Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The Happy Prince review / Rupert Everett is magnificent in dream role as dying Oscar Wilde

The Happy Prince review – Rupert Everett is magnificent in dream role as dying Oscar Wilde

Directed by and starring Everett, this poignant dramatisation of Wilde’s final years in exile is a powerful parable of passion and redemption

Peter Bradshaw
Monday 22 January 2018

Rupert Everett in The Happy Prince

t is a part he was born to play, and he does it with exactly the right kind of poignantly ruined magnificence. Rupert Everett has written, directed and starred in this gripping drama about Oscar Wilde’s final years: his disgraced exile-agony in Naples and Paris on being released from prison after the conviction for “gross indecency”. This was the result of his indiscreet affair with Lord Alfred “Bosie” Douglas, whose enraged, reactionary father, the Marquess of Queensberry, had provoked Wilde’s catastrophic libel action following an accusation of his “posing as a somdomite”. Queensberry’s famously odd misspelling is silently corrected in this film’s opening titles. Over the closing credits – like The Imitation Game, about Alan Turing – it gives us the infuriating information that its subject has been posthumously “pardoned” by the British authorities. It’s Wilde (and Turing) who should be doing the pardoning.

Everett’s movie is expertly interspersed with flashbacks to Wilde’s great days and to his initial wary optimism on first arriving in France on the boat train. But the movie shows him living and dying in squalor and illness, succumbing to the delayed shock of his prison nightmare, jeered at and spat on by the expatriate Brits who recognised him, unprotected by his quibbling pseudonym “Sebastian Melmoth” – that two-word creation which was his final literary work of drollery.
Out of prison, Wilde had horrified his friends by resuming the destructive relationship with the exquisite, duplicitous Bosie (Colin Morgan), which causes the termination of the tiny allowance from his humiliated ex-wife Constance (Emily Watson) and endangers Bosie’s own income, leaving them nothing to live on. It’s the beginning of the end. Oscar treats his loyal allies Robbie Ross (Edwin Thomas) and Reggie Turner (Colin Firth) with ungrateful negligence, but Everett imagines him, in extremis, befriending a young Paris rent boy and his tough kid brother and whimsically holding them spellbound with his fairytale The Happy Prince. In happier times, he would recite to his equally entranced sons this story of a statue who allows a swallow to denude him of all his gold to feed the poor. In Everett’s hands, the tale becomes an ambiguous parable for Wilde’s passion and (possible) redemption, the unhappy prince who makes a lonely discovery that love is the only thing worth worshipping.
The story of Wilde’s post-prison ordeal is something most movies nervously turn away from. Stephen Fry’s film Wilde (1997) halted after a sentimental embrace between the reunited Oscar and Bosie in Naples; Ken Hughes’s The Trials of Oscar Wilde (1960) had Oscar – played by Peter Finch with the trace of an Irish accent – coolly refusing to speak to Bosie on the railway station platform before he headed off to his unimaginable future. As in those films, Everett likes to give us the famous lines from The Ballad of Reading Gaol in voiceover: “Each man kills the thing he loves …” But Everett takes us through the moment-by-moment horror of humiliation and poverty, which Wilde brazens out with gallows humour and wit as best he can. He vomits in agony on his deathbed before declaiming: “Encore du champagne!” Everett has clearly been influenced by David Hare’s 1998 stage play The Judas Kiss, in which Everett played Wilde, and also perhaps by Peter Ackroyd’s 1983 novel The Last Testament of Oscar Wilde.

Everett has a great moment when Oscar bursts into tears on being reunited with Bosie – and another, when he is recognised in France by a bunch of British rowdies who are hateful and homophobic (although that second concept is not something that anyone present would have recognised, perhaps not even Wilde himself). The hooligans chase Oscar, Robbie and Reggie into a church where Oscar faces them down by yelling: “The natural habitat of the hypocrite is England! Go there and leave me in peace!” Hypocrisy is the key. Polite society was prepared to turn a blind eye to homosexual assignations if they were conducted within a proper carapace of secrecy and shame. There was no immediate objection to casual sex with the lower orders, who could be bought and bought off. A flaunted connection with the Queensberry family was a class transgression. Shrewdly, Everett shows Wilde with a portrait of Queen Victoria by his deathbed. He died one year before her, and the film hints that Wilde’s vindictive treatment was part of the ugly sense of shame and mortification at Romantic and aesthetic indulgence which the manly slaughter of the first world war was supposed to redeem.

