2017 Oscars – pre-ceremony thoughts

“For whatever reason, he spared a hamster”

When you see as much theatre as I do, it can be difficult to keep up to date with cinematic releases – if I have a night off, I rarely want to spend it in a dark room… – but I have tried my best this year to see at least some of the Oscar-nominated films, so that I can chip in once they’ve been distributed in a way that will doubtless cause some controversy or other.

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DVD Review: Les adieux à la reine (Farewell, My Queen)

“Cela veut-il pour vous Madame dire quelque chose?”

Based on the novel Les adieux à la reine by Chantal Thomas, Farewell, My Queen takes us to a place that may seem familiar – Marie Antoinette’s court at Versailles in the days just before revolution – but shifts the perspective slightly to present a forensic yet subtle study of a way of life that, though it didn’t know it, was teetering on the brink of extinction. Benoît Jacquot’s 2012 film eschews political statement or even grand emotion in favour of a quiet observational style, an almost voyeuristic approach which offers an original take on events which is highly engaging.

The entry point into the royal court is Sidonie Laborde (Léa Seydoux in scintillating form), one of the queen’s ladies-in-waiting who is utterly devoted to her mistress (the ever-elegant Diane Kruger). So much so that as news begins to trickle in of the storming of the Bastille, the subsequent strange behaviour of the king and the disintegration of the social structures in the palace as people decide to flee for their lives, Sidonie remains by her queen’s side, obeying her every capricious order even when her demands eventually go beyond the pale. Continue reading “DVD Review: Les adieux à la reine (Farewell, My Queen)”

Review: Secret Cinema, The Grand Budapest Hotel

“Many of the hotel’s most valued guests came for him”

At a smidge over £50 a head, the latest incarnation of Secret Cinema certainly isn’t cheap. But they are doing things differently this time around – the location is secret as always but the film has been identified in advance as Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel and the immersive experience into which they plunge the audience will be running for over a month, to allow many more people than usual through the doors of this plush establishment and into its fabulous world.

For where we end up is The Grand Budapest Hotel itself, an evocation of Mitteleuropäische largesse to which we are guided by purple-suited bellhops. Instructions issued beforehand identify the dress code as evening dress, urge you to practice your waltzing and give a list of props to bring along. It’s all voluntary but as with any immersive experience, one gets so much more from it by diving headfirst into the universe that has been so lovingly created. Continue reading “Review: Secret Cinema, The Grand Budapest Hotel”