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British and likable? Computer says no.

But I say yes. Immediately my brain generates a list of names:  Kate Winslet, Ewan Mc Gregor, Rachel Weisz, Jude Law, Sadie Frost, Catherine McCormack, Rufus Sewell, Robert Carlyle, Emma Thompson, Daniel Day Lewis, Emily Watson, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, and his brother, Joseph, not forgetting Keira Knightly (who would make such a mistake?)

Then immediately, another series of names: Jeremy Irons, John Gielgud, Ian Holm, Ralph Richardson, Robert Powell, Bob Hoskins, Rex Harrison, Dame Judy Dench, Vanessa Redgrave, Dame Helen Mirren, Sir Alec Guiness, Sir Laurence Olivier, Vivien Leigh, Merle Oberon. Then I realize they are too many whom I may leave out because of a bad memory. So I stop this line of inquiry. Well, not entirely: am I wrong to like Patsy Kensit?


No worry, my mind is in its place. And my computer never says no, or else I unplug it. We both like Little Britain. We loath British directors that remind us of the Romanian kitchen sink realism. That’s why we both like a lot Ken Loach. For his kitchen sink realism.

The series: Prime suspect, Wire in the blood, Waking the Dead, Absolutely Fabulous, Black Adder, Mr. Bean, Benny Hill. Brideshead Revisited (1981). Timewatch, definetly Timewatch. British documentary. Then again, those art films with Andrew Graham Dixon – they are simply jewels of documentary. On the vintage side, my parents still remember The Onedin Line, and they have good reasons to do so. mr bean

There are scores of good British directors. Stephen Frears, Kenneth Branagh or Danny Boyle, Sam Mendes, Derek Jarman or Anthony Minghella. One should never forget Sir Laurence as a director and his revolutionary work on Henry V (1944) or Hamlet (1948). I also know Sir Ridley was born on the great island. That is somehow enough.

I divide directors in two categories: the good ones and the rest. When it comes to the British, there are three of them I swear by.  The first is Ridley Scott. The second is Ken Russell for Mahler (1974), for Tommy (1975), for The Lair of the White Worm (1988), for Salome’s Last Dance (1990).  That is because I tend to side with those who do not contend with the reality given to them and create one of their own.

Which is precisely why I also say Peter Greenaway. Prospero’s Books (1991), The Belly of an Architect (1987) etc. These are his best and in my mind, the best British film ever made (yet) is: The Draughtsman’s Contract (1982).

In the kingdom of British delights you can easily get lost. Which would not be such a bad thing, since you always leave with something useful. If it is only a reasonable command of English.

Posted on May 12, 2014

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