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Snoo Wilson obituary

Playwright whose anarchic works were filled with vividly imagined characters

Snoo Wilson, who has died suddenly aged 64, was in the vanguard of the young playwrights revolutionising British theatre in the two decades after 1968, but Snoo was a very different kettle of fish from the others. While David Edgar, Howard Brenton and David Hare were often overtly political, Snoo was a Marxist "tendance Groucho"; more subtly subversive and humorous. Sometimes the surface frivolity of his work made people think he wasn't serious, but he was always trying to mine under the surface of things, to allow the subconscious to drive his imagination. Snoo used fiercely imagined characters in comic and often savage works that nevertheless, in the best plays, demonstrated an insouciant knowledge of dramatic structure. He was not a believer in naturalism.

Throughout his career Snoo refused to accept that mere reality was all there was – if so, it was
See full article at The Guardian - TV News »

Snoo Wilson obituary

Playwright whose anarchic works were filled with vividly imagined characters

Snoo Wilson, who has died suddenly aged 64, was in the vanguard of the young playwrights revolutionising British theatre in the two decades after 1968, but Snoo was a very different kettle of fish from the others. While David Edgar, Howard Brenton and David Hare were often overtly political, Snoo was a Marxist "tendance Groucho"; more subtly subversive and humorous. Sometimes the surface frivolity of his work made people think he wasn't serious, but he was always trying to mine under the surface of things, to allow the subconscious to drive his imagination. Snoo used fiercely imagined characters in comic and often savage works that nevertheless, in the best plays, demonstrated an insouciant knowledge of dramatic structure. He was not a believer in naturalism.

Throughout his career Snoo refused to accept that mere reality was all there was – if so, it was
See full article at The Guardian - Film News »

The History Boys

The History Boys
This review was written for the AFI Film Fest screening of "The History Boys".

"The History Boys" reunites the team behind the award-winning play -- playwright Alan Bennett, director Nicholas Hytner and the key cast members of the London and Broadway stage version -- for a film where precious little has been done to accommodate the change in medium.

Performances border on the theatrical. Perhaps they should rename this "The Histrionic Boys" as Hytner fails to get his over-rehearsed actors, especially the younger ones, to take their stage performances down a notch or two for the camera. But if you liked the play and the compelling ideas Bennett kicks around, the movie makes for an intellectually invigorating couple of hours.

This is a very English play. The truths here may be universal, but the specifics belong to no other country. So audiences for the film version may be limited to Anglophiles and admirers of Bennett's witty way with words. Throw in a classroom scene entirely in French -- first-year French will make the hilarious scene completely accessible, though -- and you do get a film that screams "art house."

The story takes place at an all-boys grammar school -- the British equivalent of an American public high school -- in Yorkshire in 1983. Here a class of eight smart history students has achieved such success on the A Levels that the headmaster (Clive Merrison, far too over the top) pushes them to apply to those twin holy grails of British higher education: Oxford and Cambridge.

Their no-nonsense history professor, Mrs. Lintott (Frances de la Tour), and flamboyant, Falstaffian English instructor, Hector (Richard Griffiths), have led the clever lads to this level of achievement. However, the headmaster hires a young history grad named Irwin Stephen Campbell Moore, who somewhat resembles Stephen Colbert) to coach them in ways to improve test scores and give them polish and edge for their interviews.

Over the next few weeks, as the relationships among students and teachers come into sharper focus, the movie examines the process and purposes of education itself. Is it to pass exams, or is it to encourage a desire to learn?

Bennett's achievement is not so much to take sides as to let the three teachers and their charges to have their say. The motorcycle-riding Hector, whom Bennett describes in his stage directions as "a man of studied eccentricity," glories in the richness of language and has his lads memorize great swaths of poetry. On their own, the boys memorize old movies -- tearjerkers are the preferred choice -- and old songs.

