In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb_otcv3wwkz0vjyicozgz2ahej5uv

John Wick

The film breathes exhilarating life into its tired premise, thanks to some dazzling action choreography, stylish visuals and–most importantly–a vintage anti-hero performance from Keanu Reeves.

Thumb_j0gvkbn0bjd9wfkn6jxr1kbyu5

Low Down

Preiss' movie does a consistently excellent job of explaining the lure of jazz, and the psychology of addicts, their enablers and their children, without explaining…

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb_xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Thumb_jrluxpegcv11ostmz1fqha1bkxq

Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives
Other Articles
Life Itself Archives
Other Articles
Channel Archives

Reviews

Henry VIII and His Six Wives

  |  

If Henry VIII had been married only twice or three times, "Henry VIII and His Six Wives" might have been a better film. I suppose it's too late now to advise him against those last three marriages - monarchs don't construct their lives to fit neatly into movies - but there are so many comings and goings, weddings and beheadings, that eventually we grow tired of old Henry and his sex lives. 

A somewhat related version of this material was made into a 1971 television series by the BBC (and recently was repeated on Channel 11), and maybe that was the way to handle it: Give each wife her own segment, more or less, and make history into a classy soap opera with lots of flourishes and entrances and (especially in the case of the wives) exits. Keith Mitchell's performance on the series was so highly thought of, though, that British producer Nat Cohen decided to make a film out of the material, too. 

That's what this is: Not a re-edited version of the TV series, but a new film in its own right, starring not only Mitchell but also several of the other actors from television. The emphasis in the TV series is reflected by its title - "The Six Wives of Henry VIII" - but the purpose in the film was to tell the story more from Henry's point of view, and to consider him in terms of his reign as well as his marriages. And that's where the marriages get in the way: There's simply too much exposition called for here. So many events have to be dealt with, if only in passing, that the film never has the freedom to linger over characterizations, to explore the ways its people work. The wives, in particular, become rather vague about the edges. They're brought on, courted, found fault with and disposed, almost without ever having been asked how they felt about it all. Charlotte Rampling and Jane Asher and the other wives look all right and wear their clothes well, but they never seem to connect with the king. Mitchell, all grand gestures, sweeps right past them. 

The movie must have been a nightmare to direct, but it has been directed, competently, by Warris Hussein. He's done better work - his "Quacker Fortune Has a Cousin in the Bronx," with Gene Wilder, is a lovely and touching little film, and "The Possession of Joel Delaney," with Shirley MacLaine, was very underrated, particularly when compared with the possession movies we're getting these days. But here it's almost as if the movie defied intelligent organization. The story begins on Henry's deathbed, and then the poor chap's made to linger for two hours while we get his life in a series of flashbacks - deathbed memories, surely the most overworked and unnecessary way to tell any narrative. We see his wives through his eyes, all right, but not really through his mind; Mitchell looks great and acts with lots of gusto, but the movie never really deals with personalities and motivations. It's good to look at and that's about it.

Popular Blog Posts

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

"1941": An Appreciation and Interview with Bob Gale

An appreciation of "1941" and interview with Bob Gale.

A free man: L.M. "Kit" Carson, 1941-2014

An appreciation of filmmaker, writer and actor L.M. "Kit" Carson, a singular talent.

NYFF 2014: Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Inherent Vice”

A review of Paul Thomas Anderson's "Inherent Vice" from the 2014 New York Film Festival.

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus