Prince Amerigo, Wigram or Peter Mann for Jeremy Northam Night?

17 Aug

After a short break, we’re resuming our weekly Jeremy Northam Night this Friday (20 August), originally introduced for those of us missing our weekly dose of Jeremy as Dr Matt Proctor in Miami Medical. It’s also a good way to get to know Jeremy’s work if you’re new to admiring this extremely talented actor. Why not join in! As a little helping hand or aide memoire to enable your decision-making, here’s a quick round up of this week’s choices…

Jeremy Northam and Kate Beckinsale in The Golden Bowl

The Golden Bowl (2000, dir. James Ivory) is based on the Henry James novel of 1904. It’s a Merchant-Ivory period drama, and the screenplay is by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala (Room with a View, The Remains of the Day, Howard’s End). Ever the chameleon, Jeremy is almost unrecognisable as an impoverished Italian prince, Amerigo, who is to marry Maggie Verver (Kate Beckinsale), the daughter of a wealthy American art collector (Nick Nolte). Maggie introduces her best friend Charlotte (Uma Thurman) to Amerigo, not realising the two used to be lovers. Maggie and Amerigo marry, and, after some match-making by Maggie, so do Maggie’s father Adam and Charlotte, but of course there would be no story if it all ended happily ever after at this point! It is a very complex, intense study of the relationships between these people and as such, is almost impossible to review effectively without using up an awful lot of your time (that’s my excuse, anyway!). Of necessity, the movie glosses over some of the intricacies of the novel, but it is certainly not played out in an obviously simplified way.

This is not one of Merchant Ivory’s best known nor most successful movies, possibly because the story is rather ‘difficult’. However, and as you would expect, it looks and sounds gorgeous, and each member of the equally sumptuous cast is excellent. Personally, it’s a movie I return to and have yet to tire of.

…It is doom, preceded by warmth, love and, of course, good manners, which defines the lives of a rich American art dealer (Nick Nolte), his wide-eyed daughter (Kate Beckinsale), her manipulative friend (Uma Thurman), and the friend’s silver-tongued lover (Jeremy Northam), with the latter two continuing to see one another after Beckinsale and Northam are married.

Certainly all the performances are flawless and each actor successfully fine-tunes the gap between what’s said and what’s not. Moreover they do well not to drown in a film that is stuffed with dialogue…

Though The Golden Bowl intermittently drags in only the way that staunch period pieces can drag, there are more than enough quality aspects to make this an entertaining time. The cast is uniformly (and not surprisingly) fantastic, with Northam offering a shockingly authentic Italian accent, Huston at the top of her ‘arched eyebrow over bemused countenance’ game, James Fox (as her ever-understanding husband) offers a few bits of rascally charm, Nick Nolte is, well, he’s Nolte-esque and therefore always watchable, and Beckinsale overcomes a few rough moments to offer a truly sympathetic performance….the lovely Uma Thurman. Perhaps unjustly labeled as a b-level actress, her turn here is nothing short of superb.

My apologies for the poor quality of the trailer.

Dougray Scott and Jeremy Northam in Enigma

Enigma (2001, dir. Michael Apted) is a favourite amongst Jeremy’s fans. Wigram is one of his most memorable and accomplished performances on film, and although he is not intentionally the main character, he is widely credited with walking away with the movie. Tom Stoppard penned the screenplay, adapted from Robert Harris’ best-selling novel about WWII codebreakers at Bletchley Park in England. Dougray Scott is codebreaking genius Tom Jericho, who returns to Bletchley Park after a nervous breakdown to find Claire (Saffron Burrows), a woman he had been infatuated with, has disappeared. With the help of  Hester (Kate Winslet), he tries to find out what has happened to her, whilst also being involved in a race against time to break the Germans’ Enigma code. Things become more mysterious and suspenseful when sinister government intelligence officer Wigram arrives and begins investigating Jericho and Hester and their connection to Claire (was she passing secrets to the Germans?). Apparently, the screenplay did not include the character of Wigram originally, but it is the tension between Jeremy’s character (and it really is a wonderful performance; Jeremy gets all the best lines and makes more than the most of them) and Scott’s Jericho that makes the movie work so well. For me, it’s always been one of those movies where you’re never really sure quite what is going on and when it ends you’re not quite sure who did what or why, but actually, rather like a James Bond movie, it doesn’t really matter because you’ve been entertained!

…a complex tale of love, betrayal and high adventure as Tom and Hester quickly realize they must stay one step ahead of the Bletchley Park administration and the secret service, represented by the clever and persistent Wigram (Jeremy Northam)…,0,4017191.story

There comes a point in Michael Apted’s Enigma — more than one, actually — where Jeremy Northam shows up and you feel grateful. At these moments, the film, which is mostly a plotty and deeply self-admiring tale about British code-breakers during WWII, turns funny, even witty. This shift is a function of Northam’s wholly refreshing incongruity. It’s as if he’s acting in another movie, quite different from the one in which everyone else is trundling about…

I have tried and failed to find a trailer without this appalling voiceover…but you’ll get the gist! It’s almost made up for by John Barry’s gorgeous OST.

