Monday, August 17, 2015


Gosford Park, written by Julian Fellowes, is MASH, written by Ring Lardner, Jr, filmed all these years apart, with both movies having the unmistakable stamp of Robert Altman's genius.  The major difference is that MASH is an anti-war movie, set in Korea, and Gosford Park is an Agatha Christie type murder mystery, set in the claustrophobic atmosphere of a shooting weekend in an English country house.  Otherwise, the two are just the same.  Of course not, but, as I watched the film, MASH came to mind more than once.

Bob Balaban, actor, director, and producer, convinced Altman to collaborate with him on the film and suggested Julian Fellowes to write the script.  The movie is perhaps more Downton Abbey than Agatha Christie, but the result is brilliant.  The two, with the assistance of casting director Mary Selway, gathered a splendid ensemble cast, in which major British actors sometimes play relatively minor roles.  The actors include Eileen Atkins, Alan Bates, Charles Dance, Laurence Fox, Stephen Fry, Michael Gambon, Richard E. Grant, Tom Hollander, Derek Jacobi, Helen Mirren, Jeremy Northam, Clive Owen, Maggie Smith, Kristin Scott Thomas, Emily Watson, and Balaban himself.  Phew!  Balaban is the sole character from the States, and, like the rest of us Yanks, he makes the usual hash of his visit to England.

Altman encourages cast members to improvise, sometimes to excellent and witty effect, and Gosford Park includes the same rapid fire crosstalk I remember from MASH and Nashville, another great Altman film. Even as the movie addresses serious social issues of class, money, sex, gender and sexual orientation, it does so with humor and without heavy-handed preachiness. 

I'd seen the movie in the theater when it was first released, and, because of the crosstalk, I knew I'd missed quite a bit of the dialogue.  Also, the cast of characters is quite large, and thus it's a challenge to keep track of who's who and the relationships, so I was pleased with the opportunity to see the film again on Netflix DVD.  Before I sent it back, I watched a third time and realized I'd still missed a lot the first and second times around.  Since I enjoy the film so much, I decided to buy the DVD.


kehf said...

Did you watch it with the the sub-titles on? I found that helped me catch many of the sotto voce quips. I love this film and watch it at least once a year. The cast is amazing and the social commentary delightful.

June Butler said...

I did, and I found they helped a lot. The film is wonderful and amazing. I can't wait to watch it again.

Russ Manley said...

I've watched the DVD numerous times. An interesting thing that I didn't realize until I read a review somewhere is that Altman keeps the camera moving very slightly in nearly every scene - giving a subtly floating perspective.

I too missed a lot of the offhand dialogue - next time I watch I will have to see if my DVD includes subtitles.

June Butler said...

Next time, I'll watch for the slightly moving camera. There is a richness about the movie that attracts at least some of us to watch it over and over.

JCF said...

Wasn't Jeremy Northam in this also?

Here's the movie that *I* am eagerly awaiting! [A time period you'll remember, cher Mimi <3]

June Butler said...

Yes, I added Northam's name to the list, because he had a fairly prominent part in the film.

This is the first I hear of Carol, which looks interesting. I wonder why the film won't been released before November.

JCF said...

Oscar bait.