Tag Archives: Silk

The Lady Vanishes

the lady vanishesI quite liked this little TV movie. I think the key to my enjoyment of it was that I have never seen the 1939 Hitchcock version of this same story.  It’s best not to compare anything to a Hitchcock film. The film aired on PBS in August to little fanfare, but I thought it was fairly good.

The movie revolves around Iris Carr, a free-spirited independent young woman on holiday in Croatia. She’s played by Tuppence Middleton (no relation to Pippa & Kate). Iris leaves behind her lecherous friends and catches a train back toward home (England). A fellow Englishwoman, Miss. Froy befriends her at the beginning of the trip. Iris goes to sleep, and when she wakes up, Miss. Froy has vanished.  The others in her compartment insist that there never was an Englishwoman.

If this is sounding familiar, it might be because of the Jodie Foster movie, Flightplan. I never actually saw that movie, but from the trailers I surmised that though the plot is virtually identical, it’s her daughter that disappears and not a stranger.  Trying to convince a woman her own daughter doesn’t exist is a bit far-fetched.  But a stranger?

I once sat next to a man on an overnight bus from London to Edinburgh. He slept for the first few hours.  When the bus stopped at a gas station and we all got out to use the ‘loo’ or get some snacks, he didn’t come back to his seat.  I watched them close the doors, thinking maybe I should say something.  His hat was still there on the seat.  I’m glad I didn’t say something, because I spotted him later, sitting in a different seat.  But, the point is, I couldn’t really have picked him out of a lineup if anyone had needed me to.  Dark hair…male…white-ish?  Sleepy.  That would narrow things down for the police.

So to think of meeting a stranger for a few minutes only, and then being so assured of who and what she was, despite contradictions from impartial observers…anyone would doubt what they saw.

The frustrating thing about this story is that we, the audience, of course know that she is real.  We see her with Iris, of course, but we also know that several of the people claiming she didn’t exist are lying. And we see why they are lying.  They’re all English, and they’re all lying because they don’t want to be inconvenienced by telling the truth.  A couple on an illicit weekend (he’s married) don’t want it to get out that they were holidaying together.  Scandal.  A vicar and his wife need to get home to their son, who they’ve learned is sick with Spanish Flu (you’ll remember Spanish flu from its determination to kill everyone on Downton Abbey). Then there are two old biddies who are busy passing judgment on Iris for being (what they view as) a disreputable lady, rather than helping her look for the woman.  We see lots of English people, all of whom refuse to be inconvenienced.  They know someone may be missing, and they lie to Iris’s face about it.  Terrible.

There’s even a condescending Oxford professor who I could not hate more.  If he was a doctor, I could easily imagine him as the husband from The Yellow Wallpaper. He’s the first to suggest that Iris may need to be committed for ‘observation’.  A doctor on the train, closely allied with the Croatian family Iris believes is responsible for Miss Froy’s disappearance, whispers in everyone’s ear about how Iris might be taken care of.  Drugged and shipped off to an asylum.  This is the bad guy saying this–but it’s also the ‘good guys’ saying this.  The Oxford professor. The love interest!

Let’s talk about the love interest.  Tom Hughes (from Cemetery Junction and Silk) plays Max Hare, a young man who agrees to help Iris for the obvious reason that she’s quite beautiful.  She needs his help because she doesn’t speak the language(s) of the region. The professor is his professor.  Max has just met Iris, so he’s understandably unsure of whether to believe her.  She is sure of herself, but she acts very flighty, and everyone else contradicts her statements.  Max believes her because he’s young and she’s beautiful and he wants to help her. But…his belief wavers at critical points.  Talked into calming her by the professor and the doctor, he slips her a sedative.  Uses her trust in him to give her drugs, believes he’s acting in her best interest.  Not his best moment.

There are some really interesting themes in this story.  It definitely makes a fairly obvious comment about the English and their morality–though it is important to note that nearly all of the people who kept quiet in the beginning, tell the truth in time to help.  The story is also pretty xenophobic, with the Slavic Baroness as the villain of the piece, and some institutional corruption thrown in to make you really want to stay in England for the rest of your life and never venture onto that savage continent.  But the thing that bothered me most about it was the threat of committing Iris.  This was a really big problem for many upper-class women.  Read some 19th-century literature and you’ll see it everywhere.  Lady Audley’s Secret, The Woman in White.  Ladies who make trouble for their families, their husbands, or anyone in authority, are declared mentally unstable and shipped off to an asylum for the rest of their days.  Iris was particularly vulnerable, because she has no family and no advocates.

