Film Review – THE DUKE (2020)

THE DUKE (2020, UK, 96m, 12) ****
Biography, Comedy
dist. Pathe UK (UK), Sony Pictures Classics (USA); pr co. Pathe UK / Ingenious Media / Screen Yorkshire / Neon Films; d. Roger Michell; w. Richard Bean, Clive Coleman; pr. Nicky Bentham; ph. Mike Eley (Colour | 2.39:1); m. George Fenton; ed. Kristina Hetherington; pd. Kristian Milsted; ad. Adam Tomlinson.
cast: Jim Broadbent (Kempton Bunton), Helen Mirren (Dorothy Bunton), Fionn Whitehead (Jackie Bunton), Matthew Goode (Jeremy Hutchinson QC), Aimée Kelly (Irene Boslover), Craig Conway (Mr Walker), Simon Hubbard (PC Myton), Jack Bandeira (Kenny Bunton), Heather Craney (Debbie – Clerk of the Court), Cliff Burnett (Wilf), Ashley Kumar (Javid Akram), Charlie Richmond (PO Official 1), James Wilby (Judge Aarvold), John Heffernan (Neddie Cussen), Michael Mather (Eddie), Anna Maxwell Martin (Mrs Gowling), Michael Hodgson (Barry Spence), Richard McCabe (Rab Butler), Andrew Havill (Sir Philip Hendy), Val McLane (Freda).
Delightfully performed story of Kempton Bunton (Broadbent), a 60-year-old taxi driver, who in 1961 stole Goya’s portrait of the Duke of Wellington from the National Gallery in London. He sent ransom notes saying that he would return the painting on the condition that the government invested more in care for the elderly. Broadbent is superb as the likeable and funny campaigner whilst Mirren is equally impressive as his long-suffering wife. A subplot involving the death of their teenage daughter a few years earlier adds a level of pathos and gives the characterisations some depth. The court scenes in the film’s final act give Broadbent his moment in the spotlight and are hilarious. 1960s Newcastle is splendidly captured in all its grit and grime by cinematographer Eley and production designer Milsted. This comedy-drama is a fitting final film for director Michell.

TV Review – BLACK NARCISSUS (2020)

Black Narcissus' Gets FX Premiere Date, Trailer And Key Art Released –  DeadlineBLACK NARCISSUS (TV) (2020, UK) ***
dist. BBC One (UK), FX Network (USA); pr co. DNA Films; d. Charlotte Bruus Christensen; w. Amanda Coe (based on the novel by Rumer Godden); exec pr. Ayela Butt, Amanda Coe, Andrew Macdonald, Allon Reich, Lucy Richer; pr. Cahal Bannon; assoc pr. Vivien Kenny; ph. Charlotte Bruus Christensen (Colour. 2.00:1); m. Anne Dudley; ed. Jinx Godfrey; pd. Kave Quinn; ad. Andrea Matheson; cos. Kave Quinn; m/up. Nicole Stafford, Emmy Beech; sd. Ben Barker, Glenn Freemantle (Dolby Digital); sfx. Mark Meddings; vfx. Samantha Townend st. Jamie Edgell; rel. 23 November 2020 (USA), 27 December 2020 (UK); cert: NR; r/t. 165m.

cast: Gemma Arterton (Sister Clodagh), Aisling Franciosi (Sister Ruth), Nila Aalia (Angu Ayah), Patsy Ferran (Sister Blanche), Rosie Cavaliero (Sister Briony), Gianni Gonsalves (Srimati Rai), Soumil Malla (Joseph Anthony), Alessandro Nivola (Mr Dean), Wayne Llewellyn (Sannyasi), Dipika Kunwar (Kanchi), Chaneil Kular (Dilip Rai), Jim Broadbent (Father Roberts), Diana Rigg (Mother Dorothea), Aashish Shrestha (Phuba), Gina McKee (Sister Adela), Prabal Sonam Ghising (Pin), Komal Ghambole (Samya), Kulvinder Ghir (General Toda Rai), Karen Bryson (Sister Philippa).

A group of nuns face challenges in the hostile environment of a remote old Himalayan palace that they wish to make a convent. This adaptation of the 1939 novel by Rumer Godden suffers from being drawn out over three one-hour episodes as there really is no three act structure to contain it. The story relies on a gradual building of tension as the nuns battle with their sexual repression and their environment. The pluses are the excellent production values and photography and Dudley’s baroque score. There are fine performances too from Arterton and Franciosi as well as Cavaliero. The tension builds nicely in the final half hour, but the drama could have been edited down into a two-hour version and delivered a stronger dynamic. Powell and Pressburger’s 1947 movie version therefore remains definitive, despite the valiant attempts to more accurately reflect the source material here.