Mrs. Lintott believes in plain-vanilla historical study and inquiry without resorting to flash or gimmicks. Ah, but Coach Irwin insists that, for exams at least, tricks may help. He preaches a "journalistic" technique to answering academic questions, going for an attention-grabbing, unconventional approach, argued with brisk generalities and sufficient facts and quotations to engage the interest of an examiner dazed from reading so many dry scholarly answers.

This leads to the movie's most fascinating scene, in which the boys, in a class jointly shared by Hector and Irwin, debate how one approaches the Holocaust academically, indeed whether one can even teach the Holocaust. If the Holocaust can be explained as an historical event like all others, then can it not be explained away?

While Bennett's satire no doubt aims at Thatcherite values, American viewers can certainly substitute the Reaganite push for a results-oriented society and heavy reliance on spin and glibness.

The young actors are all a good number of years older than their characters, but somehow you scarcely notice. Dakin (Dominic Cooper) is the class star, dark and handsome, on whom everyone has a crush: teachers, students and the headmaster's female secretary. (Bennett succumbs to the British boys school cliche where homosexuality is rampant and even a heterosexual stud has an inner "nancy" eager to come out.)

Posner (Samuel Barnett) is small, Jewish and homosexual -- "I'm fucked," he moans. Rudge (Russell Tovey) is the athlete, light on academics, yet he most accurately sums the randomness of historical events as "one fuckin' thing after another."

Portly Timms (James Corden) earns a few laughs, but the others -- Scripps (Jamie Parker), Lockwood (Andrew Knott) and the two minority representatives, Crowther (Samuel Anderson) and Akthar (Sacha Dhawan) -- are thinly sketched.

Griffiths and Moore deliver absolutely spot-on, wonderfully engaging performances that use their girth and youth, respectively, to full effect. But, surprisingly, the great performance belongs to de la Tour. She has taken a stage performance down a notch, giving each appearance -- she has fewer than the males -- its full impact.

The production has not been opened up much for a film. Nor has Bennett changed much from the play. A gym teacher, one who overly proselytizes his Christian religion, has been added and the ending tweaked so the headmaster gets a much-deserved comeuppance. Andrew Dunn's camera darts smoothly in and around the flat-footed actors, bringing at least some sense of movement to the movie.

A few break-away montages with period music and shots of the boys pulling books from library shelves and the like also help to remind you that this is, after all, a movie.

The History Boys

The History Boys
AFI Film Fest The History Boys reunites the team behind the award-winning play -- playwright Alan Bennett, director Nicholas Hytner and the key cast members of the London and Broadway stage version -- for a film where precious little has been done to accommodate the change in medium.

Performances border on the theatrical. Perhaps they should rename this The Histrionic Boys as Hytner fails to get his over-rehearsed actors, especially the younger ones, to take their stage performances down a notch or two for the camera. But if you liked the play and the compelling ideas Bennett kicks around, the movie makes for an intellectually invigorating couple of hours.

This is a very English play. The truths here may be universal, but the specifics belong to no other country. So audiences for the film version may be limited to Anglophiles and admirers of Bennett's witty way with words. Throw in a classroom scene entirely in French -- first-year French will make the hilarious scene completely accessible, though -- and you do get a film that screams "art house."

The story takes place at an all-boys grammar school -- the British equivalent of an American public high school -- in Yorkshire in 1983. Here a class of eight smart history students has achieved such success on the A Levels that the headmaster (Clive Merrison, far too over the top) pushes them to apply to those twin holy grails of British higher education: Oxford and Cambridge.

Their no-nonsense history professor, Mrs. Lintott (Frances de la Tour), and flamboyant, Falstaffian English instructor, Hector (Richard Griffiths), have led the clever lads to this level of achievement. However, the headmaster hires a young history grad named Irwin Stephen Campbell Moore, who somewhat resembles Stephen Colbert) to coach them in ways to improve test scores and give them polish and edge for their interviews.

Over the next few weeks, as the relationships among students and teachers come into sharper focus, the movie examines the process and purposes of education itself. Is it to pass exams, or is it to encourage a desire to learn?

