1981: 3 movies

posted 2015 August 7

Brideshead Revisited
Directed by Charles Sturridge & Michael Lindsay-Hogg
Written by John Mortimer, Derek Granger,
and Charles Sturridge
Produced by Derek Granger
Music by Geoffrey Burgon
Cinematography by Ray Goode
Editing by Anthony Ham
Casting by Doreen Jones
Production design by Peter Phillips, Margaret Coombes,
Mark Nerini, Terry Pritchard,
and Chris Truelove
Art direction by Margaret Coombes
Costume design by Jane Robinson
Makeup by Sue Milton, Ruth Quinn,
and Deborah Tinsey
Music conducting by Geoffrey Burgon
Starring Jeremy Irons, Diana Quick,
Phoebe Nicholls, Simon Jones,
Anthony Andrews, Charles Keating,
Claire Bloom, John Gielgud,
Nickolas Grace, Laurence Olivier,
and St├ęphane Audran

   An 11-episode miniseries produced for British television is the format. Over these 11 hours, we meet a man who recalls his youth at a university. We see his friends, how he changes, and the choices he makes. Through his recollections, we get a rare look at England between the first and second World Wars. We witness the jazz age, the fading of the noble class, tons of great architecture, scores of glorious meals, outfits of the era, and a wide variety of family, friendly, and amorous relationships. We also glimpse struggles between classes, cultures, and nations, struggles between Catholicism and atheism, monogamy and infidelity, and alcoholics versus casual drinkers. All of this is presented in a pleasantly digestible manner because of the suave narration by the lead character played by Jeremy Irons, and because of the sublime settings, and the delectable cinematography.
   The feelings we come away with are akin to what we might come away with after a wonderful holiday away from our time and place with a cast of divertingly idiosyncratic characters. The production is successful in making us feel the various periods of history because of the meticulous design and direction. What we learn is that time changes everything, and that nothing ever turns out as expected. We also learn that depending on the belief system, a story can have a drastically different evaluations of success and tragedy. The mini-series is based on the novel by Evelyn Waugh.

My Dinner with Andre
Directed by Louis Malle 
Written by and starring Andre Gregory and Wallace Shawn 
Produced by George W. George and Beverly Karp
Music by Allen Shawn 
Cinematography by Jeri Sopanen 
Editing by Suzanne Baron 
Production design by David Mitchell 
Art direction by Stephen McCabe 
Set decor by Doug Kraner

   This simple but intense movie dropped like a golden anvil on cinema, because of how different it was to anything before it. A playwright and a director share their ideas about life and contemporary culture. The entire movie is their dialogue over a single dinner. The structure of the story is as simple as this, but in its simplicity, it is bold, new, and profound. The movie is intensified when we realize that the characters have the same names and biographical details as the actors. Their conversation covers everything from hallucinations to eating chicken everyday, but the underlying substance of it all has to do with rejecting conformity and striving to be awake to the full potential of each person's life.
   The form and production of the movie is genius in that it is not presented as a lecture, but as a shared meal at a nice restaurant, where we are welcome to get comfortable with the two characters. We might connect more with one at times and more with the other at other times. Most probably, we will find ourselves somewhere in between. I believe that the goal of the movie, and for us as the audience, is to be shifted slightly away from Wallace Shawn's position and closer to Andre Gregory's position by the end of the meal, and in doing so grow in our capacity for truly living our lives to the fullest.

Directed by Warren Beatty
Written by Warren Beatty and Trevor Griffiths
Produced by Warren Beatty
Music by Stephen Sondheim
Cinematography by Vittorio Storaro
Editing by Dede Allen and Craig McKay
Production design by Richard Sylbert
Art direction by Simon Holland
Costume design by Shirley Russell
Music conducting by Paul Gemignani
Additional music by Dave Grusin
Starring Warren Beatty, Diane Keaton,
and Jack Nicholson

   It's intriguing because of its balance between history and drama. The comedy and romance keep it moving along potently through the riveting details of two passionate souls who dream of social and political progress. The history, politics, and romantic drama give us a sense of how important the issues of today actually are and encourage us to not be bystanders, but stir us up with its epic tones and encourage us to act.

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