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A Room with a View (2007 TV Movie)
Very enjoyable, moreso than the original
27 November 2008
At first I wasn't sure how I'd react to this remake because I used to think I enjoyed the original, but I was pleasantly surprised to find it much easier to follow the *story* and see the *characters* in this retelling. It was actually quite refreshing.

I didn't realize until I saw this version that the 1985 film is so self-consciously stylistic that it ends up being too clever for its own good. In the original, the intonation by the actors is so stilted that the dialogue feels like a series of non sequiturs. Every shot screams, "Look! Look at this gorgeous cinematography!" There isn't much chemistry between the two romantic leads, Daniel Day Lewis reduces Cecil to a tedious cartoon character, and Denholm Elliott overdoes his accent. Julian Sands, though interesting, seems more like a brother from another planet than a thoughtful subversive. In the Merchant-Ivory version, the story and the characters get buried under a layer of heavily vaselined romanticism.

Through this bittersweet remake, I finally saw the story and felt I better understood what Forster was trying to say in his book. You see the Emersons' working-class roots and how they stick out among the more genteel travelers in Florence. You get to really see Cecil as a good but flawed human being. And, most importantly, you see Lucy as a sweet but unsure girl growing into a bright young woman in spite of herself.

Director Renton keeps a light touch and doesn't spend any more time than is necessary on any part of the story. You see a dinner party, you hear a rough voice cut through the chatter, you see Charlotte put on the spot. That's the point of that scene, and it does its job with no extra fanfare. There is no inordinate amount of time spent on playing up some tennis game or skinnydipping episode. No one is allowed to chew the scenery.

As a result, I felt moved by the passion between Lucy and George in a way that I didn't when watching the original. I felt the pain caused by their predicament. The scenes between Lucy and George were more emotionally charged, especially when Lucy has her epiphany. In the 1985 version, every scene between the two leads feels like little more than comic relief.

And yes, I liked the ending in this version. It added gravity to the story and helped me feel the depth of Lucy's love for George. Kudos to Andrew Davies, Nicholas Renton, and especially to Rafe Spall and the beautiful Elaine Cassidy. They all did a brilliant job in bringing a terrific story to life. By the end of this version, I had forgotten all about the original and fell in love with these characters all over again.
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King Arthur (2004)
Very existentialist
11 July 2004
An excellent all-around piece that presents the basis for the Arthurian legend we're already familiar with. Merlin as field marshall and rumored mystic. Guinevere as beguiling and charismatic warrior princess. Lancelot as noble but conflicted knight. Arthur as world-weary social crusader. The Knights of the Round Table as battle-hardened, homesick conscripts.

The performances are heartfelt. Clive Owen's charisma was apparent early in his career when he delivered intense and focused performances in such films as "Close My Eyes." He would make an excellent James Bond if the franchise's producers ever made the wise decision to return the character to his roots. Lancelot, Guinevere, and the Knights are delivered in an understated manner. Particularly memorable for me was Stephen Dillane as Merlin.

The film's centerpiece is a clever battle scene between the Knights (plus Guinevere) and a company of Saxon marauders on top of a frozen lake. The climactic battle scene compares favorably to the Battle of the Pelennor Fields in "Return of the King." I would have liked more exploration of the "wolds," the Pict fighters led by Merlin and Guinevere, as well as Guinevere's relation to Merlin, but time would not have permitted.

I enjoyed the existentialist theme. What is a soldier's purpose amidst the endless, meaningless conflicts of a collapsing superpower? Arthur, Lancelot, and the Knights face these questions and search for their answers the only way they can.

Compared to recent sword & sorcery films, I'd rank this a notch or two above "The 13th Warrior," several notches above "Braveheart" and "Troy," and just under the "Lord of the Rings" films, which of course are in a class all their own.
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