This adaptation of a Henry James novel (a
searchable online version is in the public domain) was left dead
in the water as a stand-alone film because of an egregious casting
mistake: John Malkovich as Osmond. Malkovich delivers his usual
creepy, ophidian performance here, and it just doesn't work. As a
result, the whole film makes no sense unless you have read the
book and understand the characters' motivations.
have not read the book, here's what you see:
Isabel, a beautiful and strong-minded American woman turns down an
offer of marriage from a distinguished British lord. This lord is
fairly young and neither ugly nor creepy, but she turns him down because she
simply doesn't know enough about life to make an informed choice. That
tells us a lot about her character. She has some very strong
convictions about how she should live her life. Since she has no money
of her own, her rejection is not merely a sacrifice of all the comforts that
the lord might provide, but also a gamble that might result with her ending up impoverished and miserable.
She is brave and daring
enough to risk everything to find the "right" man, and thoughtful
enough to think her decisions through carefully. Then she inherits some money of her own
through a plot contrivance which we needn't concern ourselves with
here, and who does she end up with? Malkovich. What happened to all
the savvy and self-examination she showed when she turned down the
lord? She rejected a perfectly nice if stiff-assed guy to marry an
obviously arrogant and slithering creep? Makes no sense. How could he
fool her for an hour, let alone finagle a marriage with her?
The point missed by the film is that Henry
James's Osmond is incredibly charming. He may be a scoundrel and a
layabout at heart, but he has the intellectual and physical presence to woo a
smart, rich woman who knows he is not rich, and to be able to convince
that woman that he is interested in her for more than money. Malkovich,
sinister and insinuating as always, is practically walking around with
a "phony" sign on his chest. In every situation he's obviously being
only as polite as required, delivering every line on the very edge of
condescension and self-absorption. Isabel's acuity has earlier been
established by her rejection of the lord. How the hell could that
sharp woman fall for this guy? Never happen. The Osmond role needed to
belong to a George Clooney or a Redford, or even a younger version of Tom Selleck, a man
capable of completely disguising his intentions and his character
flaws. This version of Osmond, as played by Malkovich, couldn't fool
The film is not without interesting elements.
You can see two future
superstars, Batman and Aragorn, as younger men in minor roles. Batman
was especially young: Christian Bale was barely 21 when this film was lensed.
Some of the other cast members are interesting as well: Shelley
Winters is on hand, Barbara Hershey appears in an Oscar-nominated
turn, and the underrated Martin Donovan breathes life into the film's
most credible character. In addition to some fine performances, the
film offers splendid scenery and its costumes won an Oscar nomination.
As you might guess from those characteristics, Portrait scores
significantly higher with women: IMDb 6.3, versus 5.5 from men.
Despite the positives, I'm not really convinced that this book was
ever meant to be made into a movie at all. A very high percentage of its
merit consists of its eloquent, insightful sentences. Nothing much
ever happens. James himself wrote in
preface that the best part of the book consists of Isabel sitting
motionless in a chair. Now that's good cinema, right there! James was not unaware
of the introspective nature of his work, and that his talents lay as a
wordsmith, not as an scenarist. When a theatrical company approached
him to adapt it into a play, he flat-out told them that it couldn't be
done. Director Jane Campion would have done well
to listen to his words. Instead, she not only took a stab at it, but
she spent 144 minutes of screen time trying to prove the master wrong
about his own creation. The result was a film which was not only overlong,
talky, and inert (as James himself would have predicted), but
ultimately rendered nonsensical by the casting of Malkovich.
"Based on the Steve Niles graphic novel. In a sleepy, secluded Alaska town called Barrow, the sun sets and doesn't rise for over thirty consecutive days and nights. From the darkness, across the frozen wasteland, an evil will come that will bring the residents of Barrow to their knees. The only hope for the town is the Sheriff (Josh Hartnett) and Deputy, a husband and wife who are torn between their own survival and saving the town they love."
