Thatcherism ruled the earth (or so it seemed) and money was king. Stephen Frears' low-budget realisation of Hanif Kureishi's subversively critical play captures the contradictions of that time in a way that's as fresh today as when it was new. Omar's wheeler-dealer uncle, Nasser (Saeed Jaffrey), sums it up when he says, "In this damn country, which we hate and love, you can get anything you want". He sets up Omar (Gordon Warnecke) with a rundown laundrette and the instruction to make it a success, which Omar temporarily does, with the help of his childhood friend Johnny (Daniel Day-Lewis). When the film first came out, it was the gay content that dominated the column inches, whereas now it seems a sensitive and multi-faceted summation of its decade, exploring social, ethnic and sexual issues and contradictions. Bringing together two such different characters as Omar--Asian, ambitious, for whom success is defined by wealth--and former childhood friend Johnny--white trash, ex-National Front--was inspired. Watching their friendship develop into love, and the ensuing bitterness and misunderstanding that they suffer from friends and family is very poignant. All the lead roles are well taken, the contradictory character of Nasser in particular. By turns, funny, touching and anger-inducing, this is a movie that wears its age lightly and its era proudly.
On the DVD: the picture is in 4:3 ratio with a Dolby Digital soundtrack. There's an original trailer and filmographies of the four main characters, with an additional biography for Day-Lewis. --Harriet Smith --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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The film’s 'taboo-breaking’ credentials are established relatively early on as, first, Saeed Jaffrey’s entrepreneur, Nasser Ali, bonks with his mistress Shirley Anne Field’s Rachel, and, second, as Nasser’s nephew, Gordon Warnecke’s 'innocent' Omar, having been taken under his uncle’s wing in order to run the titular laundrette, plants a 'smacker’ on the lips of childhood friend, now 'business partner’ and ex-racist yobbo, Daniel Day-Lewis’ Johnny. Both Warnecke and Day-Lewis turn in impressive performances here as the surreptitious lovers, Omar looking to hide their relationship from his strict uncle (who is looking to 'marry off’ Omar) and Johnny fending off potentially threatening interest from his erstwhile 'gang pals’. One of the film’s standout (comic) sequences is that of the ceremonial opening (cutting the ribbon) of the refurbished, glamorous Powders laundrette to the tune of Puccini, with Nasser and Rachel waltzing, whilst, barely out of sight nearby, Omar and Johnny are coupling. The film’s other notable pairing and (initial) source of tension is that between Nasser’s arch-capitalist and his brother and erstwhile socialist, Roshan Seth’s 'Papa’. Both actors deliver superb (film-stealing) turns here, showcased in their touching reunion scene. Acting-wise, also worthy of mention is Rita Wolf’s feisty performance as Nasser’s rebellious, promiscuous daughter, Tania.
Certainly, in terms of portraying the social fabric of 1980s Britain, along with the likes of Mike Leigh’s Meantime and High Hopes, Frears and Kureishi’s film is one of the most authentic, hard-hitting and definitive exemplars.
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