Theatrical Release

The Favourite (2018)

Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos (Dogtooth, The Lobster)
Written by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara (The Rage in Placid Lake)
Starring: Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz, Nicholas Hoult, Joe Alwyn, Mark Gatiss and James Smith.

“Set in early 18th-century England, it’s about Queen Anne (Colman), the last of the Stuart monarchs, and the two women – her close friend, Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough (Weisz), and Sarah’s commoner cousin, Abigail Hill (Stone) – who are vying for her favors, sexual and otherwise, in Kensington Palace. It’s a vicious power triangle and the stage is set for acidulous goings-on, but the script, by Davis and McNamara, is coy, arch, and overloaded with zingers that often miss their mark.” Peter Rainer, Christian Science Monitor

“To the film’s credit, none of these three announce they prefer women. Like all things in The Favourite, sex is one arrow in their quiver (political popularity and verbal wit are also preferred). No one gets to say what they think, except for Anne whose whims grow increasingly erratic. Therefore, there is a gnawing question over how much is an act, and how much of what they say is sincere. The screenwriters and Lanthimos mostly avoid answering this question, except in quick lapses when the characters let their guard down. This approach to the action makes us naturally more curious, so part of the film’s suspense is parsing out all the schemes, disappointments, and betrayals.” Alan Zilberman, Brightest Young Things

“The trouble with politics is mainly something to do with how politicians are only interested in their own enrichment–and that rich people are generally only interested in getting richer. The Favourite is a series of jousts between these three: Abigail, Sarah, and Harley. They sometimes threaten each other overtly–as when Sarah fires a pistol at Abigail, or when Harley shoves Abigail down an embankment, or when Abigail poisons (not fatally) Sarah–but mostly covertly through their words, actions, and most importantly little pulled strings and other sundry machinations. Note when Abigail arrives for work at Kensington how the maids who will be her peers undermine her, prank her horribly, do their best to humiliate and oppress her. The statement is a strong one: people are immensely horrible and capable of great cruelty, particularly when there’s power or riches at stake, no matter how middling or humiliating.

“Lanthimos and the great DP Robbie Ryan (American Honey, Slow West) conceive a claustrophobic, candle-lit look for The Favourite that evokes Russian Ark and Barry Lyndon if either had been occasionally shot through a fisheye lens. The camera movements are fluid, stately somehow, while still being anxious.” Walter Chaw, Film Freak Central

“The Favourite is full of arch humor and crisp social satire. Peter Greenaway’s brilliant 1982 film, The Draughtman’s Contract comes to mind, but truth be told, it is a far better realized bit of wickedness. That’s because Greenaway, kept his picture precisely as heartless and chilly as he intended.

“Lanthimos who certainly knows his way around the callous and the cold-hearted, has made one fatal mistake: casting Colman. True farce demands a total veneer of heartlessness. But Colman, even at her most outlandish, is able to make Anne a recognizably human figure – someone we may laugh at, dismiss or even feel repelled by, but also someone who, ultimately, engages our sympathy.” Eleanor Ringel Cater, Saporta Report

Archival films

The Draughtsman’s Contract (1982)

Written and directed by Peter Greenaway (The Cook The Thief His Wife and Her Lover, The Falls)
Shot by Curtis Clark (Nelly’s Version, The Beniker Gang)
Starring: Anthony Higgins, Janet Suzman, Dave Hill, Anne-Louise Lambert, Hugh Fraser, Neil Cunningham and David Meyer

“In 1694, Mr. Neville (Higgins), a contemptuous traveling young artist, is hired by the wealthy estate owner’s wife, Mrs. Herbert (Suzman), to make 12 drawings of the estate as a gift for her husband (Hill), who will be away during that time on business in Southampton. In exchange he will receive £8 per picture, bed and board, and 12 sexual favors at his convenience. At first reluctant to accept, the cheeky artist does when both Mrs. Herbert and her pretty married daughter Mrs. Talmann (Lambert) desperately plead with him.” Dennis Schwartz

The Madness of King George (1994)

Directed by Nicholas Hytner (The History Boys, The Lady in the Van)
Written by Alan Bennett (Prick Up Your Ears, A Question of Attribution)
Starring: Nigel Hawthorne, Helen Mirren, Ian Holm, Rupert Graves, Amanda Donohoe, Rupert Everett and Julian Rhind-Tutt.

“The Madness of King George tells the story of the disintegration of a fond and foolish old man, who rules England, yet cannot find his way through the tangle of his own mind. The parallel with King Lear is clear, and there is even a moment when George III reads from the play: “I fear I am not in my perfect mind.” But the story of George is not tragedy, because tragedy requires a fall from greatness, and George III is not great – merely lovable, and confused.

“The film opens in 1788, some years after the American colonies have thrown off George’s rule. He presides over an Establishment that wishes him gone – his own son, the Prince of Wales, waits impatiently in the wings – and over a court scandalized by his erratic behavior. He awakes before dawn, runs in his nightshirt through the fields, pounces on a lady-in-waiting – and, worse still, cannot remember the names of his enemies. His Queen, Charlotte, keeps up a brave front (“Smile and wave! It’s what you’re paid for!” she hisses at the Prince of Wales).” Roger Ebert

Screenings:

The Favourite is at The Grand Cinema.
The Draughtsman’s Contract will screen at 7:15 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 4 in the Center for Spiritual Living (206 N. J St).
The Madness of King George will screen at 7:15 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 11 in the CSL.

The TFC Discussion Night for these three films is Wednesday, Jan. 16 in the CSL.

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