Friday, April 13, 2007

Judi, Judi, Judi

If you are a fan of the GREAT Judi Dench, I have got something absolutely fantastic to recommend. Though she's been getting wonderful film roles in the last few years, most of her career has been spent in the theatre and the BBC has just released the Judi Dench Collection of eight (!) DVDs featuring her performances in plays and television. There is the four part 1966 TV series Talking to a Stranger, TWO versions of The Cherry Orchard (in 1962 she played Anya to Peggy Ashcroft's Madame Ranevsky; in 1981, she took on the role of Madame Ranevsky herself), Ibsen's Ghosts with Kenneth Branagh, Keep an Eye on Amelie, a French farce by Feydeau, Absolute Hell, in which she plays, "an oversexed, alcoholic proprietor of a bohemian nightclub in post-World War II London", Can You Hear Me Thinking and Going Gently. There are also three radio plays, including David Hare's Amy's View (she won a Tony for her performance). I was up until 2am last night just watching some of the bonus features - various interviews she's done over the years. There is an amazing one with Alan Titchmarsh of all people - at the end of it, she sings "Send in the Clowns" as she was appearing at the time in Sondheim's A Little Night Music. I've heard many versions of this song, but Judi brings such pain, regret and cynicism to her rendition, that I ended up watching it three times in a row. This performance alone is worth the price of the box set. Now I just have to find the time for a little Dench marathon. I also highly recommend Trevor Nunn's Macbeth, with Dench playing opposite Ian McKellen. It too is available on DVD.

And the DVD of Notes on a Scandal comes out next week. If you haven't seen this movie (one of her very, very best roles) or read the book (which has one of the most scary and heartbreakingly sustained narrative voices I have ever read) you are in for a real treat. I much prefer the ending of the book, but totally accept the changes that screenwriter Patrick Marber had to make for the film. He was the perfect choice to tackle the script, having written one of my favourite plays, Closer, which he also adapted for the screen and was a pretty decent movie, although it would have been even better if Cate Blanchett (the original choice) had tackled the role of Anna, instead of Julia Roberts. Many people I know actually hated that film because of the narcissim and general disagreeableness of the characters, but that was the whole point. You aren't expected to LIKE them. Marber is apparently at work now tackling Ian McEwan's Saturday. I wait in deliciously nervous anticipation.

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