Jeremy Northam and Mira Sorvino in Mimic

Mimic (1997, dir. Guillermo del Toro) is, I should tell you upfront, a movie about slimy giant cockroaches. This may be all you need or want to know! I always find it remarkable that, having just played Mr Knightley in Emma so successfully, Jeremy chose to do this movie, but knowing his liking for variety, perhaps I shouldn’t be too surprised. Mira Sorvino is entomologist Dr Susan Tyler who, three years previously, had engineered a breed of insect designed to kill cockroaches (the roaches had been carrying a virulent disease that was killing children). Dr Susan’s bugs were supposed to die out after one generation, but weird goings-on and mutilated bodies suggest that perhaps all has not gone exactly to plan. Jeremy is Dr Peter Mann, fellow entomologist and Dr Susan’s lover, and both bug docs investigate what has gone wrong. It’s a highly entertaining movie, fast-paced, exciting, and with genuine shocks and thrills. Jeremy is completely convincing as the American scientist, he and Sorvino have an appealing chemistry, and both are affecting and likeable heroes. Jeremy is involved in some genuinely terrifying scenes that will have you twitching with fear. I’m not an expert nor a fan of this genre in general, but I would rate this as a better than average example of its kind and a very entertaining way to spend an evening. So long as you don’t mind a little slime…

…One does not attend Mimic hoping for more than a few new twists on the durable old idea; such movies, like thrill rides at parks, work every single time if they have been well planned and constructed. But Mimic is superior to most of its cousins, and has been stylishly directed by Guillermo Del Toro, whose visual sense adds a certain texture that makes everything scarier and more effective. It’s not often that a movie like this can frighten me, but I was surprised at how effective Mimic is….Del Toro is a director with a genuine visual sense, with a way of drawing us into his story and evoking the mood with the very look and texture of his shots. He takes the standard ingredients and presents them so effectively that Mimic makes the old seem new, fresh and scary.

Movies that attempt to make audiences wince, squirm and shriek come out all the time. But movies that actually succeed in inflicting that kind of sweet torture are rare. Mimic… is the real thing. It’s not just scary. It’s scary with bugs in it…Del Toro takes his characters to the limits of endurance, and takes the audience with them. Imagine the most terrifying scene in Jurassic Park. Mimic is like that, only more excruciating. Along the way, Del Toro finally accomplishes what he attempted in Cronos. He’s made a terrifying film of great elegance. With its threatening darkness and grimy faces, long shadows and flashes of blood red, Mimic is as beautiful an ugly thing as anyone could wish for.

So, those are this week’s diverse choices (once again, I marvel at Mr Northam’s range). Which do you fancy? I confess, I’m undecided! Once you’ve finished cogitating, vote here:

by henrysmummy2003

4 Responses to “Prince Amerigo, Wigram or Peter Mann for Jeremy Northam Night?”

  1. Martina August 18, 2010 at 1:26 pm #

    Thank you very much, Gill. It is always a great pleasure to read your blog. No need to say, that I agree completely with you: Jeremy Northam is able to do every characterization that is required! I think he has the talent to literally spoken ‘creep into a role’ with all it`s nuances, even the right accent. We have some Italian friends and their English with that rolling ” rrrr ” is precisely like Prince Amerigo`s. The Americans may judge Peter Mann`s accent. What I want to say is, that Jeremy Northam takes his profession very serious for the audiences sake and that`s why it is always a great delight to watch his perfomances!

    • henrysmummy2003 August 18, 2010 at 6:00 pm #

      Thank you Martina, it’s very kind of you to comment:-)
      I totally agree, Jeremy is not only extremely talented but also (from what we read by those who have worked with him) extremely professional and diligent in every role he undertakes, and his hard work pays off in the quality of his work. I wonder what you think of his German accent!

      • Martina Eisel August 19, 2010 at 4:10 pm #

        Oh yes, his German accent! I can assure you that Jeremy does it almost perfect! Best example is our beloved Dr. Hasselbacher. That rolled “r” again, “s” instead of “th” and all these more guttural sound. But even Jeremy can`t manage to speak e.g. “Leipzig” in the right way! I think it is to hard for English tongues to speak that “z” (and so he pronounced it “s”, Leip s ig). “Z” is so untrained to you English people as the “th” is to us Germans. (We kids were always told not to lisp, I can tell you, hard training for me)
        But….Jeremy is really good with German words as far as I can say from his audio-work, e.g. Kindergarten, Rucksack, “Max, mein Kind, mein Kind”, Volkswagen, Heinrich Dreser, and so on. He is amazing, a real expert!

        • henrysmummy2003 August 19, 2010 at 4:15 pm #

          I’m delighted to hear it (not that I doubted his expertise for a moment, of course!!). Thanks Martina! 🙂

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