William Hundert is a passionate and principled Classics professor who finds his tightly-controlled world shaken and inexorably altered when a new student, Sedgewick Bell, walks into his classroom. What begins as a fierce battle of wills gives way to a close student-teacher relationship, but results in a life lesson for Hundert that will still haunt him a quarter of a century later.Written by
Ethan Canin, author of "The Palace Thief" (upon which the movie is based), appears as one of the board members around the table during Hundert's meeting with the school's board of directors. He is seated on the chairman's right during the meeting. See more »
When Mr. Hundert exits the helicopter, the blades slow down impossibly quickly between shots. See more »
Is everything okay, sir?
Fine, thank you. Here.
[reaches into his pocket]
Let me, uh...
That's not necessary, sir.
As I've gotten older, I realize I'm certain of only two things. Days that begin with rowing on a lake are better than days that do not. Second, a man's character is his fate. And as a student of history, I find this hard to refute. For most of us our stories can be written long before we die. There are exceptions among the great men of history, ...
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I say that this is a tough sell of a movie because it seems like most movies marketing of late have to have some catch,hook or twist about it to sell to audiences,something either sexy,violent or both. Movies that stress intellectual or moral higher pursuits are somewhat rare to come by and when they are,they either are heavy-handed(Dead Poets Society)or arcane,word-of-mouth projects(Kidco,Stand and Deliver).If they don't feature some level of arousing interest(two examples:Sirens or Kinsey,both films I greatly appreciated BTW),then they are probably going to fall under the wheels of Hollywood's promotional behemoth if they are produced for the large screen.
Such,I suspect,is the case with The Emperors Club, a Neil Tolin screenplay based on a Ethan Canin short story. The central figure is one William Hundert(Kevin KLine,perhaps never more dignified in role),a well-respected and generally popular teacher at a Catholic,boys-only academy,who teaches the classics(i.e.Roman and Greek history and culture). His long stay as an educator is put to the test(probably not the only time,but what has to be the most memorable) in the 1976-77 school year when an arrogant,selfish son of a congressman(Emile Hirsch,avec David Cassidy fro)enrolls in the school,for whom Hundert decides he's going to make a special effort to "mold" into a true student of enlightenment. His efforts then have effects on both his students and himself that stay with him long after.
Well-acted,well-scripted,thoughtful and gently guided by Michael Hoffman(who directed Kline in the pleasant Midsummer Night's Dream adaptation three years earlier),this film quietly came and went in the Autumn of 2002 and it seems like a shame,but not un-understandably so. This is a show with virtually no violence and very little(if any)sexual content and the majority of the cast are either rising young stars who haven't quite reached high acclaim yet or are older character actors,so one will enter this on virtually a blind-faith interest of the film's topic or(more likely)an appreciation for Mr.Kline. To be honest and tell on myself,when this film was out I passed it up and didn't really sit down to appreciate it until very recently,and that was a a free library rental! As is,free or not,this is clearly a unique and recommendable movie.
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