(no particular order)
Nov. 25/98 (E)
6 nov 98
As usual, spoilers....
From the Australian...
Reviewer: David Stratton
IF nothing else, Elizabeth should establish Cate Blanchett on the
international scene as a major movie star. She was born to play the
great English queen and she powerfully conveys the fragility and the
imperiousness of one of history's most fascinating women. There's never
any doubt that, though she has the body of a weak woman, she has the
heart and stomach of a king, and a king of England, too.
Blanchett's screen performances until now haven't come close to matching
her stage work but Elizabeth is her triumph.
Countless films have been made about the virgin queen. Bette Davis
played her twice, memorably, in The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex
and The Virgin Queen; Flora Robson also had two shots at the character,
in Fire Over England and The Sea Hawk; and who can forget Glenda
Jackson's portrayal of the character in Mary, Queen of Scots?
These fine actors played Elizabeth in her later years, when she was
fully established as the most powerful woman on earth; Blanchett, like
Jean Simmons in Young Bess, tackles Elizabeth at a more vulnerable
period of her life, and covers the years in which her stepsister Mary
(Kathy Burke) ruled England and the first couple of years of Elizabeth's
They were, of course, turbulent times. Henry VIII, father of Mary and
Elizabeth, had broken with the pope and formed the Church of England
because he wanted to divorce Mary's mother, the devoutly Catholic
Catherine of Aragon; Elizabeth's mother, Anne Boleyn, had been beheaded
for adultery; the schism had led to a great deal of bloodshed, including
the martyrdom of Catholic aristocrat Sir Thomas More.
On Henry's death, Mary restored Catholicism to England in a welter of
further bloodshed and had the Protestant Elizabeth kept under virtual
house arrest. It is at this point, in 1554, that the film begins, with
Elizabeth fearing for her life as she realises that Mary, who has no
heir, is fiercely opposed to her stepsister following her as queen.
Michael Hirst's sweeping screenplay encompasses the main events of the
next few years – the illness and death of Mary (a commanding performance
from Burke, last seen on the screen in Gary Oldman's Nil by Mouth) and
the accession of Elizabeth.
There is division among members of the court, with rival factions led by
the Protestant old guard – represented by Sir William Cecil (Richard
Attenborough), who informs his mistress that she has inherited a most
parlous and degenerate State – and the Catholic dispossessed, among them
the wily and dangerous Duke of Norfolk (Christopher Eccleston).
The characters who will play vital roles in the drama also include the
queen's fiery young lover, Robert Dudley (Joseph Fiennes) and the
mercurial Sir Francis Walsingham (Geoffrey Rush), whose loyalties are
none too certain.
Much is made of the pressure on Elizabeth to marry, though the queen
states that she does not see why a woman should marry at all. This
modern viewpoint, needless to say, is strongly opposed by her advisers,
who seek to reduce the influence of the French on Scotland by forging an
alliance with the Spanish throne. Her statesmen are generally of the
view that Her Majesty's body is no longer her property. Presumably,
that's the kind of advice given to members of the royal family to this
There are uniformly fine performances, with Rush impressive as the
menacing Walsingham and Fiennes, displaying more assurance than his
brother Ralph has in his recent roles, as the dashing but rather callow
Dudley. Eccleston is a wonderfully dark and sinister Norfolk.
Elizabeth, which is handsomely designed (John Myhre) and photographed
(Remi Adefarasin), is the first English-language film made by Shekhar
Kapur, who has made several films in his native India, including the
contentious Bandit Queen, another movie about a woman forced by
circumstances to become ruthless and violent.
Just as Taiwanese director Ang Lee made a seamless transition to
quintessential English material with Sense and Sensibility, so Kapur
never puts a foot wrong with his impressive and gripping direction of
this exciting slice of English history. He manages the difficult feat of
making the political and religious machinations relevant for
contemporary audiences and, at the same time, ensuring that Elizabeth
isn't just a figurehead in her own story but a flesh and blood character
forced to make an impossible decision between her lover and her career.
And here, again, Blanchett comes triumphantly into her own, revealing
both the young woman in love and the queen who would lead her country
into a golden age.
From Urban Cinefile (AUS)...
