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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday July 28, 2020 

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A society-rich hunting weekend in November 1932 at stately Gosford Park turns into a murder mystery. Sir William McCordle (Michael Gambon) and his wife Lady Sylvia (Kristin Scott Thomas) play host to an assortment of upper class guests – plus a couple of Americans - and their below stairs servants as the fateful weekend unfolds and several secrets unravel.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Only for Altman would people like Derek Jacobi or Stephen Fry play a cameo, in what is perhaps the most ambitious and Altman-esque films of the (76 year old) Altman. But he doesn’t lampoon or cannibalise his work, nor does he allow self indulgence to get more than a whiff in this entertaining and observant work, blessed with the great chemistry of a well-honed script in the hands of a well-polished cast. It must have taken enormous juggling and logistics to not only get them all on set at the right time, but to have them hit their marks, not to mention deliver credible characters and lots of oozy undercurrent of emotion and tension. And the thing is, all this strain doesn’t show. Slips down easy as olive oil, and the flavour is just as complex and satisfying. It’s almost like watching a juggler with 18 balls in the air; we marvel at how he does it, hardly asking why. Well, Altman is a bit more forthcoming in that department. It’s great fun, that’s why! Never mind the profound subtext and the social comment circa 1932, this is grabbing an idea and turning it into a story that can keep us entertained for over two hours. It’s all about people and their weaknesses, strengths, contradictions, sexual drives, moral ambiguities and other trials and tribulations, all come together in one place for a few days so we can watch them squirm. Wonderful stuff.

Review by Louise Keller:
A crackling tale of Altmanesque delights, Gosford Park is an enthralling melting pot of upstairs and downstairs snobbery that canvasses love, luck, dreams and chance. Robert Altman and Bob Balaban may have concocted a murder mystery, but the thrills mostly come from marvellous characterisations and a who's who of British cinema, dishing it out in fine style. A sparkling script with enough business to keep the nosiest busy body satisfied, we discover that there really isn't that much that separates 'above stairs' from 'below'. Acid tongues, protruding talons, vying for favours and confidences – and after all everyone appears to have something to hide. The great pleasures come from getting to know them all – and what a marvellous cast this is. 'The ones we hate last forever,' observes Lady Sylvia, ironically speaking about her husband's pampered pouch. An interweaving of overlapping stories and dialogues come to live with crisp editing and sharp sound, while we are immersed in rich production design detailed to the very last minutiae. A delectable classical score branches into jazz, and it's a pleasure to watch urbane, talented Jeremy Northam add singing to his considerable repertoire. What a joy is Maggie Smith, the epitome of a dame, with her sharp eye, distinct snobbery and disdainful detachment. Other stand outs include Kelly MacDonald's poignant maid; this century's Bogart - Clive Owens, as the darkly mysterious valet; Kristen Scott-Thomas' icy, elegant lady of the house, scene stealer Ryan Philippe - very much at home in the ladies' bedrooms; Michael Gambom as the gruff lord of the manor; Emily Watson's heartfelt Elsie; and Helen Mirren's housekeeper with a trap of a mind. Balaban amuses as the American film producer who is so bored that he can't stop himself from reconnecting to his film world via telephone. Visually glorious, the film envelopes us in the richness of floor to ceiling paintings, silver candelabras and exquisite table settings and surrounds. I must say, I rather felt like a slap up silver service dinner and a dry martini with a juicy olive by film's end. Gosford Park is a delectable treat.

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Andrew L. Urban talks to Oscar-nominated screenwriter




CAST: Stephen Fry, Michael Gambon, Richard E Grant, Kelly MacDonald, Helen Mirren, Jeremy Northam, Clive Owen, Ryan Phillippe, Maggie Smith, Kristin Scott Thomas, Emily Watson – and Bob Balaban, Alan Bates, Eileen Atkins, Derek Jacobi, Camilla Rutherford, Charles Dance, Sophie Thompson, Meg Wynn Owen, Teresa Churcher, Sarah Flind

PRODUCERS: Robert Altman, Bob Balaban, David Levy

DIRECTOR: Robert Altman

SCRIPT: Julian Fellowes (from an idea by Robert Altman and Bob Balaban)


EDITOR: Tim Squyers ACE

MUSIC: Patrick Doyle


RUNNING TIME: 137 minutes



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