Archive for the ‘Costume Drama’ Category

Classic: Giant – ***

Posted: September 24, 2018 in 1956, Costume Drama, Drama, Romance, USA, XXX

Time for some Old Hollywood Classic!

The most remarkable thought after watching this 1956 epic, is that some of the issues addressed are still issues in 2018!

Elisabeth Taylor is absolutely stunning as Leslie, the daughter of an east coast horse breeder, who gets married to a Texan, who owns hundreds of thousands of acres of land. But apart from being gorgeous, her character is such a feminist voice! In 1956! When her husband and his men want to debate politics and want her to go drink tea with the other women, she just goes off at them. And there are more scenes like those. This is one hell of a strong female character. Wow. She also addresses the backward way of how the Mexicans are treated on the ranch and in the entire state. It’s really remarkable. When she meets the Texan for the first time, she reads up about the history of the state and then tells him the Texans stole it from the Mexicans. Wow. Bam. Also kudos for the director, who dared to show this segregation between the Texans and those ‘other kind of people’.

What if this movie would have been made in 2018? Would this be a hit? would this even be allowed to be shown in theaters? It would create controversy and Texans would still be offended about the way they are depicted.

It’s a good movie though. The direction is excellent. A lot is shown rather than explained. There are a lot of jumps forward in time, but it somehow works, thanks to the clever editing. George Stevens won the Oscar for best directing even though the movie itself lost big. But he really deserves the win. It makes you want to watch all of his work.

Rock Hudson is great as the macho Texan. James Dean is just okay (what’s the fuzz really?) as a former ranch worker discovering oil in his small piece of land. The feud between these two men on screen also existed off screen. There are hundreds of articles focussing on that rivalry between these two leading men. Which adds to the joy of watching this movie.

The last part of the movie doesn’t quite reach the same level as the first two hours (yes it’s a long movie), but persevere! It’s worth it. It’s all very entertaining. There are even some funny scenes (the thanksgiving scene with the kids, the diner fight at the end).


“Why would you finish a show that you don’t like?” asked a friend who asked me what I thought of Dancing On The Edge. 

In short: it’s only five episodes and I somehow hoped it would get better once you got to know the characters a bit more.

Alas! It never got better. It’s just overlong and not exciting at all.

The premise sounds good though. It’s the story of a jazz band who tries hard to get their new music across in 1930s London. They get help from a music reporter and are able to perform in a fancy hotel with not so open-minded guests. The series stars the charming and talented Chiwetel Ejiofor as the leader of the band and the setting, costumes and make up look stunning. So far so good.

But the tone changes from a musical period drama to an ordinary crime story. One of the singers gets severely attacked and it’s pretty obvious who did it. The wrong person gets accused and it looks like he’ll be framed for the crime. A lot of characters are introduced that may or may not be complicit of the crime. So there’s a little suspense. But in the end it’s all so predictable and a drag.

Watch it only for Chiwetel!

Brooklyn – **

Posted: March 16, 2016 in 2015, Canada, Costume Drama, Ireland, Romance, UK, XX

Brooklyn is a fine movie about a young Irish girl who leaves her country to find work in the US. She has trouble adapting at first, but then encounters a young Italian plumber who she falls in love with and marries in secret. When her sister dies unexpectedly, she returns home, where she feels the pressure and opportunity to stay. She keeps her marriage in New York a secret and goes on several dates with a rich Irish bachelor.

The movie is based on a succesfull novel, which scored well with a female audience. It’s a romantic coming of age tale with a tiny bit of adventure and a heroin in doubt about what’s best for her future. Success guaranteed. The story isn’t really boring, but it’s very trivial. There is little drama and little humor, but hardly any dull moments either.

The main reason to watch this movie is the performance of Saoirse Ronan, who shines in every single scene. A joy to watch. Yeah, that’s basically the only reason.


In a time when Flanders had lost all its importance because of the separation from the rest of the Netherlands, the Dutch went off to trade allover the world and build a strong naval fleet.

Michiel De Ruyter is an important historical character in Dutch history. He kind of united the Dutch when they were at the verge of a civil war between those who supported the Republic of the Seven Provinces and those who supported the royal city holder William III of Holland. The only thing he had to do was defeat the English and later the French as well. At sea! Which he did.

Michiel De Ruyter is for obvious reasons renamed the Admiral. The producers hope the movie will be an international success. But if it failed to score at the Flemish box office, how on earth can it do well abroad?

It’s not a bad move though. And definitely one to watch on a big screen. (it might have gotten an extra * star if I had seen it in a theatre). The battle scenes at sea lack the hollywood drama and effects, but they are efficient nonetheless. The acting is done remarkably well. The historical settings is detailed. It all makes sense.

It’s long and you need to have at least some background about the creation of the Netherlands as we know it now. It’s pretty patriotic though. Which is quite unusual. The Dutch flag covering the screen several times, the ode to the country at the end… It’s all a bit too much.

The English king disses the catholic marshland of the Southern Provinces (what is now the major part of Belgium) and Willem III agrees! But Willem III is kind of the bad guy in this story, even though a controversial biopic on his life would get me more excited than the pretty chronological and tame story of his most successful admiral.

Sofia Coppola’s biopic on the famous teenage queen of France didn’t leave a big impression on me when it was released back in 2006. But this second view left me baffled. It’s an incredibly well-directed movie. Kirsten Dunst is excellent as the troubled queen. The costume and set designs are impeccable. The contemporary soundtrack is risqué, but incredibly fitting.  (in fact, that was the only thing I liked nine years ago). The overall feel is great.

Having visited Versailles more than 50 times since the release of this movie does change your views on the story. You see all kinds of details that just aren’t historically correct (Marie Antoinette never took that many baths, nor could she have eaten macarons – an invention from the 19th century). There’s also a lack of realism in those scenes where everyone has beautiful teeth and nobody gets bitten by mosquitoes when they lounge along the swampy pool. However, apart from all the mistakes, there are also a lot of very accurate details and it’s refreshing to see a consistent biopic where the director clearly had a view of how the main character had to be depicted. In that sense, you can accept more discrepancies, anachronisms and biased depictions. Was Louis XV as much a loser as Jason Schwartzman’s performance makes you believe? Did Marie Antoinette really have an affair with the Swedish count Fersen? We will never know, but the fact that it’s presented this way doesn’t make you like the characters less.

This is a very young and refreshing movie that may not be historically correct, but will entertain an audience with historical facts that otherwise would never ever bother to watch a period piece. And that’s a merit on its own.

Carey Mulligan is quite impressive as the central character of this semi-feminist romantic drama about a woman who inherits a farm and becomes the love interest of three suitors. She steals every scene she’s in and is an imperfect natural beauty.

The soundtrack and the cinematography add a lot to the serene setting and convincing atmosphere. The supporting cast is great and there is a surprisingly high amount of moments that make you laugh, or at least smile. The story is interesting and takes you in a direction you do not want it to go, but still captivates until the very predictable end.

It’s a historical costume drama based on a famous literature classic, a genre that doesn’t draw large audiences and only scores well in the award season, but amongst all the huge blockbusters this is as a welcome alternative. Too bad the Academy will forget about Mulligan by the end of the year.

A Little Chaos

Posted: June 7, 2015 in 2015, Costume Drama, Drama, Historical, UK

Ten reasons why I did not finish this okay movie:
– It is about gardening. Yawn.
– Kate Wynslet isn’t as impressive as she used to be and seems totally not interested in playing this part
– Matthias Schoenaerts also doesn’t seem to enjoy his role as Le Nôtre. Maybe it’s because of the long hair he is wearing and the fact that his character pretty much is a loser…
– Alan Rickman is a very lousy Louis XIV. He makes him human, which he wasn’t. He was the Sun King, not the down to earth king…
– the score sounds terrible
– the story is set at Versailles, but everyone speaks posh English… No no no no !
– the dialogue is so theatrical that it may sound good on paper and on stage, but not on the screen
– It is not filmed at Versailles, or at least not entirely… It could be any garden anywhere (in England)
– Kate Wynslet works in the garden and never gets dirty, then takes a bath in a period of time when not even the king dared to wash himself !!!
– There is zero chemistry between the two leads, which kind of sucks for a romantic drama

