Drama : [Last Film I Watch] The Portrait of a Lady (1996)

[Last Film I Watch] The Portrait of a Lady (1996)

Title: The Portrait of a Lady
Year: 1996
Country: UK, USA
Language: English, Italian
Genre: Drama, Romance
Director: Jane Campion
Screenwriter: Laura Jones
based on the novel of Henry James
Music: Wojciech Kilar
Cinematography: Stuart Dryburgh
Nicole Kidman
John Malkovich
Barbara Hershey
Martin Donovan
Viggo Mortensen
Richard E. Grant
Valentina Cervi
Mary-Louise Parker
Christian Bale
Shelley Duvall
Shelley Winters
John Gielgud
Rating: 7.4/10

Jane Campion’s fifth feature is an egregiously overlooked period adaptation of Henry James’ popular eponymous novel published in 1881, as a much-awaited follow-up to her Oscar-winning feminist paragon THE PIANO (1993), and recruits a sublime cast including two acting legends Winters and Gielgud, who deign to limited roles in their twilight years, the disappointment is quite plausible, a common expectation overkill. Now, nearly two-decades later, it is time to give it a level-headed appraisal.

Set in the Victorian era, a 23-year-old American maiden Isabel Archer (Kidman) arrives in England to stay with her prosperous uncle Mr. Touchett (Gielgud), and is admired by her cousin Ralph Touchett (Donovan), who is inflicted with consumption. Isabel brushes aside a marriage proposal from a British nobleman Lord Warburton (Grant), since it is just too conventional for her, but as a “modern” woman, she also rebuffs the persistent courtship of a fellow American Caspar Goodwood (Mortensen), whom she thinks unsuitable for her and more importantly, she takes marriage quite lightly. After receiving a munificent fortune bequeathed by her uncle, which verily is suggested by Ralph and occasioned the interest from Madame Serena Merle (Hershey), an American compatriot, who introduces her to an art collector Gilbert Osmond (Malkovich) in Florence, her nature of free-will will succumb to a horrid marriage in Rome and more startling truth will be revealed from Osmond and Serena, finally she escapes to England to visit Ralph on his deathbed, divulges her inner feelings for him, but the ambiguous ending leaves audience assuming that Isabel’s future is still uncertain.

The picture is a dialogue-driven rite-of-passage, where the young Isabel rebels against the accepted social protocol, but unfortunately becomes the victim of the malevolence emitting from those who harbour the ulterior motivations (Osmond is impatiently eager to marry off his daughter to the highest bidder, and Serena, whose motive is rather oblique at the start, but makes the perfect sense when a major twist is laid bare), meanwhile it profoundly inquires into the internal states of a beauty who owns everything (wealth, youth and independence), perpetually courted by the opposite sex, and swirled to lose her own footing in the process. This time Campion’s feminist angle is less caustic but percolates understatedly through Isabel’s trials and tribulations (from her dreamlike sexual arousal foursome, to the black-and white vintage footages of her journey under the hypnosis of Gilbert’s deadly charm). Running around 2 and a half hours, with the winsome trappings such as graceful camerawork, majestic art production and an engrossing score, the film is Campion’s most ambitious project to date, it is a crying shame to receive the cold shoulder.

Kidman is brave enough to restrain from her usual detached elegance and flourishes in the inner-searching voyage where Isabel would eventually come clean to her own true feeling, however unfathomable it is, a very exacting performance for her. Malkovich is the archetype of being viciously seductive, pulls off a much more convincing job than his Vicomte de Valmont in Stephen Frears’ DANGEROUS LIAISONS (1988), another period extravaganza. But the real show-stopper is Ms. Hershey, triumphantly oscillates between scheming and confessionary, even stirs up more pathos in her own subplot, it becomes her only Oscar-nominated performance so far. If one must find fault among the fine cast, I have to pick Martin Donovan, whose contemporary look and uninviting disposition fail to bring Ralph Touchett, the true soul-mate of Isabel but curbed by his illness, to the foreground, which really causes a markdown in the film’s emotional culmination. Be that as it may, the film should have received a more enthusiastic reception, and especially for Jane Campion, she is a mainstay figure among contemporary female filmmakers and deserves more opportunities entrusted upon her talent.

http://lasttimeisawdotcom.wordpress.com/ My Diva Trinity: Dench, Moore and Blanchett

Re: [Last Film I Watch] The Portrait of a Lady (1996)

Re: [Last Film I Watch] The Portrait of a Lady (1996)

yeah, you should definitely check it!

http://lasttimeisawdotcom.wordpress.com/ My Diva Trinity: Dench, Moore and Blanchett

Re: [Last Film I Watch] The Portrait of a Lady (1996)

This was definitely an AMAZING film.

The scene where Nicole walks through the front doors, and the sound you hear it making as they close also reminds one of what you'd hear inside of a PRISON.

And that's also pretty much what she ends up living inside of ... is a PRISON with a PRISON WARDEN.

JANE also did a GREAT JOB in TOP of the LAKE, which is a 7 part MINI SERIES.

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