Thursday, 12 May 2011

A Dance to the Music of Time (channel 4, 1997)

Like a cross between Brideshead Revisited and the Camomile Lawn in that some of the characters are charming like in Brideshead and then all the actors were replaced by older actors who look and act nothing like them in the final episode- like in the Camomile Lawn.
BUT the Camomile Lawn did this much more successfully because throughout the wartime episodes they cut to the 1980s scenes and showed some of the older-selves so that the audience had time to grasp who was who, also they used Jennifer Ehle's mum, Rosemary Harris, to play her so that was really good casting! It was only at Max's funeral when we had to believe that formerly handsome young secondary characters had grown into the most hideous of old extras that it disappointed- this is what happened in ADttMoT, except it wasn't secondary characters, it was the lead.
My mum told me that when my parents first watched it they honsetly believed that the actor who had played the lead (James Purefoy) through the first three films must have died. It was the only explanation they could think of to why they suddenly had another actor play him! That's how much it disturbs the flow of the story! Ok, this might sound odd but here's the real issue, it wasn't that they replaced the actors- it was that they replaced SOME of the actors and put aging makeup on others, and it seems completely at random! James Purefoy suddenly turns into John Standing, Miranda Richardson gets no age makeup and is the same age in 1943 as she is in 1963, Simon Russell Beale is Simon Russell Beale aged 14 to 84 but with bad prosthetics. Why replace some actors and not others!?
Ho hum, I'll get away from the casting problems and onto the story problems.
The Camomile Lawn has no real story, it's about a bunch of inbred poshies bonking during the war. This pretends to have a story but is basically the same sort of thing but with less bonking. I compared it to Brideshead because it follows some boys from school after the first war, Oxford, through their jobs and up to the second war. Also there's the usual characters, James Purefoy as the lead is the Charles, Paul Rhys is the Sebastain but there's also a rake and a fop and a marxist amongst the bunch of pals AND, most importantly there is the brown-nosing flesh-crawly creep, Widmerpool (Simon Russell Beale). It was like watching Brideshead if suddenly Brideshead was not about beauty but about that fat fuck Boy Molcaster and all the boring shit he got up to!
Simon Russell Beale was really good as the creep but- and I know this sounds weird, considering he's so theatre famous- I've never seen him in anything before and I've always assumed he would be like that in every role he plays. He has never appealed to me, he practically lives at the National Theatre, collecting awards a dozen at a time every year, but I just have no desire to see him or any of the plays he appears in. Obviously if he decided to do a play with young Rory Kinnear I would have to make an exception and maybe I'd see the light, but until then he just makes my flesh crawl and this show really didn't help.
In conclusion Paul Rhys was the best thing in it, his Sebastain-esq story was extremely tragic and well acted, his end was horrific.

1 comment:

  1. Now I'll do my favourite Camomile Lawn joke:
    Though a lot of the older-self/offspring casting was completely awful I must say that bloke they got to play Nicholas le Prevost's son was really rather good.
    Arf arf arf.