Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Gosford Park |
Actors: Kristin Scott Thomas, Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon
Director: Robert Altman
Import Blu-Ray/Region A Pressing... The Academy Award winner for Best Original Screenplay, Gosford Park is a whodunit as only director Robert Altman could do it. As a hunting party gathers at the country estate, no one is ... more »
Altman does UPSTAIRS/DOWNSTAIRS & Dame Agatha - or does he?
Themis-Athena | from somewhere between California and Germany | 02/23/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Well, strictly speaking he doesn't of course - Robert Altman never simply tags onto an established genre; he plays with it and makes it his own by turning it upside down. So, while the idea for "Gosford Park" may have been inspired by murder mysteries "Christie style" and by the likes of "Brideshead Revisited" and the BBC series about the Bellamy's Eaton Square household, we leave familiar territory the moment we enter the estate ... through the servants' entrance; for although large parts of the action take place "upstairs," it is manifestly told from a "downstairs" perspective.
Academy Award-winningly scripted by Julian Fellowes (himself a descendant of British nobility and therefore able to draw on manifold personal insights in creating the movie's characters), "Gosford Park" is primarily an examination of the unquestioningly accepted rules of the early 1930s' British class society: where, beset by primogeniture and a lifestyle often beyond their means, an aristocrat's daughters and younger sons were compelled to marry rich to maintain their expected standard of living - making a marriage for love much less desirable than one for money, even to a disliked spouse, and a marriage for love almost akin to a crime if not combined with wealth -; where servants were a necessary element of the aristocracy's life, even if largely treated as non-persons, banished to the basement and not even allowed to speak if not spoken to when called upstairs by virtue of their duties (notwithstanding the almost friendly relationship often existing between members of the two classes outside the public eye); where the perfect servant's existence was a life so unrealized that it often resulted in an overbearing interest in all aspects of his employer's life and in a precise emulation of the latter's prejudices, standards and pecking orders; where nevertheless domestic service was an important finishing school, especially for girls, frequently employed as early as at 12 or 14 years of age; where both "upstairs" and "downstairs" the greatest transgression against social etiquette was the causation of any kind of scene, as *nothing* was to be talked about as if it were truly important - requiring an immediate return to form if a breach of decorum had occurred after all - and where minute behavioral patterns such as a person's habits in pouring milk for his tea unfailingly exposed him as a member of one particular class, try as he might to associate himself with another. Yet, for all its observations, "Gosford Park" never judges: it takes each of its characters, and the entire unspoken "upstairs-downstairs" class arrangement at face value, leaving it up to its viewers to determine themselves what to make thereof.
The movie is named for the estate of Sir William McCordle (Michael Gambon) and wife Sylvia (Kristin Scott Thomas), who have invited friends and family to that most English of all country sports events - a shooting party. And they have all come: Lady Sylvia's aunt Constance Trentham (Maggie Smith), her sisters Louisa and Lavinia with husbands Lord Stockbridge and Commander Meredith (Geraldine Somerville, Natasha Wightman, Charles Dance and Tom Hollander), the Nesbitts (James Wilby and Claudie Blakley) and last but not least (real-life) actor Ivor Novello (Jeremy Northam, who also displays his outstanding vocal talent with several of Novello's songs), along with Hollywood director Morris Wiseman (Bob Balaban), in England for research on a projected "Charlie Chan" movie, and young Henry Denton (Ryan Philippe), whom Wiseman presents as his valet. Yet, while Novello is the hosts' halfheartedly-tolerated relative, Wiseman and Denton are instantly identified as outsiders: Not only are they American, but Wiseman is Jewish (and thus, implicitly socially suspect), a vegetarian (making him even more suspect for "fussing" over his food) and swears on the telephone; and Denton is quickly branded disingenuous by the servants, particularly Lady Constance's young maid Mary (Kelly Macdonald) and Lord Stockbridge's valet Robert Parks (Clive Owen), only to incur even greater wrath both upstairs and downstairs when the full measure of his deception becomes apparent.
