The royal palace of Versailles and its doomed queen Marie Antoinette get a new perspective in this French film, which covers the last fraught days of the monarchy through the eyes of a young woman serving as the queen’s official reader. While ultimately somewhat slight, the movie’s eavesdropping-on-history approach is compelling, and gains a lot from being shot at the real location.
Another gem brought to my attention by the History Buffs YouTube channel. Directed by Peter Weir and adapted from nautical historical novels by Patrick O’Brian, Master and Commander unfortunately didn’t make enough money to become a series, which is a shame. Maybe the long unwieldy name put people off; as far as terrible film titles go it’s no Mrs Caldicot’s Cabbage War, but unless you’re a fan of the books it doesn’t really sound like an exciting proposition, which is probably why I skipped the theatrical release myself.
I came across this one thanks to the most excellent History Buffs YouTube series, a show dedicated to reviewing historical movies run by a British guy called Nick Hodges. Nick is not a fan of Mel Gibson movies to put it mildly and he panned Apocalypto mercilessly for its many gross historical inaccuracies and the overall misrepresentation of the Mayan culture, with Gibson rolling his Mayans and his Aztecs into one. While his criticisms seemed legitimate, I’m way more forgiving towards the movies fudging historical facts for drama, and the film looked visually interesting at the very least. Besides, who else out there is making movies about a pre-Columbian civilisation shot exclusively in the Mayan dialect? I’ll take my Mayan movies where I can get them.
Not your conventional biopic, Jackie mostly focuses on one specific period in its subject’s life, the days following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy when Jacqueline Kennedy became the world’s most famous widow. As a framework for the film, it uses a fictionalised encounter between Jackie and a journalist (Billy Crudup) who comes to interview her soon after she packs her bags and leaves the White House. The interview is somewhat tense; the journalist’s attitude is not necessarily reverential and Jackie displays candour and calculation in equal measure.
I wish I could have watched this movie at the cinema, or at least on one of those enormous TV screens they taunt you with at JB Hi-Fi, because I don’t think my TV did it justice. This is a big fat epic of a film, so epic in fact it actually has an official intermission in the middle of its nearly four-hour running time. It’s interesting that, while TV series binge-watching is a fairly normal thing nowadays, that kind of episodic viewing still doesn’t have the same feel as watching a very long feature film.
Watched Oliver Stone’s much-maligned historical epic about Alexander the Great, the famous Macedonian king who conquered most of the world known to the ancient Greeks by the age of thirty. It’s a messy film with a miscast lead, but it honestly wasn’t as bad as its reputation (and 16% Rotten Tomatoes rating) would have me think. I haven’t seen the original theatrical release so I can’t tell if this version is an improvement; apparently there are four different versions floating around with the last Ultimate Cut adding 40 extra minutes… that would have made for a very long night in front of TV.
Just like Prometheus, Kingdom of Heaven is another Ridley Scott film I really enjoy despite its many problems. This extended cut doesn’t fix the core issues I have, but it’s still a far more satisfying experience than the horribly rushed theatrical cut.