Lucy Popescu

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Posts Tagged ‘Timothy Spall’

Film review – Denial

Posted by lucypopescu on January 29, 2017

denialMick Jackson’s court room drama, Denial, focuses on the 1996 British libel suit brought by David Irving (Timothy Spall), the infamous Holocaust denier, against American historian Deborah Lipstadt (Rachel Weisz) and her publisher Penguin Books. Based on Lipstadt’s book, Denial: Holocaust History on Trial, and adapted for screen by David Hare, Denial offers some fascinating insights into Irving’s twisted logic and the intricacies of British law.

When Irving claims that Lipstadt’s book had attempted to destroy his reputation as a historian, Lipstadt is shocked to discover that the burden of proof is on the defendant. She is forced to come to London to argue her case with the help of British solicitor Anthony Julius (Andrew Scott), a rising star after having represented Diana in her divorce from Prince Charles. Irving’s claims are outrageous – that the gas chambers at Auschwitz were not used to kill Jews (according to Irving they were built to kill lice) and that Hitler had in fact opposed the murder of European Jewry. Because there is no photographic evidence of the actual genocide, these claims have to be tested in a court of law. More worryingly, Lipstadt’s representatives have to prove that Irving intentionally lied about the Holocaust and isn’t just effectively in denial.

Lipstadt has a formidable team working for her, including leading libel barrister Richard Rampton (Tom Wilkinson), while Irving chooses to represent himself in the hope of gaining public sympathy for what he refers to as a “David vs. Goliath” conflict. Even if one doesn’t already know the outcome of this renowned legal case, it’s pretty obvious who is going to triumph from the outset and this drains a degree of tension from the judge’s deliberations. Wisely, Hare’s screenplay focuses on Lipstadt’s conflicts with her legal team’s strategies and their refusal to allow her or any Holocaust survivors to take the stand. They argue that Irving, rather than the Holocaust, should be on trial. Lipstadt believes that survivors should not be denied a voice.

Apart from shots of Lipstadt’s seminars with her students, her morning runs, meetings with lawyers and a poignant visit to the remains of Auschwitz with Rampton, Denial is set largely in and around the court room. There are some excellent performances – in particular from Spall as the slippery and odious denier and Wilkinson as the wine-loving barrister who proves disconcertingly sharp-witted. Given the alarming rise of far right xenophobia, a film that portrays this memorable defence against fascism and the rewriting of history, feels exceptionally timely. There are more than a few parallels to be drawn between the swagger and deviousness of Irving and another well known falsifier, President Trump.

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Film Review – Ginger & Rosa

Posted by lucypopescu on February 14, 2013

ginger and rosaGinger & Rosa received a mixed reception on its theatrical release last year. The DVD is out this week and I must admit to being pleasantly surprised. The film covers similar moral territory to Lone Scherfig’s An Education (a teenage rites of passage/older man preying on young girl) and I found it as fascinating, less glossy and rather more poignant. At the heart of Sally Potter’s sensitive portrait of teenagers growing up in London, during the onset of the Cold War, are two stunning performances from Elle Fanning as Ginger and Alice Englert as Rosa

The two girls are inseparable. Their mothers gave birth to them in the same hospital, on the day the Americans bombed Hiroshima, and they’ve been friends ever since. Now it is 1962, a transitional time, the year of the Cuban Missile Crisis – London is not yet swinging and the sexual revolution is only just beginning. There is talk of nuclear war and Ginger is convinced that this might spell the end for them all.

Rosa comes from a broken home so likes to hang out in Ginger’s bohemian household. Ginger’s mother Natalie (Christina Hendricks) is a former artist, her father Roland (Alessandro Nivola) a pacifist, imprisoned during the war, and a writer. He’s also somewhat pretentious – asking Ginger not to call him ‘Dad’, because he thinks it sounds bourgeois – but she adores him.

When Ginger’s parents’ marriage falls apart the girls find themselves increasingly left to their own devices. On the cusp of adulthood, they play truant, smoke cigarettes and tentatively explore their attraction to boys. They try to look similar, share clothes and obsessions – there are two lovely moments when they iron each other’s hair (literally) and sit together in the bath to shrink their jeans. But as Rosa becomes more sexually precocious, Ginger turns towards politics and writing – she wants to be a poet. When Rosa becomes entwined with Ginger’s raffish father, now separated from Nat, Ginger seeks solace in poetry and is increasingly involved in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Ginger feels the sense of betrayal acutely and it is her attempts to come to terms with their duplicity that propels the second half of the film. Roland’s lack of remorse for his actions is all the more shocking given Rosa’s age and the fact he’s watched them grow up and blossom together.

The decision to use American actors may well have been to ensure box office appeal on both sides of the Atlantic but it pays off. Hendricks and Nivola make suitably glamorous, if troubled, parents and Fanning’s emotional range on camera is stunning. There are memorable cameos from Timothy Spall and Annette Bening as Nat’s concerned friends who offer Ginger advice about growing up. There’s a wonderful moment when Spall’s character, Mark, asks her sadly “Can’t you be a girl for a moment or two longer? You’ll be a woman soon enough.” Later, Ginger demonstrates her conflicted state when she moves in with Roland and takes her two teddies with her.

Potter also scripts and together with cinematographer Robbie Ryan creates a vivid sense of Britain, emerging from post-war austerity and facing another world crisis. I love the attention to period detail – the accents, clothes, hair, the poetry Ginger reads (TS Eliot), Roland’s love of jazz and his boho, somewhat dingy, London flat. This is a moving coming of age tale where you feel both the mother and daughter’s pain.

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