The 75th Venice Film Festival has started very promising. The opening film of Wednesday, which was discussed yesterday in these pages, was the fascinating and moving First Man, about the life of Neil Armstrong in the run-up to his memorable 1969 moonwalk.
The choice of yesterday's festival films offered more film fun. The favorite, directed by Yorgos Lanthimos and seen in the ludicrously corrupt court of the English queen Anne (Olivia Colman), while the Spanish succession war rages on the continent, is an absolute joke.
Colman will of course soon play Queen Elizabeth II in the Netflix series The Crown. It is safe to say that this royal trip does not really give us a taste. Her Anne is more like another Elizabeth: Miranda Richardson & # 39; s Queenie in the TV sitcom Blackadder. She is childish, tantalistic, full of self-pity and needs constant childcare in the hands of her lifelong but infinitely more glamorous friend, Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough (Rachel Weisz).
At the beginning of the film Anne shows a model of the fantastic palace that she gave her and her husband, the Duke (Mark Gatiss), to mark his famous triumph during the Battle of Blenheim.
But that victory did not really end the war, Sarah emphasizes. "Oh, I did not know & # 39 ;," replies the Queen, who is not only weak, but also crippled by gout, overweight and gets food until she indulges. Her courtiers can flatter her absurdly, but not the camera.
Olivia Colman as Queen Anne in the movie The Favorite which will be released in November
Colman, stumbling in the corridors of her palace (actually Hatfield House, in Hertfordshire), gives a rowdy and certainly non-vain performance.
Weisz is also excellent, Sarah sometimes plays almost like the thigh-popping head boy in a panto. Similarly, Emma Stone as Abigail Hill, an ambitious, slavish servant who first strikes affection in Sara & # 39; s, and then the queen.
Abigail comes from an aristocratic family, indeed her father was Sarah's cousin. But he was also irrevocably fearless. & # 39; When I was 15, my father lost me in a card game & # 39 ;, says Abigail business. Sarah throws her in condescension a job as a kitchen maid.
Abigail, however, has not arrived at the court to scrub floors. When she uses her foraging skills to make a herbal treatment for the gout of the queen, she begins her inexorable rise in the hierarchy of the court.
Then she discovers that there is a very secret dimension in the relationship between Sarah and the Queen, who even have nicknames, Mrs. Freeman and Mrs. Morley, for each other.
How can she use this knowledge to her advantage?
In this phase it has occurred to the public that the title of the film may not refer to Weisz & # 39; s calculating duchess, but to Stone & # 39; s socially-climbing servant. Yet Sara will still supplant a number as the power behind the throne.
She is politically astute, an important ally of the prime minister (James Smith), while he wants to levy taxes to subsidize the war effort led by her heroic husband in the field.
Her sworn enemy is the leader of the opposition, Robert Harley (Nicholas Hoult), who wants to outwit Sarah by recruiting Abigail as a spy.
Handy, his protégé Colonel Masham (Joe Alwyn) finds Abigail rotten. & # 39; Have you come to seduce or rape me? & # 39; She asks, as he sneaks into her room one evening.
& # 39; I am a gentleman, & # 39; Masham replies indignantly.
& # 39; So, rape then, & # 39; she murmurs.
All these bosses and chicanes would be nice enough, but it is given a raw twist by Lanthimos, working from a very funny original scenario by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara.
He has a ball, in a beautiful scene, very literally, with the baroque fashions of that time – all those powdered wigs, rough cheeks and fake beauty spots. The Greek director has previously worked with Colman and Weisz at The Lobster 2015. I did not play rapsodies on that film, as many did, and preferred his 2017 photo The Killing Of A Sacred Deer. But this is his best so far; Lanthimos has an eye for the grotesque that fits better for open comedy than for quirky horror.
He is helped by a whimsical room-music score, and by Robbie Ryan's clever cinematography, which sometimes uses a fish-eye lens to cause further distortion of the distorted characters of the film.
The basic framework of the story is completely factual. Abigail Masham really perverted Sarah Churchill as the queen's favorite, if not ruthless, woman when she is here.
But cheeky and hilarious, Lanthimos also sprinkles the story with anachronisms, including a dance that is more Saturday Night Fever than House of Stuart and made the audience of Venice loud.
There is, however, a feeling of touch with all pleasure. Abigail finds a way to partially play Anne's heart with the 17 rabbits who keep the queen in her bedroom as replacements for the 17 children she has lost.
Yet a later act of callous cruelty reminds us that Abigail does not represent the greatest interests of her sovereign, in fact hardly has a heart.
The Duchess, for all her machinations, really does that. In his own heart this is a film about friendship.
The favorite opens in the United Kingdom on January 1st next year.
Mupper caper for adults only
Think of the Muppets or Sesame Street with all the extracted humor and joy, replaced by a barrage of feats and vulgar vulgarity that would have been made by over-enthusiastic fifth formers, and you have the Happytime murders, this week.
The starting point, and even the first few minutes, are promising. Director Brian Henson (son of Muppets maker Jim Henson) and screenwriter Todd Berger have made a film noir in Los Angeles, where second-class citizens are not poor blacks or latinos, but dolls from Muppet's doll.
Melissa McCarthy plays in The Happytime Murders, 2/5 by Brian Viner
Taking a classic film genre and giving it a sharp twist is nothing new – Alan Parker did it more than 40 years ago with Bugsy Malone. But well done, it can still be fun.
It took my wife and I about five minutes to realize that The Happytime Murders is not fun. On Monday night we watched the Odeon in Hereford, where even the cackling of four boys from puberty, for whom the highlight was a scene in which two dolls have unbridled and extremely messy sex, went out fairly quickly. The hero of the film is Phil Phillips (voiced by Bill Barretta), a private detective of the Sam Spade type who was the first non-human detective of the LAPD until he was kicked off the troops, stigmatized by the fabricated claim that he was photo would not make fellow dolls. After a massacre in a porn shop, Phil realizes that the targets of a distorted vendetta are members of The Happytime Gang, puppet TV stars.
He also investigates the murders of his former LAPD partner, the racist (ie anti-marionette) Connie, played by Melissa McCarthy. They hate each other but are forced to cooperate while trying to solve the killings and protect the rest of the cast, including the only human member, Phil's ex-lover Jenny (Elizabeth Banks) .
Maya Rudolph also appears as a dedicated secretary of Phil, but do not be fooled by the presence of some fine comic actresses; they are wasted in the service of a series of unsuitable seals and faint running gags, including one in which the character of McCarthy is mistaken for a man who has the musty hint of pure despair.
Fascinated by the comrades in the arms
This sumptuous image in Polish, also now, has rightly delivered Pawel Pawlikowski, born in Warsaw, but raised in Great Britain, the Best Director award in Cannes.
Shot in black and white, and only 84 minutes long, it is the beautifully told story of a decades-long love affair that defies boundaries of class and age, as well as post-war tensions between East and West.
It opens in 1949, in the countryside and now certainly communist Poland. Wiktor (Tomasz Kot) is a middle-aged music director who audition young men and women for a group of singers and dancers who want to demonstrate the traditions of the folk music audience. Among those auditions is the spirited, beautiful, generally seductive Zula (Joanna Kulig).
Wiktor is immediately beaten. Soon they are lovers, and he helps her to make a celebrated solo artist. The story follows them, via East Berlin, Paris and Poland again, with the misery and paranoia of state communism as a background, until 1964.
If Pawlikowski had really surrendered, Cold War could easily have run to a Dr. Zhivago-like plus of three hours. By telling his compelling story in less than one and a half hours, he shows what a consummate filmmaker he is.