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Tony Grist

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Stage Beauty [Sep. 9th, 2004|11:08 am]
Tony Grist
Oh dear- the British film industry.

Stranded between Hollywood and Europe it has never really developed a character of its own. As soon as native talent emerges it gets whisked off to California- Hitchcock, McKendrick, Frears and a list of actors yards long- everyone from Boris Karloff to Jude Law. We’ve tried to be ourselves but mainly we’ve tried to please you lot across the Atlantic.

Yesterday I saw a thing called Stage Beauty. It’s the kind of quasi-historical farrago we’ve made our own (and which you guys seem to like.) It has period costumes so it must be art and it has silly anachronistic jokes so things don’t get too heavy. This time we’ve got Rupert Everett as Charles II drawling like the current Prince Charles (how ever did they come up with that?) And people in funny wigs saying things like “we need more tit” and “they touched my cock”.

Shakespeare in Love did it better. Mainly because it had a script by Tom Stoppard. I’ve nothing against farragos as such.

But Stage Beauty has ambition. It thinks it has important things to say about gender. Its hero Ned Kinaston is an actor who plays women. He also gets shagged by the Duke of Buckingham. But then the King passes a law that allows women to appear on stage and Ned’s career collapses overnight. He takes to drink and doing a drag-cum-striptease act in a seedy pub. But his former dresser (now a star actress) rescues him, gets him to dry out- and all it takes is the love of a good woman to turn him right round and he’s back on stage playing Othello in a Methody way like he was Marlon Brando. Oh, please....

See, it wants to be Ingmar Bergman but it also has its eye on the American box office and the Oscars.

Ned is played by Billy Crudup who never looks the least bit like a woman. He has a jawline, he has craggy brows and cheekbones. When he flashes his cock it’s like the Full Monty- tease, tease, tease and then something gets in the way.

There’s a scene where a fat aristocrat is being carried through the streets in a sedan chair. One of his footmen treads in a steaming pile of horse manure. We see it squelch in close-up.

The realism, the authenticity, the heritage!
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: mtl
2004-09-09 05:18 am (UTC)

Interesting

Thank you!
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-09-09 05:24 am (UTC)

Re: Interesting

France is fortunate when it comes to cinema. You don't share a language with the Americans so you're not tempted to play to their market. As a result you have a strong and characterful film culture
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[User Picture]From: beentothemoon
2004-09-09 05:45 am (UTC)
Eddie Izzard has a great bit about British Film. Something, if I recall correctly, about how if a movie made any bit of money in the UK, Hollywood would buy it right up and change the script around. Taking "Remains of the Day" and adding killer robots and a rambo character to kill them. He also mentioned something like if the British made Star Wars it would just be Princess Leia and whoever the other characters were (I've never actually seen these films) opening and shutting doors, arranging matches and looking uncomfortable.

"Um...er...yes, well. I'd better go"
(Uncomfortable British Silence)
"Perhaps you'd better"
(Uncomfortable, Repressed British Silence)
"Right"
(Uncomfortable, Repressed, yet Longing British Silence)
exit

In the spirit of full disclosure however, two of all my all-time favorite films, Trainspotting and Velvet Goldmine were made on those mess of islands you've all got up there.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-09-09 06:05 am (UTC)
Yes, I've seen that particular British movie- many, many times.

We make the odd good film. I'm not crazy about Velvet Goldmine, but I can see it's got something about it. And now the director, Todd Haynes, is making movies in Hollywood.

I'm not sure about the Trainspotting guys. They went to Hollywood and got burned and now I think they're back over here.

But there's so little continuity. A Brit director makes one good film and you guys poach him.

My favourite British film makers are Powell and Pressburger- they stayed over here and made a succession of weird, over-cooked, and brilliant movies through the 40s and 50s. They're the exception to the rule- almost the only one I can think of.
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[User Picture]From: ibid
2004-09-09 05:46 am (UTC)
I confess I enjoyed it because i have a bit of a thing for men in drag!
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-09-09 06:08 am (UTC)
Fair enough. But everytime someone said that Crudup/Kinaston was the most beautiful woman in London I did a double-take. Were standards of beauty so very different during the Restoration? I thought he looked like Widow Twanky.
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[User Picture]From: ibid
2004-09-09 07:26 am (UTC)
Are there any pictures of the real Kynaston?

