Arch of Triumph 1984 A British television film based on the novel by Erich Maria Remarque. Directed by Waris Hussein. (There was a 1948 version with Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer.) A find. Paris 1939. Having been tortured in a concentration camp for helping Jews escape, Ravic (Anthony Hopkins), an Austrian (listen to the accent) somehow made it to Paris (with a large facial scar). He has no passport, no papers, lives in a hotel with other refugees, and earns occasional money by illegally practicing surgery at a local hospital with a nonpartisan doctor grateful for his skill.
Ravic has two friends, Russian émigré, nightclub doorman Boris (Frank Finley), and a brothel owner, who also escaped. Otherwise, he keeps to himself. One night, he sees a distraught woman on a bridge about to commit suicide. Joan Madou (Lesley-Ann Down – best I’ve seen her) is exhausted and near hysterical. He buys the stranger a drink and takes her to his room with nothing but altruistic intentions. Ravic gets Joan a job (she’s a chanteuse) and eventually, reticently, lets her into his life.
Police finding him complicates things but not as much as his unfinished business with Gestapo Chief Haake (Donald Pleasance) who suddenly turns up in the city. Powerful and gritty. Ravic’s a wonderful character. All the acting is superior, especially Hopkins’. Unfortunately, the print is very dark. Rent on Amazon Prime.
Shadowlands 1994 Based on the stage play by William Nicholson. Directed by Richard Attenborough. In the 1950s, author (The Narnia Chronicles), academic, and confirmed bachelor C.S. Lewis (Anthony Hopkins) meets fan and poet Joy Davidman Gresham (Debra Winger) on her visit to England. He’s surprised at and compelled by her acuity and inhibition. Lewis’s housemate and brother Warnie (Edward Hardwicke) looks on with curiosity as the two establish a bond despite seemingly opposite characters. Joy’s marriage has dissolved. She’s a single mother and ill.
Though Lewis and Gresham marry partly to help her stay in England, the relationship stealthily deepens, changing his outlook for remaining years. Intelligent and moving. Joseph Mazzelo, James Frain, Julian Fellowes. Free with Amazon Prime.
Legends of The Fall 1994 Based on the novel by Jim Harrison. Directed by Edward Zwick. A sweeping, historical family drama taking us from the early 1900s through prohibition, topped by a segment in 1963. Locations almost compete with a story in which nature is as important as war, bigotry, and love. Retired Colonel William Ludlow (Anthony Hopkins) moves to the wilds of Montana building/running a ranch with the help of Cree Indian friend, One Stab (Gordon Tootoosis), hired hand Decker, his wife Pet, and their daughter Isabel Two.
The colonel’s wife goes back east leaving him to raise three sons: Responsible/practical Alfred (Aidan Quinn), adventurous, brooding Tristan (Brad Pitt), who’s immersed in Indian ways, and sweet, naïve Samuel (Henry Thomas), in his brothers’ shadows. Samuel returns from Harvard with fiancé Susannah (Julia Ormond), who finds herself drawn to Tristan and is coveted by Alfred. When the brothers go to war (powerfully played) for different reasons, she stays to keep William company.
Samuel is killed. Tristan blames himself. The men return. Susannah becomes lovers with Tristan who then leaves out of complex guilt. She eventually marries Alfred. When Tristan returns, he falls in love with and marries Isabel Two (Karina Lombard). Susannah can’t bear it. Violence, politics, and jealousy are powerful forces. Pitt rules here. The singular character is a frontiersman on a singular journey from the start. Indian ways are illuminating, emotion fraught. Long, but engrossing. Free with Amazon Prime.
Meet Joe Black 1998. Based on the 1934 film Death Takes a Holiday (which is wonderful). Directed by Martin Brest. Billionaire media mogul Bill Parrish (Anthony Hopkins), about to turn 65, begins to hear a voice in his head, but dismisses it as overwork. Favorite daughter Susan (Claire Forlani) meets and is attracted to a young man (Brad Pitt) in a coffee shop just before, unknown to her, he’s struck by a car and dies.