I really like Iris, actually. She’s independent to a fault, freely admits her own bad qualities (she’s selfish and impatient).  But at the moment when she can do something important, right a potential wrong, she doesn’t give up.  Of course, I am thoroughly irritated by the fact that she doesn’t see any need to speak other languages, and doesn’t understand why more foreigners don’t speak English.  Proves that it’s not just Americans who are known to think that way, however.

Problems exist with this TV movie, independent of any comparison to Hitchcock.  Some of the threads of the story are never picked up or explained. Red herrings are far more useful when they actually have an explanation in the end.  Iris hears shots fired when she’s walking around her hotel, at the very beginning of the story.  Her train ticket reservation is gone, and she has to bribe the attendant to get on the train. Someone hits her on the head when she’s waiting on the platform, and she nearly misses the train.  There are bodies near the track.  It’s all very eery, and works to give the audience many possible theories on whodunnit, but then those things are never explained later on.  I like a mystery that connects all of the dots, so that you don’t feel quite so much like you were manipulated.

That being said, I thought the acting was good and the set was really quite beautiful. The train gave a really claustrophobic feeling to the action, and the vague location in foreign lands made Iris seem more lonely and isolated from her own society and those likely to help and believe her.  Obviously the movie takes place in the first half of last century, but it still works.  Everyone who’s traveled somewhere they don’t speak the language has had moments of that same fear.  The difficulty of making oneself believed, and the feeling that this would never happen if you were home where you belong.  I have a personal story about getting lost with no money in Croatia in the middle of a rainstorm.  But that’s a story for a different blog.

Summer British TV

Summer and Winter seem to be when the best of the British channels finally hits our shores. This summer is no exception. Just because Doctor Who is over, and Downton Abbey is months away, don’t despair! There are a lot of premieres in Summer and early fall. Starting in chronological order:

Family Trees

Family TreeChris O’Dowd’s new show on HBO started last month, and I have really enjoyed it so far! It’ll be running every Sunday through early July. Chris plays Tom, a somewhat depressed, slightly pathetic man living in London. His great-aunt dies and leaves him a trunk of family paraphernalia. He gets interested in his history, and goes about tracing his family lineage by finding out more about the objects in the trunk. It’s a very British show, so far, but later Tom does take a trip to the states to find out more about one branch of his family. It’s a hilarious show, very self-effacing and extremely odd. Tom’s sister, uses a monkey puppet to voice all her strangest and most offensive thoughts. She has conversations with this monkey all the time; she goes everywhere with the monkey. Tom also has a best friend, Pete, who is dumb as a post, and his dad is played by the always hilarious Michael McKean (of Clue and Spinal Tap fame). The show relies on awkward and embarrassing moments to make you laugh, which is a theme with British TV I think. Probably because awkward situations are the biggest fear of most English people.

Here’s a trailer (though I must warn you that it plays up the American part of the show far more than has happened in each episode yet):

In the Flesh

In the FleshThis is a miniseries that started June 6th. I’m not a zombie person, okay? I’ve read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, but that’s about it. Okay, I’ve seen Zombieland. And 28 Days Later. And Shaun of the Dead…okay I’ve consumed more zombie books/movies than I thought. Still, it’s not a concept I’m particularly attracted to. On the other hand, this is only a 3-part miniseries, so I might as well give it a try. It aired in the UK and March, to generally positive reviews. These zombies are presented as a socially-marginalized minority, have been diagnosed with PDS (Partially Deceased Syndrome), and have been rehabilitated with medication and cosmetics. It sounds vaguely like True Blood‘s approach to vampires. At least In the Flesh won’t be just another scary movie a la Dawn of the Dead. I’m willing to give it a try. My only qualm is that I’m not very good with gore. Even in comedy films like Shaun of the Dead, I’m horrified by the sights and sounds associated with…zombies eating human flesh. Particularly while said human is alive. But it’s on BBC America, so it can’t be too bad. Here’s the trailer:

On June 23rd, the second season of Copper premieres.

