Thursday, November 09, 2006

Film & Television: A Day Late & A Dollar Short

If I was on the ball this past weekend I would have created a post about great things to watch during the election season… of course, that’s something of a blogging cliché. All the same I enjoy that stuff.

Everyone suggests The Manchurian Candidate (with Sinatra, obviously) or Seven Days in May or some such no-brainers.

Here is my first suggestion, and it is probably near the top of the list... if not actually my top recommendation.

"House of Cards"
"You might very well think that. I couldn't possibly comment." - Francis Urquhart
A four-part television film from 1990 based on a British novel by Michael Dobbs (former Chief of Staff at Conservative Party headquarters during Margaret Thatcher). The two have noticeable differences, making this one of those rare occasions where the film is better than the book.

One aspect which makes the mini-series is actor Ian Richardson as the main character, Francis Urquhart. He serves as narrator of the story and tour guide to British politics at Number 10. He’s merely the Chief Whip (“just a backroom boy”), but a remarkably good Chief Whip. In fact, he’s so good (the actor and the character, for different reasons though) that he can pull off a who-dun-it when you know he-dun-it all along. Urquhart looks right at us when he confides his true feelings and ambitions… at times making us feel like accomplices to a murder. They help the audience understand what is going on better, like Shakespearean asides… he says one thing in public or to an apparent ally, while he lets us in on the truth. His performance earned a well deserved Best Actor in the Bafta Awards.

Both the book and the mini-series are followed by “To Play the King” and “The Final Cut”. The third book rules them all, while as a mini-series it doesn’t hold up… in fact, the author had his name removed from the final mini-series as he didn’t wish to be associated with it for various reasons.


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