1997 Movie Review: WILDE, 1997 – Starring: Stephen Fry, Jude Law

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WILDEWILDE, 1997
Movie Reviews

Directed by Brian Gilbert

Cast: Stephen Fry, Jude Law, Vanessa Redgrave, Michael Sheen, Tom Wilkinson, Gemma Jones, Jennifer Ehle, Judy Parfit
Review by Stefan Leverton

SYNOPSIS:

The story of Oscar Wilde, genius, poet, playwright and the First Modern Man. The self-realisation of his homosexuality caused Wilde enormous torment as he juggled marriage, fatherhood and responsibility with his obsessive love for Lord Alfred Douglas, nicknamed Bosie. After legal action instigated by Bosie’s father, the mad Marquess of Queensberry, Wilde refused to flee the country and was sentenced to two years at hard labour by the courts of an intolerant Victorian society.

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REVIEW:

Wilde is the biopic telling the infamous story of Oscar Wilde, one of Ireland’s and the Victorian era’s greatest playwright and poet. Above that he represented the rise in the appreciation for all things aesthetic, fashion and style as well as being one of the wittiest historical figures that I can think of. His life wasn’t all plaudits though, and he courted controversy to the full.

The film begins with Wilde returning from America, marrying Constance Wilde and having two boys, Cyril and Vyvyan. Then it begins, not wanting to over-state anything, his rise and fall. Taking the theatre world by storm, Wilde’s plays illuminate the west end and he becomes the toast of the town. With an invigorated zeal for socialising, Wilde acquaints himself with all the lavishness his success affords him.

This ignites a spark within Wilde, especially after becoming familiar with Robbie Ross. After their meeting Wilde’s ‘outs’ himself amongst the homosexual community, and in doing so becomes the person he may’ve always known he was. Then the shift moves from his work to his personal life. An intense affair rises between Wilde and Lord Alfred Douglas, nicknamed Bosie. Bosie is drawn to the artful and wise Wilde, while Wilde is drawn to the youthful pretty Bosie.

Their relationship has its ups and downs, mainly due to Bosie’s impetuousness, but ultimately has its dramatic anchor in the film as in Wilde’s life by being the scandal that brought shame upon Wilde’s family and indeed his professional reputation. Bosie’s father, the Mad Marquess of Queensberry, files a lawsuit against Wilde and his lewd illegal behaviour.

The ensuing court case, is widely publicised and the witch hunt that surrounds it sees the steadfast Wilde prosecuted for his actions and sentenced to four years hard labour after refusing to take exile. Then we witness Wilde’s decline, removed of his style in gaol. Even on his release when he takes refuge in Europe his healthy withers and Wilde dies resolute but very much alone in Paris, 1900.

As a fan of Wilde’s work, I feel this film does tremendous justice to the man, played with sheer perfection by Stephen Fry. Fry said of the role that it was the one he was born to play, and he is in no way over stating that fact. And the filmmakers have done a wonderful job of adding to the creation by giving Fry just the right appearance as a young-twenty-something but also as the broken-aged-man Wilde becomes during his incarceration. And special mention should go to Jude law who, aside from looking good in the role, acts as a great folly to Wilde, being that they are at different stages of their lives.

The only criticism of the film is that those who aren’t familiar with Wilde may struggle to be enraptured by the drama of the film which never really peaks. I think that to be slightly mis-guided as Wilde himself fully understood what was going on, there was no outrage from him, though he did stand resolutely and argued his case to spite all that, though sadly without success. What stands is the memory of such outrageous persecution from the justice system and society to persecute someone, when today that wouldn’t even enter the consciousness.

WILDE, 1997

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Film Review: BLOW-UP (Italy/UK 1966) *****

blow-upA mod London photographer finds something very suspicious in the shots he has taken of a mysterious beauty in a desolate park.

>Director: Michelangelo Antonioni
Writers: Michelangelo Antonioni (story), Julio Cortázar (short story “Las babas del diablo”) (as Julio Cortazar) »
Stars: David Hemmings, Vanessa Redgrave, Sarah Miles

Review by Gilbert Seah

 Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni’s first of three English Language films under contract with Carlo Ponti is arguably the best of the three and sets the standard for the 60’s and 79’s film look of fashionable London. It is also the film that shot David Hemmings and Oscar Winner Vanessa Redgrave to fame.

The plot was inspired by the short story, “Las babas del diablo” or “The Devil’s Drool”. The film follows the the life of a swinging extremely successful photographer, David Bailey (Hemmings). He is so successful that all the pretty birds in London are willing to sleep with him just to be photographed by him.

The story involves his random photographing of a lady, Jane in the park (Redgrave). He chases her around London and developes a love/hate relationship with her. Upon closer examination of the photograph, and blowing it up (hence the film’s title), he discovers an image of a corpse in the park. Wondering whether there was a murder, strange things start happening like missing things in his studio and strangers following him. But this murder mystery is not the aim of Antonioni’s film.

Antonioni’s films have not been murder or suspense films. He is no Master of Suspense, but his works have been equally praised for its insight on society, especially on youth, as in his two other English features, THE PASSENGER and ZABRIESKI POINT, which I had not seen since it was first released.

Another trait of Antonioni is his spontaneity in film. This can be observed in three of the film’s segments that basically make this movie. The first is David’s shooting in his studio of real life model, Veruschka von Lehndorff. Veruschka plays herself in a 5-minute long photo-shoot sequence.

The second and the film’s best scene also occurs at random. When David goes into town, he sees Jane and follows her into a club where The Yardbirds, featuring both Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck on guitar and Keith Relf on vocals, are seen performing the song “Stroll On.” This is an extended club scene where Antonioni captures perfectly both the spirit of the band and the crowd. A buzz in Beck’s amplifier angers him so much he smashes his guitar on stage, then throws its neck into the crowd. David grabs the neck and runs out of the club before anyone can snatch it from him. The roar of the crowd, the uncontrollability of the situation and the pure madness are all magnificently caught on camera.

The third segment forms the film’s sexiest part where David wrestles with two topless birds (Jill Kennington and Peggy Moffitt) in his studio. This constituted explicit sexual content of contemporary standards by a major Hollywood studio that was in direct defiance of the Production Code at the time.
BLOW-UP won the Grand Prix du Festival International du Film, the festival’s highest honour. It is the film’s 50th Anniversary and has a Special Screening on August the 16th Thursday at 9 pm at the Bell Lightbox. A must-see for cinephiles.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Xz1utzILj4

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