Wednesday, 2 November 2011

McEwan's 80 & 90

Jonathan Pryce and Tim Rice star in the 1983 TV movie The Ploughman's Lunch penned by Ian McEwan. A callow journalist in his selfish pursuit of the affections of a toothsome lovely neglects his own ailing mother to further his aims, spending time with the academic mother of his intended, hoping to seal the deal and gaining insights for his novel about Suez. As to be expected from McEwan this is an achingly middle class love triangle with a certain intellectualism restraining the lust and blinding the characters to their respective, mostly unpleasant, selves. Events finally spin out of the protagonist's control and come to a head during Thatcher's speechifying at a Tory Party conference. Nicely acted with a strong script this cold little film is a little uneven and though the politics have dated badly the nexus of conflict between self interest, desire and family duty hasn't.

Christopher Walken's smooth, reptilian performance dominates The Comfort of Strangers adapted from one of McEwan's novellas. A young English couple try to reignite their romance by revisiting Venice but accidentally find themselves under the sway of a peculiar older couple played by Walken and Mirren. Harold Pinter's script and Paul Shrader's close direction create a strange, unsettling atmosphere as the young pair lose themselves, literally, into the narrow streets of Venice and find themselves sexually invigorated by their experience. There's a delicate, ambiguous subtext running behind the events and script that culminates in a shattering final scene but it's maybe lost some of it's nuance in translation, however it's still a fine film with excellent performance and some stunning cinematography.

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