What was Wilde’s life in exile really like? Has this movie imagined a world of tragically defiant barbs where, perhaps, none existed? Were his final days actually spent in a kind of defeated silence, the theatrical facade of his former celebrity blowtorched away? It’s impossible to know. But this film is a deeply felt, tremendously acted tribute to courage.
This article was amended on 22 January to correct the surname of the lead actor in The Trials of Oscar Wilde.

My hero / Franz Marek by Eric Hobsbawn

My hero Franz Marek

Eric Hobsbawm
Saturday 12 December 2009

mong other things, Franz Marek, Austrian communist (1913-79), born Ephraim Feuerlicht to Galician refugees, survived conventional heroism in the French wartime resistance. He headed the resistance organisation for foreigners, doing work among the occupying German forces which a survivor described as "more terrifying than straightforward armed action". He was captured, sentenced to death but saved by the liberation of Paris. His "last words" survive, as recorded on the wall of Fresnes prison on 18 August 1944. But that is not the reason I choose him as my hero.

When I came to know this short, quizzical, laconic, formidably intelligent man who radiated a sort of self-effacing charisma even when hiking in the Vienna woods, he was still a leading member of the party he joined in 1934, though he already belonged to that lost generation of reforming "Eurocommunist" leaders whose last survivors are Gorbachev and the current president of Italy. After the Prague spring of 1968 he was forced out of the party and lost the only paid job he had ever had since the age of 20, that of "professional revolutionary", for which he had given up academic ambition. The Comintern had given him his first new jacket and trousers, for the childhood of education-hungry Galician Jews without money did not run to such luxuries. For the next 12 years he lived on false papers.
He was plainly a natural at this work, rising to running the inland activities of the now illegal Communist party. It gave him joy, filled his life and, he later recognised, blocked out everything else. After Hitler took over Austria in 1938, he was sent to Paris, returning in 1946, full of hope, to a party career in the Vienna of The Third Man. He said "it needed the shock of 1956 to open me up to strong emotions", including, he admitted, love. Still working to change the world, he died of a long-awaited heart attack. All his material possessions could be fitted into two small suitcases. A 20th-century hero? I think so.







My hero / Vincent van Gogh by Margaret Drabble

Self-Portrait, 1888
Vincent van Gogh

My hero: Vincent van Gogh

Margaret Drabble
Saturday 5 December 2009

hen I was a child, I knew that Van Gogh was the greatest painter who had ever lived. For years he blinded me to other artists. I have learned to admire Botticelli and Caravaggio and Ivon Hitchens, but in old age I am faithful to my earliest love. What Van Gogh did is, for me, what painting is. The eye sees, the hand obeys, the spirit flows into brush strokes, the world is recreated and revealed. As a child, I knew nothing of his long apprenticeship or his madness or his failures in the market place. Nobody told me. I saw nothing mad or tragic in his vision of the natural world. I saw intensity and a world of glory.

We had prints of his work at home, one of them of the drawbridge at Langlois, which enthralled me. As a schoolgirl I bought postcards and posters, of irises and cypresses and starry nights and a yellow chair. They brought me immeasurable joy. I believed he looked into the heart of creation, with the eye of God, and what the Hubble telescope has seen confirms my belief. The glory exalted and blinded him. That is enough to make him heroic. He knew the mysteries of the cosmos.
But he was, I discovered, more than a visionary. He was a hard-working, good-hearted man, who endured illness and public neglect with stoic patience, and showed a tender gratitude to those who cared for him. I have been reading the handsomely illustrated six-volume edition of his letters, which displays his wide reading, his warm and generous admiration for his fellow artists, his forlorn but unquestioning dedication to his work. The bravery with which he attempted to handle his mania in the asylum of St-Paul-de-Mausole is infinitely touching. He took pleasure in copying the work of Millet, Delacroix, Courbet, Rembrandt, and writes to his brother Theo that copying "teaches, and above all, consoles". This is the humility of greatness. The paintings of this period are astounding in their originality, but the copies are also wonderful. He is, with Shakespeare, beyond praise.







Monday, January 22, 2018

My hero / Ben the labrador by John Banville

My hero: Ben the labrador

John Banville
Saturday 29 November 2009

ow is one to write about a family pet without plunging feet-first into a slough of bilge and bathos? There are people who find offensive the very idea of pets, and they have a point – when Byron spoke of animals being "spoiled" by intimate proximity to us he was not thinking of pet manicures and a comfy place on the hearth-rug. The poet knew that our attitude to animals is hopelessly confused: since we are lords of the universe we feel no compunction in eating them, yet certain special ones we take into our homes to share our lives with us. What's a dog to think?