Bennett's achievement is not so much to take sides as to let the three teachers and their charges to have their say. The motorcycle-riding Hector, whom Bennett describes in his stage directions as "a man of studied eccentricity," glories in the richness of language and has his lads memorize great swaths of poetry. On their own, the boys memorize old movies -- tearjerkers are the preferred choice -- and old songs.

Mrs. Lintott believes in plain-vanilla historical study and inquiry without resorting to flash or gimmicks. Ah, but Coach Irwin insists that, for exams at least, tricks may help. He preaches a "journalistic" technique to answering academic questions, going for an attention-grabbing, unconventional approach, argued with brisk generalities and sufficient facts and quotations to engage the interest of an examiner dazed from reading so many dry scholarly answers.

This leads to the movie's most fascinating scene, in which the boys, in a class jointly shared by Hector and Irwin, debate how one approaches the Holocaust academically, indeed whether one can even teach the Holocaust. If the Holocaust can be explained as an historical event like all others, then can it not be explained away?

While Bennett's satire no doubt aims at Thatcherite values, American viewers can certainly substitute the Reaganite push for a results-oriented society and heavy reliance on spin and glibness.

The young actors are all a good number of years older than their characters, but somehow you scarcely notice. Dakin (Dominic Cooper) is the class star, dark and handsome, on whom everyone has a crush: teachers, students and the headmaster's female secretary. (Bennett succumbs to the British boys school cliche where homosexuality is rampant and even a heterosexual stud has an inner "nancy" eager to come out.)

Posner (Samuel Barnett) is small, Jewish and homosexual -- "I'm fucked," he moans. Rudge (Russell Tovey) is the athlete, light on academics, yet he most accurately sums the randomness of historical events as "one fuckin' thing after another."

Portly Timms (James Corden) earns a few laughs, but the others -- Scripps (Jamie Parker), Lockwood (Andrew Knott) and the two minority representatives, Crowther (Samuel Anderson) and Akthar (Sacha Dhawan) -- are thinly sketched.

Griffiths and Moore deliver absolutely spot-on, wonderfully engaging performances that use their girth and youth, respectively, to full effect. But, surprisingly, the great performance belongs to de la Tour. She has taken a stage performance down a notch, giving each appearance -- she has fewer than the males -- its full impact.

The production has not been opened up much for a film. Nor has Bennett changed much from the play. A gym teacher, one who overly proselytizes his Christian religion, has been added and the ending tweaked so the headmaster gets a much-deserved comeuppance. Andrew Dunn's camera darts smoothly in and around the flat-footed actors, bringing at least some sense of movement to the movie.

A few break-away montages with period music and shots of the boys pulling books from library shelves and the like also help to remind you that this is, after all, a movie.

Trio joins Hytner's 'History'

Trio joins Hytner's 'History'
LONDON -- A trio of British character actors have joined the cast of Nicholas Hytner's The History Boys, producers said Wednesday. Penelope Wilton (Calendar Girls), Adrian Scarborough (Vera Drake) and Georgia Taylor (TV drama Blackpool) join a cast that already includes Richard Griffiths, Clive Merrison, Frances de la Tour and Stephen Campbell Moore. All three will play characters written into the movie version of the play of the same name for the big screen.

Film review: 'The English Patient'

Film review: 'The English Patient'
A sweeping and breathtakingly vivid distillation of novelist Michael Ondaatje's complex novel of love and war in North Africa and Italy before and during World War II, Miramax's "The English Patient" is a sublime and complex masterwork that will have strong appeal with discriminating audiences. Elliptically structured as it threads through four central story lines, this Saul Zaentz production, however, may test the patience of viewers who favor more straightforward narratives. Nevertheless, this brilliantly realized movie mosaic will get a boost from strong reviews as well as possible awards, especially in the technical areas.

