Wednesday, March 24, 2010

review: The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex

For just a second, I want to lean away from the film itself and focus on one of the extras on the DVD I am watching. It is a cartoon from that time called "Old Glory" and yes, you got it, it is about American History. It starts with Porgy having trouble with the Pledge of Allegiance. He say he doesn't understand why he has to learn it, and then falls alseep to dream of Uncle Sam telling him our nation's history. He then wakes up and proudly salutes the flag and says the Pledge. It is a wonderful cartoon and it is something that makes you very proud to be American. Something a lot of people needed to see in those time - something I think we all need to see and hear today more often.

But the other point: Keep in mind, this was in 1939 - and so, the pledge Porky says is missing that phrase that so many people make a fuss over: "under God" This is a whole side matter, but I do think it is important to mention that this phrase was put into use in the 1950s during the Red Scare and the Communist witch hunts of the time. That is why I don't like the phrase - or rather, it is not that I don't like the phrase, but rather I don't like the intent of which it is used. And I don't like people thinking it is unpatriotic to not say the phrase now. Its not unpatriotic, its just not religious.

That aside - back to the film:
You just gotta love the early Technicolor films. There is something so spactacular about the color that even today's films can't match. The color is just so rich - even the browns and so forth. One of the films 5 Oscar Nominations was for Color Photography
I like this movie, and I don't. I like it because it has a lot of stars and is beautiful with its color, but I also think this is a little overacted. But not in a way I like. I don't mind a little bit of dramatics, but there is something about this movie that rubs me the wrong way.
I think Bette Davis is a genius - she is so transformative - but she's a little too bombastic for me in this. Maybe that is how she is supposed to be. I've never seen a calm portrayal of Elizabeth, but this borders on a little psychotic at times. This makes her a bit of a scene stealer - and I guess maybe she should be considering her real life counterpart - but that doesn't make for a very good film. Flynn is Flynn - I have only seen him in one type of movie as the charming swashbuckler - which he does well - but again, sometimes it can be a little much. One thing (and I feel bad about saying this), I don't believe they are in love at all. There are moments when I see them portraying love and acting so wonderfully, but you are aware it is acting. It does not seem real. Not to me, anyways. I will say that their sparring is quite believable though. This might be because Flynn and Davis did not like each other much. They were two very different people, so that naturally led to conflicts. And then apparently, the director, Michael Curtiz was rather hard to work with. So yeah, the tension scenes were quite good because I image there was a lot of tension on the set.
I guess the biggest thing I have against this movie is the politics. That is really all it is: politics. Trying to tell a love story about two people who aren't really in love because of politics is just a bad combination. What I mean by that is that this is not a love that just couldn't be - but a love that is not willing to be. Elizabeth and Essex say they love each other deeply, but neither one is willing to put aside their ambition, to give it all up to be with one another. It is a failed romance - and that is just hard to watch. And then there is Lady Penelope - I just can't understand why Essex would not fall in love with someone who so utterly loves him. It just doesn't makes sense. I guess what I mean by that is that they don't seem to have a past, a history, together, so there is no reason why we should believe that they love each other.
The supporting cast is amazing. Think of it: Alan Hale, Donald Crisp, Olivia deHavilland, Vincent Price, and a brand new Nanette Fabray (Fabres).
I don't know, but somehow this movie just did not click with me.
2 and 1/2 out of 5 stars

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