Despised by his wife and aristocratic in-laws and also, for reasons of their own, by his own staff, primarily housekeeper Jane Wilson and cook Elizabeth Croft (Helen Mirren and Eileen Atkins), Sir William is found murdered after the second night's dinner. Enter Inspector Thompson (Stephen Fry) - and the movie's delicious survey gains another dimension, now also taking on the mystery genre; playing with it in "Charlie Chan" and "Pink Panther" fashion, with inept policemen, matching background music and cliches turned on their head, such as the obligatory assembly of all suspects, which here occurs at the investigation's beginning, not at its end.
While "Gosford Park"'s many awards are undoubtedly deserved, most fitting of all is its outstanding cast's SAG ensemble award; as all actors, including the late, great Alan Bates (butler Jennings), Derek Jacobi (Sir William's valet Probert), Richard E. Grant (first footman George) and Emily Watson (housemaid Elsie, Sir William's secret paramour and the only person grieving his death) put aside their claims to genuine starring roles in the interest of the ensemble's achievement. In addition to Robert Altman's, his son/production designer Stephen's and Julian Fellowes's painstaking attention to even the smallest set detail - including a king's ransom in tapestry and authentic vintage jewelry - and the counsel of several advisors with real-life service experience, all actors thoroughly researched the tenets of their roles; enabling them to respond in supreme fashion to Altman's preferred style of directing, which favors spontaneity, "mistakes" (often actually a movie's greatest moments), constantly moving cameras with shifting focus and overlaying, partly ad-libbed conversations over strict adherence to the script. The movie is jam-packed with information, each morsel provided only once; therefore, you not only should but actually must watch it several times to pick up on all the details you will necessarily miss initially. This is not a film for casual viewers, nor for fans of primarily plot-driven stories - but it is strongly recommended to those who appreciate delicate social comment and exquisitely-drawn characters.
The Shooting Party
Howards End - The Merchant Ivory Collection
The Remains of the Day (Special Edition)
Brideshead Revisited (25th Anniversary Collector's Edition)
Upstairs, Downstairs - Collector's Edition Megaset (The Complete Series plus Thomas and Sarah)
The Mysterious Affair at Styles: Hercule Poirot's First Case
Agatha Christie's Poirot - The Classic Collection
Sabotage and The Lodger
Ready to Wear
The Long Goodbye"
"Nothing's more exhausting than breaking in a lady's maid."
Mary Whipple | New England | 07/14/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The upperclass friends and relations of Sir William McCordle (Michael Gambon) arrive at his country house for a weekend of shooting, accompanied by maids, footmen, and valets, all of whom will be staying under one roof. Sir William is a mean-spirited and self-centered old man, married to a much younger, emotionally distant wife (Kristin Scott Thomas), with many family members dependent upon his continuing largesse. The hilariously waspish Countess of Trentham (Maggie Smith), who believes she has a lifetime stipend, arrives with young Mary Maceachran (Kelly MacDonald), who is trying valiantly to become a good lady's maid. Ivor Novello (Jeremy Northam), a Hollywood star, and Morris Weissman (Bob Balaban), a producer of Charlie Chan movies, are the only guests without aristocratic backgrounds and inherited privilege. The atmosphere of the house, filled with venomous "friends" and relations, soon becomes even more poisonous.
The "below stairs" lives of the servants are also fully revealed, as they share living quarters, eat meals together, tend to the laundry and cooking, and gossip about their employers. The butler Jennings (Alan Bates) and the head housekeeper (Helen Mirren) run the household and try to guarantee that no real-world cares will intrude upon the lives of their employers. Since "upstairs" and "downstairs" occasionally meet very privately at night, secrets abound, many of them secrets of long standing. When Sir William is poisoned and stabbed ("Trust Sir William to be murdered twice"), nearly everyone has a motive for wanting him dead.