If this reverberating drama has a center, it is the titular character, the English Patient (Ralph Fiennes) who, at the end of World War II, clings to life in an Italian monastery, his skin withered from burns and his lungs too weak to allow him to leave his bed. "The English Patient", as he is called for lack of a more accurate name, further suffers from memory loss. The only clues he and his nurse (Juliette Binoche) have to his identity come from a small book of the writings of Herodotus, with a few personal letters and maps stuffed between its pages.

It's around the mystery of this bandaged man's identity that screenwriter-director Anthony Minghella constructs a much wider story. Through the personal prism of these four main stories the overall picture emerges. Using sounds and colors and other associative bits of story tissue, Minghella connects the "Patient" to his most immediate past as a member of a group of cartographers who have come together in the most desolate area of the African desert to map out the terrain for England's Royal Geographic Society. Like most international expeditions, they are a motley and diverse group and include most prominently team leader Count Laszlo de Almasy (Fiennes) and a young English couple (Colin Firth, Kristin Scott Thomas).

To follow the story's multicharacter winds and twists, and to appreciate the different levels of reality in this epic tale -- most prominently the prewar, wartime and postwar rules of the game -- requires rapt viewer attention. In addition, the swirling multinational cast of characters and places also deepens and widens the rich story veins; the film surges as a love story, a war story, and most powerfully as personal stories of characters trying to tap their identity in a cataclysmic time.

Admittedly, the story embroidery at times seems too aswirl, threading back and forth in time and place, but, fortunately, Minghella is a narrative cartographer of the most sophisticated order. He has a pointillist's sense of direction, and soon the viewers learn that the narrative dots aren't connected in A-B-C order but appear in bursts and batches, linked and enlivened by the film's cinematic synapses of colors, cuts, sounds and other subtle textures.

While the film's technical eloquence is, perhaps, its strongest suit, the players are never subsumed by either the vastness of the terrain or the complexity of the tale. Fiennes is marvelous as the enigmatic patient Almasy. In both his deathbed scenes and in his earlier death-defying escapades in the desert, he exudes the robust fiber of a man who tests his limits on all fronts.

As the vivacious and thoroughly modern Englishwoman whom Almasy falls in love with, Scott Thomas is strikingly charismatic. She's clearly a flame in this sandy parchment, and her performance is likely to win wide appreciation. Willem Dafoe is also effective as a mysterious burglar who carries his own debilitating physical and psychological burdens, while Juliette Binoche radiates decency as the kind nurse with festering inner scars.

The technical team, including an array of Oscar winners, deserve highest medals for their expertise and daring. Cinematographer John Seale's grand and roiling nature imagery, coupled with editor Walter Murch's pristine cuts, magnify the storytelling to the highest degree. Similar praise for costume designer Ann Roth for the wide-ranging historical costumes.

It's not only the sights but the sounds that enrapture here. Backdropped by a wonderfully sinewy score, featuring the slithers of the oboe and other desert-life sounds, "The English Patient" courses with life and vitality.

THE ENGLISH PATIENT

Miramax Films

A Saul Zaentz production

an Anthony Minghella film

Producer Saul Zaentz

Screenwriter-director Anthony Minghella

Based on the novel by Michael Ondaatje

Director of photography John Seale

Production designer Stuart Craig

Music Gabriel Yared

Executive producers Bob Weinstein,

Harvey Weinstein, Scott Greenstein

Associate producers Paul Zaenta,

Steve Andrews

Line producer Alessandro von Normann

Costume designer Ann Roth

Editor Walter Murch

Casting Michelle Guish, David Rubin

Color/stereo

Cast:

Almasy Ralph Fiennes

Hana Juliette Binoche

Caravaggio Willem Dafoe

Katharine Clifton Kristin Scott Thomas

Kip Naveen Andrews

Geoffrey Clifton Colin Firth

Madox Julian Wadham

Hardy Kevin Whately Fenelon-Barnes

Clive Merrison D'Agostino Nino Castelnuovo

Running time -- 159 minutes

MPAA rating: R

See also

Credited With | External Sites