Death, “Joe Black” arrives at Bill’s door in the young man’s body. He’s come for Bill but will wait until after the birthday if the wise man agrees to be his guide on earth. Bill integrates Joe into his life, but everyone is suspicious. Joe learns about and appreciates life. Claire is confused. Hopkins is so fully dimensional he puts other actors to shame. Needs editing. Free with Netflix Stick to the original.
The Mask of Zorro 1998 Based on the character created by Johnston McCulley. Directed by Martin Campbell. An entertaining, romantic swashbuckler. Twenty years after the Mexican War of Independence during which Don Diego de la Vega (Anthony Hopkins) defended nationals as the masked fighter, Zorro, he escapes from prison determined to revenge the death of his wife, Esperanza, and the kidnapping of his daughter, Elena (Catherine Zeta-Jones) by corrupt governor Don Rafael Montero (Stuart Wilson)
Don Diego fatefully encounters a thief named Alejandro Murietta (Antonio Bandaras) who, as a child, saved Zorro’s life during his last fight. Despite cocky resistance, he trains the young man to be the new Zorro. Alejandro agrees only to revenge his own brother’s murder, but gets drawn in to the greater cause. The plan is risky and complex. Alejandro meets, fights, and is smitten by Elena. The girl eventually learns of her true heritage and attempts to help. Fighting is graceful, robust.
Sean Connery was initially cast in Hopkins role, but dropped out. Hopkins was attracted to being in an action film. Zorro brought both Catherine Zeta-Jones and Antonio Banderas to American attention. Bandaras trained 4 months with the Olympic fencing team, then joined the other two stars 10 hours a day for 2 more with fencing champion Bob Anderson. Free with Amazon Prime
Hearts in Atlantis 2001 Loosely adapted from Stephen King’s Low Men in Yellow Coats – NOT a horror story. Directed by Scott Hicks. Somewhat chilling, immensely moving. Told in flashback by Robert “Bobby” Garfield (David Morse) who returns to his old hometown for the funeral of his best boyhood friend. At age 11, Bobby (Anton Yelchin) was one of three musketeers with John Sully Sullivan (John Rothhaar) and Carol Gerber (Mika Boorem). Summer was filled with buoyant activity.
Bobby, however, returns home each day to a self-occupied mother, Elizabeth (Hope Davis), who spends increasingly more time working. (His dad died years ago leaving them in debt.) One day the upstairs apartment is rented by Ted Brautigan (Anthony Hopkins), a genteel, literary man who takes Bobby under his wing becoming both friend and mentor. Ted offers Bobby $1 a week in exchange for his reading the newspaper aloud as his vision is less than it should be. He also asks the boy to keep an eye on the neighborhood looking for any signs of the “low men.”
The new tenant knows things – how people are feeling, what will happen before it does. When Bobby starts to see evidence of the low men, he doesn’t tell Ted knowing he’ll leave. There are ugly run-ins with a town bully, signs that Bobby can also intuit things. Elizabeth learns a harsh lesson, Carol is rescued, Bobby discovers the truth about his father. Ted’s gift and and pursuers are explained.
Characters are well drawn. The conceit of Ted’s “secret” is intriguing. Relationships are palpable. The film is dedicated to its cinematographer who did a brilliant job, then died a few months before its release. Direction is also terrific. Get out your handkerchiefs. (I mean this in the best possible way.) Rent on Amazon Prime.
The Two Popes 2019 Adapted from Anthony McCarten’s play, The Pope. Directed by Fernando Meirelles. Compelling, nuanced, masterfully acted. Set in Vatican City after the leaks scandal that exposed alleged corruption and the blackmailing of homosexual priests.
Secretly about to retire after serving nine years, Pope Benedict XVI (Anthony Hopkins), summons Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio (Jonathan Pryce), himself about to resign as an archbishop, in order to convince him to reconsider. The two have some strongly differing views- the Pope is far more traditional – yet respect one another.
Personal histories are shared; roles of God and the church debated. Benedict admits he’s leaving to the astonished cardinal and suggests he might be a worthy successor. Bergoglio dismisses the possibility citing past presumptions about his political involvement with Argentinean dictatorship. The Pope also has regrets. They confess to one another…A story about two human, fallible men. Free with Netflix.
Amazon also carries The Silence of the Lambs and its sequel.
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