For director Robert Altman, the primary focus of the film is on the characters, their way of life, and their values, with the murder mystery secondary. Set in late November, the end of the year 1932, the action takes place when this secure aristocratic lifestyle is also nearing its end, something that the arrival of the newly rich Hollywood characters, Novello and Weissman, illustrates. Dramatic cinematography (by Andrew Dunn) emphasizes the cold and rainy dreariness of the weekend, and suggests parallels with the coldness of the dying aristocracy.
Interior shots reveal the contrasts between the elegant and mannered lives of the "upstairs" characters and the hardworking daily lives of the "downstairs" characters, who adhere to their own rigid social codes. Every detail seems true, and as the characters' lives and interrelationships are revealed obliquely in brief snippets of seemingly unrelated conversations, a broad picture of the upstairs and downstairs lifestyles gradually emerges. Fully developed, many-leveled, wonderfully acted, often funny, and impeccably directed and filmed, this is a film one can watch again and again with delight. Mary Whipple"
Recipe for Lasting Success
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 07/03/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Take an 'idea' by Bob Balaban and Robert Altman, transform that idea into a screenplay by Julian Fellowes, place Robert Altman in the director's chair, and gather many of the finest actors in England (and the USA), photograph it with Andrew Dunn as cinematographer, and assign the musical score to Patrick Doyle and presto! - out comes a bubbling movie that entertains on every level and makes a lot of statements about class distinction and other prejudices as well. GOSFORD PARK is a gem of a film and only grows better with repeated viewings.
Gosford Park is the estate owned by grumpy William McCordle (Michael Gambon) who has a way of distancing most everyone he encounters, his bored wife Sylvia (Kristen Scott Thomas), his frumpy daughter Isobel (Camilla Rutherford), and served by a staff of servants who include the very in control Mrs. Wilson (Helen Mirren), the butler Jennings (Alan Bates), and the head of the kitchen Mrs. Croft (Eileen Atkins). A weekend hunting party is underway and as the guests arrive the dichotomy between the wealthy and the serving class is emphasized. Among the odd assortment of guests (each with a pack of secrets and prejudices) are Maggie Smith, Tom Hollander, Charles Dance, Bob Balaban, Jeremy Northam, James Wilby, and their valets and servants Clive Owen, Kelly Macdonald, Ryan Phillippe, etc. The servants are incorporated into the staff rooms by the strange Emily Watson, Derek Jacobi, Jeremy Swift et al. The arrival evening drops a few hints of problems afoot both among the guests and among the servants. The hunting party is scarred by a minor accident, but the real problem occurs at the dinner following the hunting party - a time when some of the occult problems become more obvious and culminate in the murder of the vile William McCordle. The police are called and Inspector Thompson (Stephen Fry) uncovers some strange evidence that leads to not only the events of the murder but also unveils many of the secrets of both guests and servants. There is a surprise ending that somehow makes all of the characters seem more human than their artificial roles they have assumed.
This is a banquet of fine acting and ensemble work and adds such treasures as a series of songs performed by Jeremy Northam with great style as well as unexpected cameos by a large number of lesser-known actors. It is a fine mystery, Altman style, and is as frothy and refreshing as fine champagne! Grady Harp, April 08"
The movie is fantastic; the Blu-ray transfer is atrocious.
Patricia Wadsworth | Indianapolis, Indiana United States | 07/05/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I've looked forward to seeing this wonderful film in Blu for the longest time. Now that I have it I have to say that the picture quality is not at all good--in fact, it looks no better than DVD does on a decent DVD player. Such an opportunity wasted. And, I find I must keep my standard def version of this disc because none--that's right NONE of the excellent and informative special features from the SD version are on the Blu-ray version. There are no special features at all!
This is a very underwhelming release of a best picture nominated film. It deserved better. I didn't know how many stars to give it, but I'll say 5 star film, 1 star picture quality, so I gave it 3 stars."