Sunday, October 14, 2007

Bardiac Goes to the Movies!

Okay, so Elizabeth: the Golden Age opened, and do you know where your Bardiac was? Well, not at the opening, alas. But I did go to a matinee today. Were you expecting less?

I went, I saw, and here I am, writing.

I have to admit, I was a bit disappointed in the direction and editing. First, it's SLOW. OMG, slow slow slow. It's slower than me trying to climb a hill on my bike!

I felt sorry for Jordi Molla, the actor who plays Phillip II of Spain. He's wearing these incredibly tight and uncomfortable looking boot things, and forced (?) to mince along rather than walk. As someone who does early modern English lit, I'm pretty used to seeing Phillip put down in writing here and there, but I must have missed references to his mincing. To my mind, Phillip's mincing is a synechdoche of the film's broad and heavy handed anti-Catholic attitude; it's as if the writers, directors, and producers all read a bunch of Tudor propaganda and believed every word. (I also felt sorry for the actor playing the Infanta.)

The anti-Catholicism reminded me of the way Elizabeth I, the 1998 film about Elizabeth's earlier years, treated Mary Tudor, making her look as nasty and ugly as possible in all sorts of ways.

And as with that film, I often felt a bit at sea (/grin) about who was who and what role s/he played. I never did remember who the Jesuit was, and I couldn't figure out if William Cecil was in the film at all (there's no listing in the cast), but dang, how can you have a film of Elizabeth's 1580s without Cecil?

My biggest disappointment with the film was with the minimalist approach to the Tilbury; seriously, you've got one of the all time great speeches (whether it was given as claimed or not), and they absolutely minimize it! Where's the great line about having the heart and stomach of a king? How could they cut that? It's not like they didn't have lots of time; they could have taken out ten minutes of flowing clothing shots, of birds' eye view shots, and still had an overabundance!

And just so you have the pleasure, here's the speech before the troops at Tilbury:
We have been persuaded by some that are careful of our safety, to take heed how we commit our selves to armed multitudes, for fear of treachery; but I assure you I do not desire to live to distrust my faithful and loving people. Let tyrants fear, I have always so behaved myself that, under God, I have placed my chiefest strength and safeguard in the loyal hearts and good-will of my subjects; and therefore I am come amongst you, as you see, at this time, not for my recreation and disport, but being resolved, in the midst and heat of the battle, to live and die amongst you all; to lay down for my God, and for my kingdom, and my people, my honour and my blood, even in the dust. I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too, and think foul scorn that Parma or Spain, or any prince of Europe, should dare to invade the borders of my realm; to which rather than any dishonour shall grow by me, I myself will take up arms, I myself will be your general, judge, and rewarder of every one of your virtues in the field. I know already, for your forwardness you have deserved rewards and crowns; and We do assure you in the word of a prince, they shall be duly paid you. In the mean time, my lieutenant general shall be in my stead, than whom never prince commanded a more noble or worthy subject; not doubting but by your obedience to my general, by your concord in the camp, and your valour in the field, we shall shortly have a famous victory over those enemies of my God, of my kingdom, and of my people.
Now there's a great speech, eh?

Other things? Did I mention how slow the film was? Yeah, slow. And seeing the Spanish Armada burn in the background while Elizabeth watches on shore? Not so convincing; the ships looked really fake, too, in that cgi way.

The film condenses a lot of time (poor Archduke Charles! nearly 20 years late!), but that's how showing history on stage and in film works. And look, a couple months of sea battles and stuff in less than 15 minutes, and all within sight of land, too!

Good things? Cate Blanchett. I thought she did a good job with the role. The main theme of the music was really lush and gorgeous at points. There were lots of nice scenery setting shots, looking lush and lovely.


  1. They left out the heart and stomach line?? How could they?

    I was afraid the Spanish would get the short end of the stick... logical, if it's told from Elizabeth's point of view, but I'm getting a little tired of the Black Legend.

