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The Times BFILondon Film Festival will take place from Wednesday 13 October through Thursday 28 October 10



LFF - Dean Spanley

The premier of Dean Spanley on Friday began with some controversy on my row, when the woman sat next to me pointed out that Sandra’s patent heeled boots were the same pair that she had worn last year. I put her mind at rest by confirming that I had seen Sandra in a new pair the day before. As someone else sagely pointed out, there is a credit crunch on and those boots aren’t cheap.


So, once we had that cleared up, onto the movie.


It’s difficult to give you a synopsis of the plot of Toa Fraser’s second movie without really spoiling it for you. Set in Edwardian London, the movie deals with a journey of emotional discovery for four men; Fisk Senior (the delicious Peter O’Toole), Fisk Junior (Jeremy Northam), Dean Spanley (Sam Neil) and Wrather (Bryan Brown). O’Toole is on brilliant form as the curmudgeonly, acerbic Fisk, his blue eyes twinkling with the fun he has in putting down his son and everyone else around him. But it is at the emotional climax that O’Toole really shows his worth – the others are good, but they are in the presence of true greatness here. Northam is solidly excellent as the frustrated son and curious explorer. Neil has an almost duel role (without giving too much away) and both he plays with massive honesty and sensitivity. And what can I say about Bryan Brown (other than for some reason I was convinced he was dead and am very pleased to see that was an urban myth)? As in Cocktail, Brown is full of mischief, greed and warmth.


When she introduced the movie Sandra described it as unlike any movie you have ever seen before, and she wasn’t far wrong. It is strange, yet real, fantastical, yet believable and both laugh out loud funny, and heartbreakingly sad. The film walks a fine line between reality and absurdity and almost always stays balanced. I believed as much as the characters believed, the strange truths become more and more plausible as the plot develops. You never once feel that the eccentricities of the characters make them impossible to warm to or like. In fact I would quite happily have joined them for supper one Tuesday evening.


I know I should probably talk about the direction and the cinematography and the beautiful London that they create. But honestly, this movie is about four actors having the time of their lives with a brilliant script. Go see it!



Comments (2)

MINOR point about Bryan Brown's accent

p.s. One thing that made me wonder, does Bryan Brown's accent in Dean Spanley seem anachronistic to anyone else? From the archival recordings I've heard of early 20th century white Australian voices, they seemed to have more of the British (or Irish, etc, depending on individual background) in them. In the film, Bryan Brown uses a completely modern Australian accent. What is that? Is he Australia's Robert Di Nero or something?

(I'm so happy that this movie has finally been made, though!)

Dean Spanley, the novella

As a reader who is extremely familiar with the Lord Dunsany novella ('My Talks with Dean Spanley') on which this movie is based, I just want to point out that the main reason that the movie is "unlike any movie you have ever seen before" is because the *novella* is unlike anything you've ever *read* before. The same goes for: "strange, yet real, fantastical, yet believable and both laugh out loud funny, and heartbreakingly sad".
'My Talks with Dean Spanley' has been an undeservedly obscure literary treasure for too long. (Hopefully it will gain popularity thanks to the movie.)
Alan Sharp has also done amazing work in his screenplay. In the novella, the human characters are quite overshadowed by the extraordinary vividness of the (channeled) dog character (one of the most remarkably well-drawn and lovable characters in English fiction, ever!), and the novella really presents little in the way of obvious drama. I marvel at Sharp's talent & inventiveness.
I encourage everyone to try to remember & celebrate the writers behind movies, as without great scripts (and books) - as we know - most great movies wouldn't exist. And if we always primarily focus on merely the *visible* contributors/contributions to films, while more or less ignoring the writers who are the original creators of the ideas, we can tend to discourage both current and upcoming/young writers by failing to appreciate them as much as they deserve.
(This isn't meant as criticism of the previous post, by the way.)



About LondonFilmFestival

Hebron Sandra
(Times BFI London Film Festival)

Online Dailies of the Times BFI 53rd London Film Festival, 14 October through Thursday 29 October 2009.
Presented by the
British Film Institute and The Times of London.


United Kingdom

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