Robert Tanitch reviews the latest DVDs
The Favourite (Fox Searchlight Pictures). Queen Anne (Olivia Colman, terrific) is in a wheelchair. She has gout and looks as ugly as a badger. (“Did you look at me? Did you? Did you? Look at me! Look at me! Don’t look at me! How dare you! Close your eyes!”) She had seventeen children; and only six were born alive. Only one survived infancy and he died at 12. She was greatly influenced by her close friend and confidante Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz) until she was supplanted by Sarah’s financially ruined cousin, the ruthless Abigail Masham (Emma Stone). Yorgos Lanthimos’ film explores the relationship and intrigue between these three unpleasant women without resource to historical accuracy. The drama, with its Baroque grandeur, fisheyes photography, Bach music, anachronistic script, includes not only lesbianism but also 17 rabbits, duck races, pelting a naked man with oranges and some extraordinary modern dancing. Nicholas Hoult as a Tory Minister in high wig, rouge and blanched face looks like a fop in drag.
Line of Duty Complete Series One to Five (Acorn), a police procedural drama, is compulsive viewing. The originality is it’s not cops v criminals, it’s cops v cops. The easiest way to get away with killing somebody is to be a policeman. The series, as you might guess, is a far cry from the old Blue Lamp days and was made without the support of the police. Who are the baddies? It’s difficult to tell. Jed Mercurio’s script, grounded in reality, keeps the viewer guessing. Tables are constantly turned. The twists invariably surprise. The lengthy interrogation scenes (relying so much on looks and glances in close-up) alternate with exciting and shockingly violent action. The series has been going on since 2012 and it is fascinating to watch the anti-police corruption squad (Adrian Dunbar, Vicky McClure, Martin Compston) age. The high-ranking bent coppers the trio are chasing are psychological complex. There are amazing performances by Lennie James, Daniel Mays, Craig Parkinson, Thandie Newton and Stephen Graham to name but a few of the excellent actors.
Colette (Lionsgate). Wash Westmoreland elegantly recreates a sumptuous Belle Epoque and one of its most infamous scandals, a salacious high-spirited menage a trois. A kiss on the lips by two women on stage causes a riot. The women are the famed French novelist Colette (Keira Knightley) and the transgender Missy, Marquise de Belbeuf (Denise Gough). Colette is married to Willy, an entrepreneur and jealous libertine (a bravura performance by Dominic West), who is always in financial difficulties. He takes all the credit for the best-selling novels he forces her to write and which feature Claudine, a bi-sexual young woman, based on Colette and whom every young woman wants to be.
Secret People (Network). Thorold Dickinson’s moral dilemma about public violence and private conscience was much under-rated by the critics in 1953 and the public stayed away in droves. Should violence be met with violence? Can murder be justified if it is political? An illegal left-wing organisation wants to assassinate a fascist dictator who is on a visit to London. A traumatised refugee (Valentina Cortese), whose father was murdered by the dictator, is forced by her former lover (a brutal charismatic Serge Reggiani) to deliver a bomb to an assassin and becomes more traumatised when the assassination goes horribly wrong. Audrey Hepburn in her first big role is cast as a classical dancer.
November (Eureka) is an Estonian fairy tale of unrequited love. A brutal old man wants to marry a village maiden who wants to marry a young man who is distracted by a visiting baroness. The greedy, ugly, cruel villagers live in medieval squalor. The dead (dressed in white) return from the dead for a chat. Supernatural figures made from tree branches, utensils and trash act as servants and mentors. A wolf plays a star role. A pig hogs it. Rainer Sarnet’s extraordinary and imaginative film is weird, bawdy, blasphemous, salacious, repellent and grotesque, yet beautiful, an instant classic.