Tales of the City [DVD]  [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
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In the freewheeling San Francisco of the 1970s, fresh-faced midwesterner Mary Ann Singleton arrives for a visit and decides to stay. But only when she moves into the funky apartment house at 28 Barbary Lane does it become clear just how far from Cleveland she really is. Based on Armistead Maupin's groundbreaking stories about a cast of characters in search of love across the whole spectrum of sexual experience, Tales of the City evokes both a unique time and place and the universal yearning for connection. This Peabody Award-winning PBS miniseries stars Olympia Dukakis (Moonstruck), Donald Moffat (Clear and Present Danger), Laura Linney (You Can Count on Me), Marcus D'Amico (Full Metal Jacket) and Chloe Webb (Sid & Nancy) as Mona Ramsey. Also featuring Thomas Gibson (Dharma & Greg), Billy Campbell (Once and Again) and Paul Gross (Due South). DVD BONUS FEATURES: Audio commentary by Armistead Maupin, Director Alastair Reid and Olympia Dukakis, Laura Linney and Barbara Garrick; exclusive behind-the-scenes location and rehearsal footage; Armistead Maupin biography and booklist; cast biographies; and full-color insert with introduction by Armistead Maupin, production notes by Producer Alan Poul and Tales of the City filming locations and landmarks.
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The divine, serene Olympia Dukakis as Anna Madrigal, everyone`s ideal landlady, who is not what she seems. This is not only luxury casting, but perfect casting too. A beautifully modulated performance by one of America`s finest actresses, in what surely must be one of the roles of her career.
The equally divine Laura Linney as Mary Ann Singleton, conventional newcomer to the manifold delights of San Francisco, her strawbery blonde hair cascading down around her shoulders, her shy smile lighting up every scene. Linney was an actress of rare talents even back then in the mid-90s just before she got her breakthrough roles, as well as several Oscar nominations (no win yet, shamefully).
Chloe Webb plays Mona Ramsey as if the part had been designed with her in mind. She reminds me of our own Zoe Wanamaker, with the same zany quality and offbeat sexiness beneath a slightly shambolic exterior. Webb is brilliant and very touching as Mona, one of the most compelling characters in these picaresque tales.
British-born Donald Moffat is perfect as Edgar Halcyon, Mrs Madrigal`s ageing, raffish lover. Moffat was an actor who never quite made `the big time` (for what that`s worth) though highly respected in the profession, but on this evidence he was a very fine one, a truthful, unfussy actor who is hugely enjoyable to watch.
Barbara Garrick is also excellent as the frustrated wife of the rather odious Beauchamp, Halcyon`s son, and is an actress I regret not seeing more of since this show was aired. She`s rather special.
There are many other happy casting choices, such as Marcus D`Amico (another British actor) as Michael "Mouse", the central gay character; beefy Paul Gross, who was later to shine as the lead in Due South; and various unexpected cameos from such luminaries as Ian McKellen, Country Joe MacDonald (yes, that one) as a singing friend of Anna`s, and an unusually restrained Rod Steiger in a brief but lovely scene as a bookshop owner.
The quality of the DVD leaves something to be desired, and some of the editing - these being a series of often stand-alone vignettes - is somewhat arbitrary, but on the whole, and especially if, as I do, you loved the books, this is a more than honourable effort, worth the price alone for the appropriately named Olympia as the glorious Mrs Madrigal.
In her words: "I don`t object to anything!"
Well done to the writer who has a Hitchcock cameo in one lovely california scene will you spot him?
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