Monday, January 19, 2015

Timothy Dalton Week: The Lion in Winter

Hail and hearty greetings to you all. Welcome to Day 1 of Timothy Dalton Week. It took me a fair amount of time as Amazon Prime is not infaliable but nevertheless I found a copy. Today we look at the adaptation to film of playwright James Goldman (The Lion in Winter, They Might Be Giants, Nicholas and Alexandra, Robin and Marian and White Nights) the visage of King Henry the II of England's political and personal struggles, joys and conflicts. This film marks two interesting facets of conversation, as it is Timothy Dalton's second film and Sir Anthony Hopkins' feature film debut. Believed in many's eyes as one of the highest grossing movies of 1968 and won three academy awards including Best Actress for Katharine Hepburn, this is The Lion in Winter.

Now then, what of Ming of Mongo?

Set in the year 1183 during the Christmas season, King Henry (Peter O' Toole of Lawrence of Arabia, Great Catherine, Murphy's War, Caligula, Creator, Joan of Arc and Troy) spends his latter years grooming and preparing his youngest son, John (Nigel Terry of Excalibur, The Last of England, Edward II, Covington Cross, Rules of Engagement and MI-5) for the right to his throne while Henry's enstranged wife Duchess Eleanor of Aquitaine (Katharine Hepburn of Stage Door, Bringing Up Baby, The Philadelphia Story, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, On Golden Pon and Love Affair) favors their eldest son Richard (Sir Anthony Hopkins of A Bridge Too Far, The Elephant Man, Othello, Silence of the Lambs, Dracula and Nixon) as the one true king.

Don't be such an old poop, Richard.

Great turbulence hits these fair shores as King Phillip the II of France (Timothy Dalton of The Three Princes, The Voyeur, The Executioner, Agatha and Chanel Solitaire), former husband of Eleanor demands his half-sister Alais (Jane Merrow of The Girl-Getters, The Hands of the Ripper, The Patrica Neal Story, Romance Theatre and Accused) be wed or the return of her dowry.
Being one of Henry's many mistresses, Henry plots to deceive Richard with a mock wedding and it will satisfy King Phillip's demands as well but Henry's middle child Geoffrey II and John both plot with Phillip to wage war on England. Appalled at his own sons, King Henry has the lot of them thrown into the dungeon while Alais has his heart and possibly future heirs to his throne.

Will war be on the horizon? Must Henry ask his people to take up arms with him? What is to be done with his traitorous sons?

A few observations now. With its combination of tragedy, drama and witty comedy, the dialogue alone will keep you captivated. The performances of this entire cast will mesmerize you and yes will this is not wholly accurate in fact, this film dares to be entertaining, have an astounding musical score and holds the spirit of the story. Admittedly while I adore Hepburn in all works I have seen her in, I could never have expected this performance of a cunning, bitter woman seeking vengeance on her less than faithful husband and to such meticulous detail. With his sentiment one minute and his bluster the next, you will feel as I did, O' Toole commands the respect of men.

The main castle is the actual Abbaye de Montmajour in the south of France while most of the interior shots was Ardmore Studios in Ireland. With almost seamless transition, blocking techniques and wonderful atmosphere, you forget that films of yesteryear truly set the bar. With director Anthony Harvey (Dutchman, They Might Be Giants, The Glass Menagerie, Player, Richard's Things and The Patricia Neal Story), the story shows all scope of life and what is intertwined with actions and consequences.

The true pain my dear, is starring in a film with Ben Affleck