Oscar Isaac – A major new star in the making

Robert Tanitch reviews the latest DVDs

INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS (Network). The Coen Brothers have another success. The story is set in Greenwich Village in the 1960’s A struggling folk singer is going nowhere. He has no money and sleeps on the couch of friends and acquaintances. He has various encounters and mishaps with his absurdly aged agents, a grotesque old jazz player and a ginger cat. The script, funny and sad, feels authentic and there is a charismatic performance in the leading role by Oscar Isaac, who is, very definitely, a star in the making.

WHERE ANGELS FEAR TO TREAD (Odeon). EM Forster’s Edwardian 1905 novel amusingly observes the difference between the stiff-upper-class Brits and the passionate Italian peasants. An English widow (Helen Mirren), who marries again and beneath her, dies in childbirth. The father is a young Italian. Who should have the baby? The father who loves him and will bring him up badly? Or her family who will not love the child but will bring him up properly? Charles Sturridge’s 1991 film feels like television; but it is impeccably acted by Rupert Graves and Helena Bonham Carter and pleasant to watch.

BOOMERANG (Eureka). Elia Kazan’s simplistic but effective 1947 semi documentary drama, shot on location, is based on a 1924 unsolved murder mystery. Politicians, lawyers and policemen are being harassed by the press and they want a quick arrest. Had it not been for the diligence of a State attorney an innocent man might have gone to the chair for a crime he had not committed.  The cast is led by Dana Andrews as the attorney and includes such actors of the Actors Studio and “Method” school as Lee J Cobb as the honest cop, Arthur Kennedy as the innocent, Sam Levene as a reporter, Ed Begley as a crooked politician and Karl Malden as the cop’s number 2. They all went on to highly successful careers on stage and screen.

BECOMING TRAVIATA (Axiom). Philippe Beziat’s documentary watches Jean-Francois Sivadier over-directing Natalie Dessay at Aix-in-Provence Festival in 2012. It’s brave of the singer to let a camera crew into the rehearsal room. The film will appeal to those who know Verdi’s opera really well and who are interested in the rehearsal process; but it feels incomplete. Beziat fails to give you what you want to see: the end result in performance on stage in front of an audience and to hear what the critics and public thought of it. Was the production actually any good?

DRAKE OF ENGLAND (Network) is historical (1588 and all that) rubbish, a lot of bowls, with cardboard characters and cardboard acting. The Spanish Armada is fought with toy models. Matheson Lang is so boring, more duck than Drake. Athene Seyler as Queen Elizabeth doesn’t even attempt to take the script seriously.

If you enjoy history plays and want to see something worthwhile let me strongly recommend you book tickets for the RSC’s very enjoyable and very well acted adaption of Hilary Mantel’s Tudor dramas, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, which are now playing at Aldwych Theatre in London for a limited season.

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