But then again, I was very tired. So maybe one day – on a plane or so – I’ll see how it ends

Visiting Rouen and Normandy, there is no escape to local guides talking about Gustave Flaubert’s literary masterpiece Madame Bovary. Set in the mid 19th Century, the scandal novel focuses on the adulterous wife of a local doctor. She’s a peasant girl, lucky to get married to a man with fame and money, yet feels bored and starts cheating on him in order to find more happiness and more stature. She dies at the end. Sorry for the spoiler.

The story has been filmed many times and there’s a new release planned for later this year. But the most famous one in France for the time being is the version of Claude Chabrol with Isabelle Huppert.

She’s great. She doesn’t quite manage making you like her character and there are several scenes where she’s overacting with emotions, but that’s probably a director’s decision. The setting is quite okay. And there is some humor. But the story is such a bore! And the directing isn’t all that professional for such a famous and famed director. The costume design is excellent, but the soundtrack makes you want to press the mute button as soon as there’s a non dialogue scene. It’s made in the nineties, but feels like it was made in the early seventies.

You somehow wish that James Ivory and Ismael Merchant had done something with this story.

The book most likely is better than the movie. However, I’m glad I don’t have to read it anymore to know what it is about.

With every visit of Versailles comes the desire to learn more about the life in the exuberant estate. It’s one thing to walk around on its premises amongst thousands of other tourists. It’s another to sit back, relax and enjoy the splendor of movies like Les Adieux A La Reine.  This little known French production has a stellar cast, enough contemporary humor to make it not a dull historical piece and tons of little details that are often overlooked by others filming in the baroque palace. Fans of the queen Marie Antoinette aren’t going to be happy with the fascinating portrayal by Diane Kruger of their beloved queen. She’s only in a few scenes, but turns the famed royal into an arrogant, moody, egocentric, but gorgeous bitch who abuses the adoration of her story reader for personal benefit. Lea Seydoux is equally excellent as the main character, a girl who reads stories to the Queen and who would do anything to be in her favor. Virginie Ledoyen looks stunning too, but has too little screen time to fully embody her character (Marie Antoinette’s best friend). This could easily have been made as a four episode tv series. But as a feature movie it works as well.

In a recent discussion about the state of blockbuster action movies, a friend claimed to be more forgiving for senseless scripts when it comes to motion pictures that bring back memories of his youth. After he dissed the silliness of the Lucy and John Wick story lines, he admitted being more tolerant towards The Avengers and The Transformers because he read the comics and played with the robot cars as a kid. I did neither of both, so my preference definitely goes to mindless entertainment starring Scarlett Johansson or Keanu Reeves.

After watching Ridley Scott’s Exodus a similar thought ran through my head. If you grew up with bible/thora/koran stories, you kind of know what to expect and can only be intrigued by this 2014 blockbuster interpretation. If you never read or heard the epic tale of Moses liberating his people from slavery and leading them to the promised land, you may experience this movie very differently and often think: WTF!

It’s presumptuous to believe that the story is known to all, but even if you have no religious upbringing, you still might have seen the animation movie The Prince Of Egypt. 

Exodus: Gods and Kings is good entertainment. Even in 3D. It’s epic in the sense that no costs were spared for costumes and set designs. But when you strip it from all the visual flair, you end up with a non-confrontational good vs bad story. That’s not bad. It’s not as pretentious as Noah and not as religiously inspired as Son Of God. It’s just a good historical epic story with little to complain about. Apart from details like the miscasting of Ramses (why choose an unknown caucasian guy, if you get someone like Said Taghmaoui?) and illogical images like Ramses’ army first being heavily decimated by a stone avalanche and then suddenly being larger than ever when they reach the Red Sea.