CE Films - Part 13 - 2002 B



22 Apr 2002
TV film | Dr. Derek Wax | Wr. Peter Bowker
Role: Anthony.

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A drama that combines the stories of Manchester United being relegated by City in 1974 and a man dealing with fatherhood. With Denis Law.


6 Aug 2002 (Locarno Film Festival)
Film | Dir. Alex Cox | Wr. Frank Cottrell Boyce & Thomas Middleton (play)
Role: Vindici (revenger).

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Alex: "This is a radical screen adaptation of Thomas Middleton play from early 17th century. It's a story of a man, returning home to seek revenge for the injustices and crimes committed in the past. The play itself does have some similarities to 'Hamlet', but is more of a quest, concentrated towards a clear goal. Vindici ('Revenger') is both a product of the society and the one who christens with fire in the world as a hell of twisted sins: Merciless revenge is the only remedy he knows. However, he's all too efficient.

"Now the film, while keeping much of the original verse, has future Liverpool as its setting, costumes with their over-the-top extravaganza (Vindici is the only one who looks relatively normal), the plot driven even beyond the already vaguely sketched borders of sanity.
Derek Jacobi is a villain above all villains (and a Karl Lagerfeld doppelgänger), Eddie Izzard is a very good fit – and has great on-screen chemistry with CE. And there are visually marked soliloquies as well.

"Tragedy is the key word. From the opening sequence (one of the best I've seen, it could only be topped by its initial on-the-paper version, arrival in a ship), where you see Vindici as the only survivor in a bullet-ridden bus, you get the sense of predestination. The film has though both intense moments and dark humour. Eccleston adopted a certain style for Vindici, as if laughing through tears, hurt beyond the point where you can feel pain, though never melodramatic. At the same time he's a fighter, a plotter and most importantly, acts under disguise.

"As you get acquainted with him, it soon becomes absolutely clear that Vindici is not your hero by the dozen, perhaps there shouldn't be anything attractive about him at all, unless you're an aspiring mass murderer, but you cannot keep yourself from staying on his side. Worth remembering, as the pastel flashbacks tell you, he had a normal life in the past (similar to Sweeney Todd, f.ex
.) A sort of point of no return is the scene when he speaks to his brother and sister about his plans (this, by the way, is where the title of our bulletin, 'Art Thou Beguil'd Now?' hails from). You get everything in one cocktail (Molotov cocktail) who Vindici is: Love, desperation, tenacity, passion and pure madness, in top delivery by CE.

"Soundtrack by Chumbawamba is also worth a mention – music shifts the mood immediately, neither leaning to the past (given the context), nor easily serving out the usual sci-fi flick dose."

Conclusion: Recommended. You might get frightened off or estranged by the logics of a parallel universe ruling here, but it's definitely worth a try.

Download the study guide (pdf) from Film Education.

DVD Notes:
2003 "Tartan Video" All Regions. English HOH subtitles. Extras: On-set documentary 'Seeking Revenge' (CE inter); Rehearsal footage (CE featured).
25 Sep 2002
TV film | Dir. Julian Farino | Wr. Peter Bowker
Role: Joe Broughton (father and son).

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Alex: "Second collaboration with Peter Bowker. This television drama is one more project based on real life issues, and its strength lies in its message. First of all, it is an honest story that is not afraid to show its characters from uncomfortable angles. Then, it is a practical application of what it tries to explain – Dorothy Cockin and Peter Kirby who play Joe's parents, are learning disabled actors, ambitious to be treated equally with the rest of the cast.

"In the commentary (which is a rather unique feature the film can boast of in terms of CE usually shunning away from such enterprises) Chris tells how the presence of disabled actors affected everyone on set, forcing them to review their ingrown habits, and explains some of the moral predicaments encountered during the filming."

Chiclit: "CE is quick to point out that his side of the scenes with Dorothy and Peter is scripted; he repeats that several times and is quite anxious to give credit to the writer and assure that the scenes, even if they have a feel of being improvised, are not. (Interesting that producer
Derek Wax contradicts him: "Chris Eccleston had to improvise around the responses given by Dorothy and Peter, so it was fantastic that we managed to get somebody as good as him to tackle the role.'')"

A: "Improvised or scripted, it requires a certain level of professionalism to be able not only to deliver one's performances, but also actually make the scenes work, and support the co-actors.

"In some aspects the film is rather documentary-like in itself. It tells a straightforward story. The film begins at the turning point in Joe's life. We follow him and watch how he copes. The answers Joe finds change both him and his relations with his family and friends. Then, these changes can be rather drastic, but they are somewhat downplayed (and thus disturbingly close to the raw reality, where the scale manifests through the combined effect of the details, and not as a singular, univocal narrative gesture, much loved by lazy writers).

"This creates some documentary detachment, which could also be explained, especially if a viewer does not have relevant personal experience; just like for Joe, it's something that needs to be perceived, and only then – felt."

C: "Knowing someone who was adopted and only met her birth mother after having her own family, I found the story development very realistic. This person had a hard time with it initially and didn't let her close friends or even spouse in all her activities and thoughts. Once she internalized it, decided to have a relationship with her birth mother and sisters, then it was time for a party – everyone from this woman's children, friends, and even her adoptive family was expected to meet, greet and instantly become close to her new family members. I found Eccleston's take on all this quite believeable, without being over the top, this is one of the domestic, subtle performances. It's quiet, even as it expresses the characters' emotional turmoil and pain.

"I have long maintained that, for lack of a more sophisticated term, Eccleston acts more with his face than his body in some performances – this movie, with all the close shots is definitely one of those times. Not every story or every performance is one of personal growth and development, sometimes the beauty of the art is just demonstrating how ordinary people live their lives in ways different to yours."

A: "The definite positive side of the film is that it brings the problematic out very convincingly – and actually avoids any clichĂ©s there might be. CE's acting is strong – and the camera focuses on him through the whole feature. Joe might be one of the less complicated characters he's played, but the sincerity of this tale about an ordinary man reassembling his life is quite compelling, and never simplistic."

Conclusion: Good low-key film. Recommended.

DVD Notes:
2007 "inD" Region 2. No subtitles. Extras: Commentary w/ director & CE.