  2. I loved Elizabeth I for the gorgeous costumes and visuals, but yeah, I heard that this movie was a bit disappointing compared to that. I'm still gonna see it --- just like I watched Becoming Jane even though I knew I was going to turn my nose up at the ahistorical sappiness.

    It's weird that they made a sequel at all, considering that the first movie was so ... solid in it's endingness. I can't explain very well. But the whole apotheosis from unsure, frightened woman to Virgin Queen had such an "ending" feel to it that it's weird they would try to undo that feeling for a sequel. (they could have left it on a more cliffhanger-y rather than resolved note.)

    And yes, I am an English major. Just one who is full of neologisms at the moment. Heh.

  3. Thanks for reviewing this. It'll be a while before it gets to my part of the US--if it shows here at all.

    I liked the 1st film a lot, but as a musician, I was terribly disappointed. I mean, they used music by Elgar, and he wasn't even born until 1857! In the context of this film, it was as jarring to hear as a telephone call would have been. Tallis and Byrd would have been much more appropriate.

    But the costumes were gorgeous...

  4. P/H, Yep, it was like watching H5 without the band of brothers bit!

    Sisyphus, The costumes are still beautiful! There's a gorgeous purple dress... if I could get a sweater in that color, I'd be a happy Bardiac!

    Terminal, If you see this, I'd love some suggestions for music. I really liked the music (it didn't sound "renaissancy" to me, but it didn't bother me); what Elgar should I look for? (I only know his P&C #whatever for the obvious reasons.)

  5. Anonymous9:30 PM

    I so agree with you on EVERYTHING about this. Poor old Philip, he was definitely pious but I never thought of him as a raving religious fanatic in quite the way the movie portrayed him. (And (no longer LD)H wondered what on earth was up with the mincing, too!)

    And the speech at Tilbury really was the greatest betrayal. HOW DARE THEY LEAVE OUT THE GOOD STUFF!!! My only idea was that they worried people might get upset if she called women "weak," but ugh. I was all wrought up because of the music and the costumes and whatnot, and then I went, "What did they do to the speech???"

    I also thought the whole Ralegh subplot was deeply deeply silly. Although it's fun to look at Clive Owen as swashbuckler. But still. Silly.

    Samantha Morton was good as Mary Stuart, though (even if I don't think Mary Stuart really spoke with a Scots accent since she was reared in France until her early 20s).

    I don't think there was Cecil at all - just Walsingham. (No pygmy!)

    One of the most interesting things, I thought, really was the Elizabeth/Bess Throckmorton thing. But oh well, it entertained me for a couple of hours even though it wasn't very good.

  6. Thanks for the review - It's been on my must-see list, sounds like I should see it in the theater and not at home, becuase I expect I'd fall asleep at home from the way you describe it...

  7. Anonymous8:53 PM

    "I so agree with you on EVERYTHING about this. Poor old Philip, he was definitely pious but I never thought of him as a raving religious fanatic in quite the way the movie portrayed him."

    I don't suppose you've ever heard of his atrocities in the low Countries?

    The so-called "black legend" survived for centuries for a very good reason: it is largely true.

  8. NEW KID, I'm with you; it entertained me some for a couple hours. But I REALLY don't understand leaving out the best lines!

    TBTAM, The scenery would be better in the theater than on my TV, for sure!

    ANON, I think we'd have to search long and hard to find an early modern European monarch who wasn't ruthless and atrocious to his/her enemies when s/he had the chance. In England, the protestants won, so they wrote history. But those Catholic exiles (under Elizabeth and James) in France were exiles for a reason, and it wasn't just French cooking.

    I have a friend from Spain, and it's amazingly instructive for me to learn about the Spanish take on the whole armada thing. I'm not trying to excuse the real Phillip's behavior, but to note how distracting and bizarre I found the mincing portrayal.

  9. I didn't see the first Elizabeth film, but from what I've heard, she makes the Tilbury speech then, a little out of context. And most of the events in the second film happened a good four or five years after the Armada, so, not so good on the history.

    But the clothes were awesome.