I suppose also people were accustomed to thinking differently about things (taking into account the script). The onnagata of Japan (men who play women's roles) are not especially feminine but the conventions are so deep you accept them as not being anything else within the role. The styalisation of onnagata means that when they tried to have women playing the roles this century it failed miserably because they were not feminine within the context of Kabuki theatre.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-09-09 08:52 am (UTC)
I've looked up Kynaston on the web and can't find any references to a portrait. He was born c 1640 and played his last female role in 1661 (not Desdemona but Evadne in Fletcher's The Maid's Tragedy.) He was playing male roles by 1665 and didn't work with Betterton until the 1690s. He died in 1706.

Which means that the film is playing fast and loose with the facts. Kynaston wasn't a man playing women, but a boy playing women- rather a different proposition.

I think that tends to undercut the idea that the English theatre had a kabuki-like tradition of female impersonators.

Crudup is 36- which makes him 15 years too old for the role
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[User Picture]From: ibid
2004-09-11 08:17 am (UTC)
Actually checking the Pepys reference there he said that his voice was off, so obviously his voice would have broken which would have precipitated a change in roles anyway in all probability.

I did find a picture but I cannot recall the URL. His face was much softer than Crudup's is!
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-09-11 08:24 am (UTC)
I'll have to go and look for that picture! :)
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-09-11 09:21 am (UTC)
I found it. On the National Portrait Gallery site. http://www.npg.org.uk/live/search/portrait.asp?LinkID=mp65458&rNo=0&role=sit

A 19th century print after a contemporay painting (possibly by Lely) Much more feminine looking than Crudup, but still clearly male.
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From: manfalling
2004-09-09 07:23 am (UTC)
come come- it was BAWDY!!

that's what made it great.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-09-09 08:25 am (UTC)
Yeah, these heritage films always are- The Private Life of Henry VIII, Tom Jones- but it's all kept within the bounds of good middlebrow taste. Why didn't we get to see Crudup's dick? That's what I want to know.
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From: manfalling
2004-09-09 08:43 am (UTC)
if we'd seen his dick we'd have known for sure he was a man, and i for one was kept guessing throughout the entire movie over that little quizzler.

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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-09-09 08:53 am (UTC)
No you weren't.:)
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From: manfalling
2004-09-09 08:54 am (UTC)
yes i was, and rightly indignant that you felt otherwise! as pepys said- he was the most beautiful woman on the stage. i for one agree! pepys knew what he was talking about.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-09-09 09:06 am (UTC)
Yeah but the real Kynaston stopped playing women at the age of 21 (I know because I've just looked it up) and Crudup is 36!
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From: manfalling
2004-09-09 09:13 am (UTC)
oh. i see. disagree with pepys, will you?
well.
that's that, then.
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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2004-09-09 08:01 am (UTC)
Oh dear- the British film industry.


This is why I like your posts so much: I always get a good settling-in feeling, like I should pour myself some coffee before reading and thinking about what you've said.

..I know nothing about the British film industry. I did enjoy "Hope and Glory"--I thought it was beautifully filmed and was very witty.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-09-09 09:05 am (UTC)
I haven't seen that one. But John Boorman is one of our better directors. He also made those quintessential pieces of Americana- Point Blank and Deliverance.

British cinema has thrown up lots of talent but- because we share a language- most of it ends up in the States. It means there's no continuity. Hitchcock is arguably the greatest British born director- he made a great series of films in Britain through the 20s and 30s but then David O Selznick called him over to Hollywood and he was lost to us.
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[User Picture]From: ibid
2004-09-11 08:24 am (UTC)
I must confess I disagree, I have never got on with Hitchcock at all. There is something rather cold about his directional style. Yes he was a magnificent technician but to my mind I would place him below Michael Powell (certainly peeping Tom is quite Hitchcockian) who has greater wamth and artistry.

Also Hitchcock only seemed to have one plot 'innocent, on the run, finds love, all is well after some drama and humour'. Not that is bad in itself, I love Strangers on a train, and I thought Rebecca which didn't follow this format a groos disappointment when I saw it, but I cannot understand how my brother can watch his films back to back without becoming bored.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2004-09-11 08:35 am (UTC)

Hitchcock had a huge influence on the way films were made- and so on other directors. From that perspective he's greater (or at least more important ) than Powell.

But I'd trade Vertigo for Black Narcissus any day. I admire Hitch, but I love Powell.

P.S. My favourite British movie is A Canterbury Tale.
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[User Picture]From: ibid
2004-09-12 03:37 am (UTC)
Mine is either Kind Hearts and Coronets or Colonel Blimp.
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