|The Last September
The end of an era has often provided the historical backdrop for
intimate drama, whether it was invoking sexual mores (DANGEROUS
LIAISONS) or the collapse of a dynasty (THE LAST EMPEROR).
Acclaimed stage director Deborah Warner makes an accomplished
feature debut with THE LAST SEPTEMBER, an adaptation of
Elizabeth Bowen's novel charting the dissolution of the Anglo-Irish
aristocracy in 1920s Ireland.
Similar in feeling and texture to the unjustly neglected 1985 film
THE SHOOTING PARTY (and even harking back to Renoir's masterpiece
THE RULES OF THE GAME), THE LAST SEPTEMBER unfolds primarily in
the manor house of Sir Richard Naylor (the peerless Michael Gambon)
and his wife Myra (the inestimable Maggie Smith). Staying with them
is their spirited niece Lois (relative newcomer Keeley Hawes) who is
first glimpsed dancing in the verdant grounds with an army officer.
The beauty Lois has the potential to be a heart-breaker and much of
the plot revolves around the love triangle of her, an Irish republican
rebel (Gary Lydon) and the British officer who fancies her (David Tennant).
Bowen echoed those relationships in a similarly triangular one among
the house guests at the Naylor manse. Marda (a superb Fiona Shaw),
while pondering a proposal from a stockbroker she does not love,
rekindles an old relationship with Hugo Montgomery (Lambert Wilson)
whose flighty wife Francie (a fine Jane Birkin) appears oblivious but
senses something afoot.
That portentous feeling Francie possesses also wafts over others.
The eccentric Sir Richard is cognizant of the coming social upheaval.
He and Myra may consider themselves as Irish but to the locals and
the rebels they are British. Like dinosaurs, they have outlived their
usefulness and must somehow adapt or go extinct. Myra, on the other
hand, is oblivious and concerns herself with her garden and with
meddling in Lois' affairs, discouraging the army officer because he
lacks money and position. Warner allows her talented cast to take
things slowly and she has assembled a top notch team that has
perfectly captured the autumnal feel of the piece.
Special mention must be paid to John Bright's delicately crafted
period clothes, Caroline Amies' exquisite production design, Zbignew
Preisner's appropriate score and especially Slawomir Idziak's superlative
photography. Under his lensing, the colors vibrate -- indeed he seems
to have captured every shade of green imaginable. Warner is also
an actor's director and her cast performs beautifully; there isn't a
false note among them. Old pros like Gambon, Smith, Wilson, Birkin
and Shaw all deliver fine portrayals but it is Hawes, with her gamine
beauty, who earns the spotlight. Similarly Warner stakes her claim
as a filmmaker to watch given her abilities to frame scenes and elicit
THE LAST SEPTEMBER undoubtedly won't appeal to a mass
audience but those who crave literate dialogue, stunning visuals and
great acting should seek out this film and allow themselves to savor
its multitude of pleasures.
MPAA Rating: R for some violence and sexuality
Running time: 103 mins.
|© 2007 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.