Tuesday, January 30, 2007

"Retaining The Essence Of Himself..."

Years ago, believe it or not, when Peter O'Toole appeared at Bristol Old Vic, someone was specially employed to wake him up each morning; his late arrivals for rehersals were legendary.

And when O'Toole starred as Lawrence of Arabia in the film which made his name, his producer, Sam Spiegl, encouraged him to undertake nose surgery, so he'd look the part.
BUT to me, O'Toole has always looked wonderful, with or without fancy new beak...

Last Saturday, we saw O'Toole's " Venus"; this is said to be his Swansong. The feathers, however, may fly if it is...

"Venus" was written by Hanif Kureishi and directed by Roger Mitchell, who have worked together before.
Interesting actually, because with its lush cast list ( plus London setting, elderly characters) , "Venus" reminded me somewhat of Schepsisi's 2002 film adaptation of Graham Swift's novel " Last Orders". Then we were treated to Michael Caine, Tom Courtney, Helen Mirren et al ..

BUT the cast list for Venus is equally distinguished. O'Toole plays Maurice (ageing thespian) and Leslie Phillips plays Ian ( 2nd ageing thespian). Vanessa Redgrave is Maurice's husky-voiced, long-suffering wife and Richard Griffiths is The Faithful Friend/ 3rd ageing thespian. Newcomer Jodie Whittaker plays the cocky, Potnoodle-guzzling, leggy northern lass, Jessie; she is the Venus in question.

This film deserves accolades. It really does. It deserves accolades for its acting, writing, direction, music.( This includes the laid-back, honeyed-voice of Corinne Bailey Rae.) " Venus" undoubtedly warrants several Oscars.
I say this because I have loved and known and cared for three elderly family members. And I can vouch that " Venus" ( through characters, settings, dialogue, plot) paints a superbly accurate portrait of people at the summit ( better than "end") of their lives. The film has understood that whatever is happening to people, they retain the absolute essence of themselves; they retain their own recognisable " goodness", their " badness", their personal measure of humour, courage, spark. It's all there, beneath tablets, wheelchairs, increasing fragility of mind or body. Even a confused beautiful old lady, will retain her quirky-quickness, keep her loveliness. I know this because I loved and knew one such old lady .

AND old people still have lusts; once a rouee ( Maurice), always a roueee ( Maurice).
And that's, of course, where Jessie comes in. Their love affair is lustful; at least to Maurice. Jessie calls the shots and allows worship only from afar. Maurice is impotent, but he desires Jessie; he can occassionally touch her hand when permitted, he can sniff ( yes, sniff) her delicate neck, but that's his lot. ( Well, almost.)

Maurice lets Jessie manipulate him because he craves her; Jessie is cruel and Maurice adores and that's the story.
It's absorbing, it's lovely and it's complete with characters who live and have lived.

And THAT'S why " Venus" is unmissable.


Blogger chiefbiscuit said...

I can't believe I haven't visited your place in so long - what a treat to read two reviews for a play and a film. Will be looking out for the film - sounds enticing. Peter O'toole is always worth watching I find.

5:04 am  
Blogger Jan said...

Just hope he wins his so richly deserved reward. Nice to see you!

12:22 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw "Venus".It's one of the most interesting movies:)

8:38 pm  

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