CE Films - Part 19 - 2012-2013

2 Jul 2012
TV series (3 parts) | Dir. Tom Green | Wr. Bill Gallagher
Role: Daniel Demoys (politician).

"Three-part drama about a corrupt council official who wakes from an alcoholic blackout to realise that he may have been responsible for a murder." [BBC]

"Over the years Daniel Demoys has had it all. A loving wife, kids, the chance to make the world a better place. But over time he has gone from being idealistic and driven to a disillusioned and corrupt council official. He’s also an alcoholic and drug addict and is fast driving a wedge between him and his family. But the deadly fallout of his alcohol-fuelled and corrupt actions is about to change his life forever – can he make amends for his past? Blackout is an epic, edgy thriller following a man battling with his own dark soul as he makes a stab at redemption." [BBC Shop]

...if this were the Seine we'd be very suave, but it's just the rain washing down the boulevard...
Alex: "Could've done really well in Toronto, our Daniel. I take even the most out-there CE titles in my stride, but this one just makes my brain baulk. From the technical point of view, it's great, this hipster showcase for the lighting and camera departments (except for the focus in bands – awful idea). From the story point of view, it's like the Weinstein Co waded in and 'rescued' it. And while I prefer it to the stylistically inept ego trip that was 'The Shadow Line', I can't fathom why they decided to go with a fable, without irony, without any sort of anchoring.

"It's like they were choosing between two brilliant shows: An abstract reality that will look super cool, and a McGovern-esque narrative carried by dramatic actors. And in some quantum accident these two currents melded together. Certainly, you can even cross Eastenders with Avengers if you like, but have a reason for doing that. And if you can't control your story, it just ends up dead. Sure there are bright parts, Daniel interacting with his children and his sister, in particular. But look at Eccleston's character as a whole: Some wonderful, masterful even, moments (I think his 'death row' mode is now my favourite), but they don't add up. I've no idea who Demoys is supposed to be. And in the end I don't care. Especially after that lukewarm finale that they dished up, essentially just calling time. Also I'm too cynical to believe in irreversible political decisions – it really must be a parallel universe.

"The story-lines have obviously concertinaed as a result of reduced running time. And yet it's clear the story is far from hopeless. It could've been fascinating. Daniel's built a rather cosy if not exactly healthy world for himself and his family, the worst way. After the blackout, he's suddenly facing actually working as a politician and figuring out his family life. After all this steering after money and anaesthesia, it's likely the possibilities in this new world would tempt to continue not to look under the carpets and behind the curtains. So why not sharpen to a knife-edge his life as a puppet for the shadow corporations and spend at least a couple of episodes exploring how he at the same time does succeed in remaking himself – building a complete, complicated second layer of the character that seemed irredeemable – only to then smash everything to pieces.

"I've defended several titles that others had written off in the past, and the Beeb really denied Blackout any chance it could have gambled for by shunting it into the death zone of mid-summer TX. Still, I can't talk it up because there are interesting, functioning bits in there."

Conclusion: A good source of inspiration for DoPs on Eccleston's future projects.

DVD Notes:
2012 "BBC/Red productions" Region 2&4. English HOH subtitles. No extras.

aka 'Unfinished Song'
15 Sep 2012 (Toronto International Film Festival)
Film | Dir. & wr. Paul Andrew Williams
Role: James (son).

"Set against the backdrop of a quirky local choir, Arthur joins the chorus to honour his recently deceased wife’s promise and passion for performing. Choir director Elizabeth tries to convince a reluctant Arthur how singing can help him to embrace life again after the loss of his wife Marion." [Steel Mill]

"For Christopher Eccleston, who plays Marion and Arthur's son James, the decision to sign up for Unfinished Song was an easy one. From Our Friends in the North to Flesh and Blood he's been frequently drawn to father-son relationships. Though Eccleston has a fantasticrelationship with his own father, he recognized the truth of the Arthur and James dynamic. "I think in Britain the way working class men of past generations of fathers and sons related to each other is that there was an awful lot of love without a lot of closeness," he says. "There was no expression of love. And the relationship that Terence and I portray very much draws from that pool. But with the loss of their mother and their wife they're forced into each other's orbit and it's important in the film that they move towards redemption." To Eccleston the lack of rehearsal time for the film didn't really matter: "The three of us were well cast together as a family." A well-established and respected actor himself, he still felt very much the eager-to-learn junior. "I've seen Vanessa on stage many, many times and sat in the audience in awe. It's a big deal for an actor to get to work with another actor like that." [production notes]

Alex: "Like 'Amelia', 'Song for Marion' is an indie that went mainstream. In both cases there was some awards chatter that went quiet slowly but surely. Unlike the aviation disaster, this film is fairly decent. There are some daft choices, and it's clearly been chiseled into a pleasanter shape, but it's very watchable mainly thanks to the actors: Stamp, Redgrave, Eccleston are indeed well cast, and it's not just promo-speak. There are some fine nuances to James as a character (compare f.ex. with another car mechanic and father from 'Perfect Parents')."

Conclusion: I agree with Terrence Stamp that it should've been a grittier drama dealing in depth with the themes hinted at here. But it also could have turned out much worse.

DVD Notes:
2013 "EntertainmentOne" Region 2. Extras: Audio commentary with director/writer & producer, interviews with cast and crew, deleted scenes, outtakes (CE featured). English SDH subtitles, audio description.

21 Jun 2013 (Palm Springs International ShortFest)
Short film | Dir. & wr. Caroline Harvey
Role: James.

"Emily puts two English characters within the framework of a stereotypically French film, deconstructing a common sexual fantasy to explore the moment two strangers meet and attempt to fill their loneliness with each others' need."

30 Oct 2013
Film | Dir. Alan Taylor | Wr. Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely; story by Don Payne
Role: Malekith The Accursed.

"Marvel's 'Thor: The Dark World' continues the big-screen adventures of Thor, the Mighty Avenger, as he battles to save Earth and all the Nine Realms from a shadowy enemy that predates the universe itself.

Alex: "Nothing much to say. Eccleston steps into the same river for the third time. Cue surprise marathon make-up sessions and good part of his scenes getting left on the editing room floor. Result – two-bit villain that could've been astonishing."

Conclusion: If you're a comic book movie fan.

Production notes pdf.

aka 'The Mystery of Lord Lucan'
11 Dec 2013
TV film (2 parts) | Dir. Adrian Shergold | Wr. Jeff Pope
Role: John Aspinall. 

"The drama will tell the story of Lord Lucan's exploits as a member of the infamous Clermont set and will focus on his marriage collapse to Veronica, the Countess of Lucan. With his marriage disintegrating, Lucan became obsessed with regaining custody of his children. Ultimately the drama will reveal what happened on that fateful night in November 1974 when his children's nanny, Sandra Rivett, was cruelly bludgeoned to death in the basement of the family's home in London's Lower Belgrave Street as she made her way to the kitchen to make a cup of tea." [ITV Media]

Alex: "I can't really move past how yellow-press-like this whole affair is. Much of it is still guesswork, despite the quite solid fundaments in the form of the book that inspired the project, Pearson's 'The Gamblers'. As a film it left me rather indifferent. Eccleston's casting was remarkably left-field, and he nearly pulled it off, despite the accent that was turned up to 11."

Conclusion: For completists, really.

Another Pearson book project with Chris Eccleston is coming in 2015 – 'Legend'.