Monty Python: The Bruces' Philosopher Song, live at the Hollywood Bowl
"Keith Richards won't be fined for reportedly lighting up during a Rolling Stones concert in Scotland. The stage at Hampden Park, where the band performed Friday night on their 'A Bigger Bang' tour, is exempt from a new law that bans smoking ... "
Yellow asterisk: funny (maybe). White asterisk: expanded format.
Blue asterisk: not mine. No asterisk: it probably sucks.
Rome (2005) - Day 4. Episodes 8 through 12.
Rome (2005) Day Four
Episode 8 takes place mainly in Egypt, where Caesar has pursued Pompey,
only to find him dead, but Egypt is near civil war. He elects to side with
Cleopatra against Ptolemy XIII. Cleopatra has a son Caesar believes to be his.
We aren't so sure, as we see Cleo knock one off with Pullo after he rescued
Kerry Condon shows breasts
in a little girl/girl with Lindsay Duncan.
Lyndsay Marshal, as
Cleopatra, shows breasts in two sex scenes.
Episode 9 begins as Caesar has defeated Cato and Scipio in Africa. They
commit suicide, and Caesar has a triumphant return to Rome. Lucius returns
home to find his wife a successful butcher. When he offends a newly powerful
merchant, Caesar comes to his aid, and offers him an important position.
Servillia is attacked in the street. Servilla is trying to discover what
Caesar's health secret might be, still wanting to bring Caesar down for having
An unknown shows breasts in a street performance.
Lindsay Duncan shows breasts
being attacked on the street.
Episode 10 is mostly about Caesar's triumph celebration. He declares that
the war is over, and is voted by the senate to be emperor for 10 years.
Servillia becomes even more active in her opposition to Caesar. Pullo decides
to free his slave and marry her. When he tells her she is free, she confesses
her love for another slave, whom Pullo kills.
No nudity in this episode.
Episode 11 has Pullo taking work as a paid assassin. Lucius wins veterans
benefits for his old comrades. Servillia is still hard at work convincing her
son Brutus to go against Caesar, and, when Caesar tries to ship him off to
Macedonia, he decides he is no longer on Caesar's side. Pullo is sentenced to
death in the arena, but defeats many gladiators and Lucius comes to his aide
at the end.
No nudity in this episode.
Episode 12 has Caesar appointing a bunch of new senators, including Lusius.
Lusius and Pullo have become public heroes. With the assassination of Caesar
planned, Lucius is the one remaining obstacle, as he has become a bodyguard to
Caesar in the Senate. Sevillia solves it by having Lusius told the truth about
his supposed grandson. When confronted, his wife commits suicide, while Brutus
deals the deathblow to Caesar.
Again, no nudity.
A second season was announced, rumored to be cancelled, and, as of today,
seems to be on again for next year. They will, of course, have a very
different cast, and a whole new story, since Caesar is dead, Lucius knows the
truth about his wife, etc. There are few open sub-plots. If they can find as
good an era and equal the first episode technically and artistically, there is
no reason to believe a second season will not also be very good. It is a
little worrying that the nudity tapered off so badly towards the end of the
first season. The first season was an HBO BBC co-production. The BBC site
announces pretty clearly that the series has ended. I suppose we will hear
more about season two next year.
This was a very engrossing mini-series, easily the equal of Shogun or
Roots, grounded in historical fact, lushly produced, but, by focusing on the
view of events by two ordinary soldiers, they were able to show all levels of
Roman society. This is a high C+.
Kate Vernon in Bloodknot. These European TV
captures and the ones below from Soft Deceit are the best ones I've seen
from those two movies.
Kate Vernon in Soft Deceit. For the few of you
who don't already know, the attractive Kate is the daughter of the late Dean
Finally, two from RokWatch. The first is a Shannon
Doherty collage ...
... and the second is an interesting bit of nostalgia. Some samples from
What Do You Say to a Naked Lady?, a movie which basically consisted of the
Candid Camera ideas too naughty for TV.