Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Queen goes all Regal

Despite a cast of characters without an iota of likeability among them and a cheerless storyline to boot, Claude Miller’s

Despite a cast of characters without an iota of likeability among them and a cheerless storyline to boot, Claude Miller’s Thérèse Desqueyroux is a thoroughly absorbing film.

Audrey Tautou is mesmeric as the bored and listless Thérèse, locked (à la Madame Bovery) in a claustrophobic marriage to rich-but-dull Bernard (Gilles Lellouche).

Both their families own vast tracts of pine forests in south west France and their union will make them even richer, between them possessing one-sixth of the départment in which they live. Thérèse, however, has issues and a mind that is a maelstrom of unspecified torment. She believes herself to be a free spirit, yet not so free that she will break the bonds of tradition in Twenties France where land ownership and social standing are all-important.

And so the film pans out, with Thérèse moping around, becoming increasingly detached and remote, dispirited to the point where you just want to cry out for her to get the hell out of the place.

Tautou plays her with a composed stillness that is unsettling. She rarely smiles.

You really wonder what is going on inside this woman’s head as she calmly shells walnuts while forest fires rage outside and her newborn baby is bawling her head off. When she sees her hypochondriac husband take an accidental overdose of Liqueur de Fowler (Fowler’s Solution) for a heart complaint, her mind stirs into action. Poisoning him could be her means of escape…. but even here, she is thwarted. He lives and she is sued for falsifying prescriptions.

To say more will give away the plot, but suffice to say, there’s little love lost between Thérèse and her very unpleasant in-laws. However, the film does end on a strange note of optimism.

Carol Evans

l Thérèse Desqueyroux is on at Corn Exchange, Newbury, from Friday, July 5 to Thursday, July 11. Visit cornexchangenew.com or call 0845 5218218

Film: NT Encore: The Audience

Certificate: (PG)

Director: Stephen Daldry

Starring: Helen Mirren, Edward Fox

THE formidable Helen Mirren is back on the big screen this week playing the Queen — but this time the production is relayed from the Gielgud Theatre in London’s West End.

Watching transmissions of opera or theatre productions has become a staple of our cinema-going experience over the past few years, but when The Audience was broadcast to screens across the world for the first time on June 13 it broke all records — it was seen by 80,000 people in the UK and 30,000 in North America.

This week there is the chance to see a recording of that show at the Regal Picturehouse as it is being screened every day from today (Friday).

Mirren won an Olivier award for the role in April which, added to her Academy Award for playing Elizabeth II in the 2007 film must surely qualify her as a British institution in her own right.

The Audience, written by Peter Morgan, is a series of imagined conversations between the Queen and her various prime ministers.

For 60 years Elizabeth II has met each of her 12 prime ministers in a weekly audience at Buckingham Palace — a meeting like no other in British public life as it is private. Both parties have an unspoken agreement never to repeat what is said — not even to their spouses.

From Churchill to Cameron, each prime minister has used these private conversations as a sounding board and a confessional — sometimes intimate, sometimes explosive.

From young mother to grandmother, these private audiences also chart the arc of the second Elizabethan age. Politicians come and go through the revolving door of electoral politics, while the Queen remains constant.The live theatre show has been tremendously successful, and though one cannot underestimate the pulling power of Helen Mirren, credit must also go to the men behind the scenes.

The director is Stephen Daldry, who made his name with the films Billy Elliot and The Hours. But even further back from the limelight is scriptwriter Peter Morgan himself.

He started writing for television back in the Eighties and made his breakthrough with the 2003 drama The Deal, about the power-sharing arrangement between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown brokered in a London restaurant. Since then he has written Frost/Nixon and The Last King Of Scotland, as well as the Oscar-winning The Queen.

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