VENUS

MOVIE REVIEWS BY DAVE SMITH

 

Ah, the memories of those deep blue eyes, that flowing blonde hair, that portrait of the eccentric " Orrence" in David Lean's masterpiece Lawrence of Arabia. It's all gone now. Peter O' Toole's determined dissolution has conquered his outward appearance but it has not dimmed his inner fire. He can still call up a magnificent performance and he does just that in this film.

O' Toole is the last of that cadre of actors that included Richard Burton, Richard Harris and Peter FInch. They all were great actors and they; all pursued a path of self destruction which is seen more in O' Tooles face than any of the others. But never mind that. O' Toole can still deliver. In a parody of his own career he portrays Maurice, an old down and out actor who was once famous and highly revered. He has all the ailments of old age including the removal of his prostate which has made him impotent.

This however, has not removed his lust for the opposite sex. When the grandniece of one of his friends comes to take care of her doddering old uncle, Maurice decides to make her his reclamation project. Her name is Jessie, but Maurice promptly names her "Venus." In her film debut, Jodie Whittaker holds her own against O'Toole with reasonable success. At first she thinks he is just another dirty old man. But Maurice gradually begins to get through to her. He takes her to plays and recites lines from the classics. When he tries to sniff at her neck, she repulses him. He replies, "There really isn't anything else." When Venus is taking a bath, Maurice recites Shakespeare's sonnet, "Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's day?" The words fall trippingly off his tongue. The power of this actor is clearly illustrated in this scene.

There is another scene in which Maurice and his fellow actor Ian (played by Leslie Phillips) go to St. Paul's to pay tribute to their fallen comrades which include Robert Shaw and Laurence Harvey. Yes, death is ever present in this movie, but director Roger Michell does not allow sentimentality to overcome his film. Vanessa Redgrave makes a brief appearance in the film as Maurice's ex-wife. She's perfect. She too, has no compunction about her looks. Like O'Toole, she still has that great ability to deliver a line and get lost in the part.

But this is O'Toole's film. It may be your last chance to see this powerful actor in one of his great roles. O'Toole has been nominated for an Oscar eight times. He has never won. He almost turned down an honorary Oscar a few years ago. He said, "I'd like a chance to win the lovely bugger outright." It wasn't to be this year. Unfortunately good films like this don't come along all that often for a man of his age. However he can be comforted in the fact he has a body of work which can not be denied. He can say as "Orrence" said, "Alright I'm extraordinary. What of it?"

CHILDREN OF MEN

Alfonso Cuaron didn't win an Oscar as best director for this film. He deserved at least a nomination, but he didn't get that. As much of a "downer" as this film is, it is an exhilarating "downer." Cuaron is greatly helped by his cinematographers and his set dressers. London is transformed into a horribly bleak place in the year 2027. The film is based on a novel by 86 year old P.D. James. It may be described by some as science fiction but it is more than that. It has many satirical points. It is greatly strengthened by a superb cast led by Clive Owen.

The story is about a time in the future when for some reason, women throughout the world have become infertile. No babies have been born for 18 years. This has caused widespread anarchy. The only country with some semblance of order is Great Britain. However it is kept stable only by using the armed forces to keep the peace. Owen, who plays a bored civil servant is suddenly forced into a car and delivered to his former lover played by Julianne Moore. Moore is a rebel leader and it seems she needs Owen's help because she has just discovered an 18 year old woman who is pregnant. She wants Owen to get her the necessary papers to spirit the young woman away to a safe haven. The result is that Owen and the pregnant girl, played with great elan by Clare-Hope Ashitey, embark on a journey pursued by both the rebels and government soldiers. He manages to get her to the remote cabin of an old friend, a retired cartoonist, played by Michael Caine. Caine plays a long-haired druggy who looks and acts like a 60s hippy. He obviously has great fun with the role.

Inevitably their hideout is discovered and the chase is on again. Children of Men is an unusually dark film and it will not have appeal to the mass movie-going audience. However mass appeal is not a a requisite for making a good movie. This is a good one.

 

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