Sunday, January 16, 2005

DVD: Another Country (1984)

The 20th anniversary edition of this movie is the ideal occasion to bring in a guest blogger who has a history with the film. Take it away, sweetheart.

Rosemarie: I was 21 the year I went to see ANOTHER COUNTRY four times. The second time I brought some friends with me. That was a mistake. For some reason they didn’t fall under the spell of long days and first loves. I ended up listening to jokes about my crush on Rupert Everett for months afterward. So the next two times it was just me, Rupert, and fields of creamy white cardigans.

It wasn’t just a crush, though. Or if it was, it was one of those crushes where you want to be the person you're obsessed with. Rupert played Guy Bennett, a young man going into his last year at an English boarding school in the ‘30s, on his way to becoming a spy for Russia in the ‘50s. Guy – tall, gorgeous, a vision of casual elegance. Brooding and lovelorn. Mordantly witty. Misunderstood and more sinned against than sinning. Rupert as Guy was so morose he made Morrisey look like Benny Hill. For a year I would stand next to windows and look out yearningly just like Rupert pining for Cary “I’ve come to get my chafing dish” Elwes. What I was yearning for, I had no idea. Maybe for a vision of myself that could actually come true. You know – one that wouldn’t involve a sex change, time travel and membership in the Communist party.

So seeing ANOTHER COUNTRY again was a bit scary. It turns out the movie’s not bad. I don’t know if I completely buy its premise that Guy, outcast (or at least denied the highest rank in the public school he’s attending) because he’s gay, decided right then and there to spy for Russia. On the other hand, the school is brilliantly shown as an unappealing combination of the pastoral and the squalid, a place of lush grounds and underclassmen who scrub whatever’s put in front of them.

Rupert has had other good roles in DANCE WITH A STRANGER and MY BEST FRIEND’S WEDDING. But none as powerful as Guy Bennett. Maybe if he finally makes that gay secret agent movie that’s been talked about for years he’ll have come full circle and brought Guy back into Her Majesty’s good graces.

Vince again: I was seeing the film for the first time. There’s some bad old age make-up and far too much floppy hair, but I liked it. Some may fault this fictionalized gloss on the Guy Burgess spy case for reducing his motives to a bad experience at school. But those years are when so much of one’s character is forged. I was reminded of that scene in Oliver Stone’s NIXON, when John Ehrlichman says that the Constitution is hanging by a thread because “the old man went to Whittier instead of Yale.”

DVD: North by Northwest (1959)

It’s basically a perfect movie. We all know that. So a word about the advertising. The DVD includes a trailer hosted by Alfred Hitchcock, a second theatrical preview, and a TV commercial. And the crop-dusting plane doesn’t appear in any of them, so that legendary sequence came as a complete surprise. If the movie were coming out now, it would be the centerpiece of the campaign.

Miscellaneous: Links

In lobbying Ron Howard to drop the albino assassin from his film adaptation of Dan Brown’s THE DaVINCI CODE, the National Organization of Albinism and Hypopigmentation (NOAH) notes that 2004 is only the second year in two decades that didn’t have an evil movie albino. Other than the twins in the MATRIX sequels, I couldn’t think of any of them. But the dermatology in the movies website has prepared a handy list that even notes each albino character’s moral nature for easy reference.

Two good pieces from the New York Times. First, an article on how HBO’s THE WIRE served as a manual for a Queens drug gang. And a lovely obituary for nightclub comic Gene Baylos. I wish I’d had the chance to see him perform.