My hero / Alan Ross by William Boyd

My hero Alan Ross

William Boyd
Sat 21 Nov 2009

can visualise Alan Ross's expression – ineffably polite, but just failing to disguise his displeasure at being called anyone's hero. Perhaps "exemplar" would be a better word, given that he was the first writer I properly came to know and also the first editor to publish me, selecting one of my unsolicited short stories for his literary journal London Magazine in 1978. I was 26 – it was to be an association that lasted until his death in 2001.

My hero / Ernest Shepard by Richard Holmes

My hero Ernest Shephard 

by Richard Holmes

Richard Holmes
Saturday 7 November 2009

am not sure what he would make of it: disbelief, amusement, or irritation that I should single him out. But my hero is Ernest Shephard, who spent much of his time on the Western Front as a company sergeant major.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Zadie Smith / ‘I have a very messy and chaotic mind’

Zadie Smith: ‘I have a very messy and chaotic mind’

Zadie Smith has been a vital literary voice since her first novel, White Teeth, became an instant bestseller. Here she answers questions from famous fans, including Teju Cole, Philip Pullman and Sharmaine Lovegrove, and a selection of our readers

Sunday 21 January 2018

Zadie Smith’s second collection of essays, Feel Free, could be described as a tour through her enthusiasms punctuated with diversions. She writes with equal fervour about Jay-Z’s rapping, which “pours right into your ear like water from a tap”, as about Edward St Aubyn’s “rich, acerbic comedy”. Her early dislike of Joni Mitchell is used as a segue into a discussion of philistinism and taste. A booklet on early Italian masterpieces sparks an examination of the concept of corpses and the unthinkability of death.

Mira Sorvino / Why I Spoke Out Against Harvey Weinstein

Mira Sorvino

Mira Sorvino: Why I Spoke Out Against Harvey Weinstein

Mira Sorvino
October 11, 2017

Sorvino is an Oscar-winning actor and a UNODC Ambassador Against Human Trafficking
It has been a real struggle to come forward with my story. I have lived in vague fear of Harvey Weinstein for over 20 years, ever since the incidents I described to Ronan Farrow in the New Yorker. At the time I don’t think I even knew that what happened — him using business-related situations to try and press himself sexually on a young woman in his employ — qualified as sexual harassment. But as a woman who routinely advocates for women and girls who have been victimized in my role as Goodwill Ambassador with the United Nations, and as a mother, I could no longer remain silent.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Marion Cotillard on Woody Allen / 'The experience we had together was very odd'

Marion Cotillard

Marion Cotillard on Woody Allen: 'The experience we had together was very odd'

The Midnight in Paris star said she was ‘ignorant’ of stories of alleged sexual abuse and would ‘dig more’ if he asked her to work with him again

Friday 19 January 2018

Oscar-winning actor Marion Cotillard has spoken about her experience of working with Woody Allen on the set of Midnight in Paris.
The star, who won best actress for La Vie En Rose in 2008, was asked to give her thoughts on Allen after his estranged daughter Dylan Farrow reiterated, in a televised interview, her claim that he sexually abused her.

Ronan Farrow has Woody’s wit and Sinatra’s charm

Mia Farrow’s son Ronan, photographed in 2011, graduated from Yale Law School and went on to work for the State Department under Hillary Clinton.

Ronan Farrow has Woody’s wit and Sinatra’s charm
By Kate Storey
October 7, 2013 | 9:03pm

When Ronan Farrow was working on global youth issues for the State Department in Washington, DC, two years ago, he managed to find some free time for voice lessons.
In between trips to Afghanistan and Pakistan and reporting to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, he’d stop by the DC home of his voice teacher, Rebekah Eden, to practice his scales and even play around writing lyrics.

Woody Allen / Quotes / Life

by Woody Allen

Woody Allen to Star Opposite Sharon Stone in Film He Does Not Direct
Café Society review / Woody Allen's amiable, if insubstantial, tribute to golden-age Hollywood
Woody Allen / Café Society / Posters
Woody Allen / Café Society / Cannes 2016
Woody Allen / 'There are traumas in life that weaken us. That’s what has happened to me'