CAST: Cate Blanchett, Geoffrey Rush, Joseph Fiennes, Richard
Attenborough, Christopher Eccleston, Jamie Foreman,Edward Hardwick,
James Frain, Emily Mortimer, Kelly MacDonald, Amanda Ryan, Kathy Burke,
Terence Rigby, John Gielgud
In 1554, after Queen Mary’s (Kathy Burke) death, Princess Elizabeth
(Cate Blanchett) is crowned Queen of England. The country is racked by
financial and religious instability and her advisor Sir William Cecil
(Richard Attenborough) says she must marry with political astuteness in
order to secure her position. She is urged to marry either the French
Duke of Anjou (Vincent Cassel) or her dead sister’s husband King Philip
of Spain, although her heart lies with her childhood sweetheart, Robert
Dudley (Joseph Fiennes). Elizabeth puts her faith in her confidante, Sir
Francis Walsingham (Geoffrey Rush), in her quest to overcome conspiracy
and assassination attempts. But in the process, her heart pays a high
price for her loyalty to her country and crown.
"A tight and gripping script is made engaging and entertaining by
outstanding performances, especially from Cate Blanchett in the title
role as the fascinating, unpredictable, but always human Queen who has
to fight, to sacrifice and to grow in stature just to stay alive. This
is Blanchett at her best, responding to Kapur’s lucid and firm
direction, as he raises the film well above standard ‘costumer’ levels
to an intricate, intelligent human and historical drama. There is enough
history to anchor it, but it works because it is so rich with the
failings and nobility of human behaviour. Geoff Rush is reliably solid,
with a final, wordless scene that will linger in your memory; and the
production design side steps the traps of making 15th century England a
romantic mix of glen and dale. Instead, we see a society torn apart by
the barbarities of religious bigotry - and political power runs on blood
as much as on principle. Ignorance and self interest are the currency of
the day, even more so than today – if you can conceive that. With superb
editing from Australia’s Jill Bilcock, the film enjoys a considerable
swag of Australian elements, much to its credit, too. With its excellent
production values, Elizabeth is a visual, intellectual and often
emotional experience that is well worth the time and money."
- Andrew L. Urban
"Presenting a human face to Elizabeth the Virgin Queen, Shekhar Kapur’s
artistic flair elevates this fascinating story of love, ambition,
treachery and loyalty into a masterpiece. Showcasing his expertise in
historical screenplays, Michael Hirst has beautifully balanced fact with
emotion, bringing each character to life in the context of the day, yet
allowing us to relate to the passion, conflict and drama. Cate Blanchett
is bewitching as Elizabeth. Beneath her grace, serenity and feminity
lies strength, confidence and determination. Blanchett’s dramatic
performance is laced with nuance and seduction; this is the role that
will claim her as an international star. The entire cast is strong –
Geoffrey Rush, forceful; Richard Attenburgh, magnetic; Kathy Burke and
the beautiful Fanny Ardant, both effective and memorable. Joseph Fiennes
is a stand out as the sensitive Lord Robert; his on-screen chemistry
with Blanchett is positively tantalising. Politics and religion are the
key issues, and they are canvassed with passion. Beautiful to look at,
the sumptuous production design is ornate and textured, while David
Hirschfelder’s rich, moody strong score enhances the mood with its
etherial, dramatic, lyrical and melodic passages. "A powerful story of
strength on a backdrop of duplicity and deceit, Elizabeth is compelling
and satisfying – a moving and wonderful cinematic experience."
- Louise Keller
"It’s a stunning, magnificently mounted film of sheer cinematic depth
and character, with both a sense of finely drawn history, coupled with a
contemporary edge. The life of Elizabeth Tudor - one of history's most
complex creatures, has been depicted on screen with mixed success: from
the purely fanciful [as those with Bette Davis] to the more worthy [the
famed TV series]. This Elizabeth may have some historical anomalies, but
the movie works for its audacity, its sense of drama and fast-flowing
narrative, it's rich, visual style, and performances that are simply
faultless. Director Kapur, has brought a great sense of individuality to
this fascinating period of Tudor history, and has created an Elizabethan
world, which sharply contrasts the puritanical Catholic faction against
the more vibrant Protestants, who combined to create Anglicanism. The
depiction of Elizabeth's court, exemplified by the young queen's naivete
and joie-de-vivre, has been exquisitely detailed, heightened by the
magnificent costumes, the impeccable production design and the
dramatically evocative music. Add to that the sublime performances.
Blanchett has never been better, giving a hypnotic and detailed
performance. Her transformation from the alluring young Queen to supreme
monarch is remarkable, and for her alone, Elizabeth is a must. Geoffrey
Rush excels in the role of the brooding, sinister Walsingham, while
Richard Attenborough is perfect as Cecil. Historical quibbles aside,
Elizabeth is a monumental achievement, a masterpiece of colour, vi
brancy, passion and intricate detail. It's a haunting, powerful work, as
well as an arresting, thrilling piece of exhilarating entertainment. As
for our own Cate Blanchett, a star has been crowned!" - Paul Fischer
USA Today, 11/6/98
For your love struck aunt who has worn out her romance novels
Shakespeare in Love (Dec. 11, New York and Los Angeles)
The packaging: A sexy romp that combines hot young stars
Gwyneth Paltrow, Joeseph Fiennes (Ralph's younger brother)
and Ben Affleck with acting experts Geoffrey Rush, Judi Dench
(as the portly powdered Queen Elizabeth) and Rupert Everett
(as rival scribe Christopher Marlowe).
What's inside: Bard meets girl, Bard loses girl. Young Willie
the Shake (Fiennes) has writer's block until he falls for a
poetry-loving, cross-dressing maid (Paltrow). Then his quill
spouts sonnets to make her swoon. But, alas and alack, she is
engaged to a cruel lord (Colin Firth).
Why its a keeper: This mix of comedy and literature makes
Shakespeare seem very steamy indeed. The sex scenes with
Paltrow and Fiennes spouting Romeo and Juliette will make
audiences blush, then rush home.
Return factor: Some may not get the literary allusions.
A familiarity with Shakespeare's work is essential to
understanding some of the humor. — E.S.
Elizabeth (now in theaters)
The packaging: A sumptuous historical tale with lush
locations and fine fabrics draping stars Cate Blanchett,
Joseph Fiennes, Geoffrey Rush, Richard Attenborough,
John Gielgud and Christopher Eccleston.
What's inside: The spicy story behind Elizabeth I, including
her sudden ascent to the throne, political forces that threatened
her life and the chilly determination that kept her in power
for 40 years.
Why its a keeper: This history is anything but dry. There's sex,
assassinations, torture, betrayal, heresy, cross-dressing, a
poisoned gown and more sex! Plus every frame is gorgeous.
Return factors: The film has drawn some snipes in England about
its lack of historical accuracy; some experts on the monarchy
bristle at the notion that Lizzie was not a virgin. (Oh, grow up!)
Long article on Cate Blanchett in Friday's L.A. Times, as well as
a review at (if anyone wants e-mailed, just let me know):
ET Online has short synopsis's (synopses? ;) for Elizabeth and SiL.
The Elizabeth one has an itty bitty (but especially nice -- did his
hair just right :)) pic of Joe. Couldn't find a direct URL, but if you
go to: http://www.etonline.com/ and do a search for Fiennes,
you can find links to them.
Also, Dark Horizons has a favorable test screening review ofSiL,
as well as some new screen grabs from POE (the animated stuff ;)
in their November 6 News: http://www.darkhorizons.com/news.htm
Lastly, People and Entertainment Weekly have short reviews of
Elizabeth (EW also has a nice little pic of Cate and Joe) at:
From: "Musil's" Save Address Block Sender
To: "Fiennes-fans Chat list"
Cc: "Fiennes Fans News List"
Date: Sat, 7 Nov 1998 11:16:27 -0800
Subject: [fiennes-fans-news] Elizabeth Hollywood Reporter news
Film review: 'Elizabeth' (Hollywood Reporter - 799 words - Thurs., Nov. 5,
By Duane Byrge
Those who favor conspiracy theories will rejoice in Gramercy's "Elizabeth,"
a raucous and full-throated depiction of the byzantine dangers that faced
England's queen who ascended the throne in 1558 after beating the
Roiled with behind-the-scenes intrigue and featuring a well-chosen cast,
"Elizabeth's" sweep is extensive but its schematic girth hobbles its
thematic, seams-showing undergarments -- the championing of a 1990-style,
own-woman heroine. Capped with technical finery and Cate Blanchett's steely
lead performance, "Elizabeth" will win some enthusiastic select-site
admirers and mixed critical acclaim.
With its historic backdrop and speechifying, it's likely to win Golden Globe
recognition from the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. as well, but its plodding
bombastics will settle less well with other sophisticated viewers. Its
boxoffice reign will be fraught with variation, owing to its narrative and
thematic ambitions -- an uneven mix of grand-scale visuals and
soliloquy-style exposition will surely benumb as many viewers as it
An often canny mix of pomp, plummery and philosophy (both political and
personal), "Elizabeth" is, in its beginnings, smartly distilled to human
dimensions -- a story of family intrigue (the family happens to be the
royals) and geopolitical warring. Screenwriter Michael Hirst has sagely set
the historical backdrop with the mid-1550s calamities in England under Queen
Mary I's iron-fisted rule. As per tradition in those isles, it's the same
old story, Catholic vs. Protestant, as Mary feverishly instigates her policy
of repression against Protestants, especially half-sister Elizabeth who, she
fears, will ascend the throne and cause England to forsake the papacy.
Indeed, "Elizabeth" blazes with the respective turmoils of the day: England
is bankrupt and without an army -- a perilous state given the threats from
abroad. Spanish and French armies are poised to strike when Elizabeth
ascends the throne.
Detailing the historical conflicts with brevity and general clarity, the
film nevertheless suffers from the combination of its honed-down, personal
narrative to emblematize the big picture, while director Shekhar Kapur's
("Bandits") cinematic pomposity, in terms of visual composition and the
samesong rhythms of plot exposition. Throughout, expositional scenes are
turgidly overdressed with pageantry -- boat trips, royal dinners and other
over-stitched fineries that, although historically accurate, tend to reduce
the story line to a paradelike display of flotillas and grandstanding.
Unlike the superbly restrained "A Man for All Seasons," "Elizabeth" is, by
nature of its indelicate thematic trumpetings, much less powerful in theme
and drama. Admittedly, the filmmakers' task is somewhat akin to writing a
Cliff Notes distillation of one of history's most explosive times. Although
its girth and shrill deportment would seem to preclude it from reaching wide
mainstream dimension, "Elizabeth" does certainly given one an overall
appreciation for the tumultuous battles and cross-alliances that jarred all
of Europe during the 16th century and how these internecine warrings have
fashioned in many ways today's society and governments.
The crown point of "Elizabeth" is Blanchett's vigorously shaped performance
as a woman who, under the most strenuous duress, is able to focus her will
and energies from powers within. Blanchett embodies the kind of survivalist
power that Queen Elizabeth possessed: the sagacity to recognize what advice
to take and what to disregard and the savagery to protect and extend her own
Geoffrey Rush also deserves a knighthood for his sinister-stirred
performance as a dark force about court, while Richard Attenborough's
cherubic countenance, glazed with a ferocious resolve, is perfect in his
role as Elizabeth's cunning chief adviser. Similarly, John Gielgud does a
short but stunning turn as the addled and elderly Pope. Not surprisingly, in
a dramatic sweep as far-stepping as "Elizabeth," some characters suffer from
stereotypical condensation, most aggrievedly the Duc d'Anjou (Vincent
Cassel), an epicene fop who is used as a romantic inducement to bring
Elizabeth into the French fold.
Throughout, Shekhar Kapur's direction is overwrought, from high-angled
visuals to showy compositions. It tends to dull the edge of the narrative's
many provocative excellencies. Indeed, Kapur has rounded everything off to
showiest dimension and, in the process, has diluted the richness of the
storyline. Still, there is much to praise, including costume designer
Alexandra Byrne's historical fittings and production designer John Myhre's
PolyGram Filmed Entertainment presents
In association with Channel Four Films
A Working Title production
A film by Shekhar Kapur
Producers: Alison Owen, Eric Fellner, Tim Bevan
Director: Shekhar Kapur
Screenwriter: Michael Hirst
Director of photography: Remi Adefarasin
Production designer: John Myhre
Editor: Jill Bilcock
Costume designer: Alexandra Byrne
Music: David Hirschfelder
Casting: Vanessa Pereira, Simone Ireland
Line producer: Mary Richards
Co-producers: Debra Hayward, Liza Chasin
Elizabeth I: Cate Blanchett
Sir Francis Walsingham: Geoffrey Rush
Duke of Norfolk: Christopher Eccleston
Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester: Joseph Fiennes
Sir William Cecil: Richard Attenborough
Earl of Sussex: Jamie Foreman
Alvaro de la Quadra: James Frain
Kat Ashley: Emily Mortimer
Isabel Knollys: Kelly MacDonald
Earl of Arundel: Edward Hardwicke
Mary of Guise: Fanny Ardant
Queen Mary Tudor: Kathy Burke
Duc d'Anjou: Vincent Cassel
Pope: John Gielgud
Running time -- 124 minutes
MPAA rating: R
Lynn's Humble Tribute to Ralph & Joseph Fiennes
Lynn's Wuthering Heights page