Monday, February 4, 2008


"Wilde" (Brian Gilbert, 1997) A nearly definitive biographical film of the scholar and playwight whose career was destroyed and life shortened by the spiteful trial and imprisonment for "indecent acts" directly relating to his gay trysts. Stephen Fry plays Wilde, and he's a bit too old for the part but the resemblance is there, and his bulk and refinement put you in the sphere of what it must be like to be a bull in a china shop. Vanessa Redgrave (wonderful, as always) plays Mother Wilde, Jennifer Ehle as his wife Constance, and as the earnest young men in Wilde's affections, a virtual parade of young British heart-throbs--Orlando Bloom (for 3 s., tops), Ioan Gruffud, Michael Sheen, and as Wilde's obsession Lord Alfred "Bosie" Douglas, Jude Law in full schizophrenic movie mode. One becomes aware all too quickly that Wilde's problems stem from a bad match and his tragedy is that he could never stop going back no matter the cost to him or those around him. Frye communicates the "struck dumb" quality that must have evoked, which for a man of Wilde's intellect and eloquence must have been over-powering. Tom Wilkinson is hissingly malevolent as "Bosie's" father, The Marquess of Queensbury, the acknowledged "rule setter" for the subtle art of bashing someone's brain in. Here he forgets his own rule about hitting below the belt. The film is a cautionary tale of how reaching the heights of fame guarantee the hardest of falls, and how hubris has a remarkable way of proving to be one's undoing.

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