Copper trioI was on the fence about this show throughout the first season. The three characters I liked (conveniently pictured above) are all coming back, so I’m going to give it a try (new motto for me?). This show always seems to be on the edge, teetering on the precipice of me not wanting to watch it anymore. I dislike the violence and blatant corruption, but I like the fact that it is set in the 19th century, and I think it always has potential to be a really great show. I’m hoping this year, now that it is a bit more established, it will reach that potential. Here is the trailer:

Also, on June 30th, the twentieth season of Top Gear premieres in the UK. No word yet on BBC America’s air dates, but last season they were only about a week behind, so hopefully more info will be forthcoming.

In early July, PBS will begin airing Endeavour, a prequel to the long-running Inspector Morse detective series. I’ve only seen one or two episodes of Inspector Morse, so this wasn’t on the top of my Must-See list. But, I had second thoughts when I saw who they cast as Morse:

EndeavourAdd to the obvious appeal of…whoever this guy is…it’s still set in Oxford. Oxford is so picturesque, and so quintessentially English (it’s what we think of in America when we think of an English village) that I could watch just about anything that takes place there. Plus, I have a certain weakness for incredibly smart, rail-thin detectives, even when they are not played by Benedict Cumberbatch. It’s only 4 or 5 episodes, so I’m going to go ahead and watch. I hope not much will be lost on me for not having followed the original series closely. Trailer is here:

The same night Endeavour premieres, the biggest thing since sliced bread is set to hit BBC America.

BroadchurchDavid Tennant stars in Broadchurch and uses his Scottish accent, which is my favorite thing in the world. This show was a huge hit in the UK this Spring, and I’ve been waiting anxiously for it since. A second series has already been announced.

It’s a whodunnit murder mystery set on the Dorset coast. In addition to Tennant, Olivia Colman co-starred and co-produced the show, and Arthur Darvill (Rory!) also co-stars. This is at the top of my Must-See List, FYI. Trailer:

Since I will be thoroughly busy watching all of these shows, I’m glad there is a bit of a break before more begin. The next one starts August 18th. It’s called The Lady Vanishes.

The Lady VanishesPBS is airing this remake of a Hitchcock thriller about a woman who goes missing, and another who tries to alert authorities about the incidence, but is not taken seriously. Listen, I tend to think any remake of a Hitchcock film is just a terrible idea. Are they going to improve on his direction? No. Is the addition of color going to add more suspense and creepiness? No. Are there modern actresses/actors who could play these roles better than the likes of Grace Kelly and Jimmy Stewart? Hell no. But, this actually got pretty good reviews, so I’m going to watch and keep an open mind. I’ve never seen the original, so that should help. Trailer:

At the end of August, PBS is also airing Silk, a legal drama. Prepare your powdered wigs, we’re off to the Old Bailey!

SilkI don’t have a lot of info on this one, partially because the title is very hard to Google well. Apparently it deals with two rival barristers. PBS is airing it in 3 two-hour increments from August 25th-September 8th. Bonus-it features Rupert Penry-Jones, of Whitechapel. Less of a bonus–his character looks like a d-bag, judging by the trailer:

Next, starting September 3rd, the all important Idris Elba returns to my life on BBC America.

luther series 3You gorgeous man, you.

There’s not a proper trailer for this one yet (that I could find), but they made an ‘announcement trailer’

Judging by this video, I’m guessing the episodes for the new season will disturb me just as much (if not more) than the last two seasons. Don’t care. Idris Elba calls, and I must answer.

Last, but not least:

The ParadisePBS is airing this one on October 6th, and calling it The Paradise. It’s an adaptation of an Emile Zola novel, and was sort of squared off against Mr. Selfridge when it aired in the UK, because of the similar subject matter. The show revolves around the first department store in NE England. It looks a little more soapy to me, based on the trailer. But I plan to watch and compare. Bonus–Arthur Darvill is also in this one (briefly).

Beyond here, there be trailers:

I’m going to be a busy blogger over the next 3 or 4 months. Yay!