Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

25 October 2007

The Golden Age

Tim and I went to see Shekhar Kapur's Elizabeth: the Golden Age last night, which, as you probably know is a sequel to his 1998 film Elizabeth. There are a lot of things to say about the film...
The good first: the costumes are gorgeous, enough of a reason to see the movie in and of itself. Cate Blanchett looks amazing.
Some of the sequences are shot rather beautifully, too—Mary, Queen of Scots' beheading, in particular.
The acting is fine. Cate is chewing the scenery somewhat, but it's not too bad, and there are some really beautiful acting moments in the movie, even though it becomes a camp-fest a lot of times. Samantha Morton is actually really good in the film, despite playing a role that's barely in the movie.
The bad: this film is the campiest movie I've seen all year.
The historiography is a bit suspect. Tim and I kept asking each other whether things happened in the order we were watching. Compressions of time are expected in movies, of course, but the times when the film really goes off the rails are when it shows entire sequences of utter fiction: Elizabeth in full armor talking to troops on land while the Spanish Armada sails up behind her.
Worse, the film is mostly a melodrama, and turns Elizabeth into a bitchy queen who keeps doing things because of how weak she is.
It's more of a costume and light-fest anyway, of course, but it becomes that most of the time, to the point where the narrative really has no bearing on what is happening on screen.
Kapur shoots the film the exact same way he did the first Elizabeth, too: so there are lots of sequences we see through a translucent pane of glass or where 90% of the frame is obscured by some wall hanging or something. He even shoots the important love scenes like this. It's all the more shocking when he actually does show something without media between us and the action. It becomes, in those moments, startlingly clear, that Kapur doesn't really have a sense of a mise-en-scène or how to make pretty pictures that don't involve really expensive costumes.