It was a good week for movies over at Philadelphia Weekly! I enjoyed both the claustrophobic character study of Locke and the 18th-century period piece Belle, which is otherwise so good about addressing its various long-simmering tensions that it felt like overkill whenever someone gives a heartfelt speech nearly drowned out by the orchestra. (That happened several times.)
Still, it’s a solid movie. The main cast is great, to nobody’s surprise, and the supporting cast nearly as good: I’m beginning to really enjoy Tom Felton’s tour of the Aw Jeez Dudes of History. It has the period-piece romantic mainstays I love (they’re standing so close! Extended eye contact! GASP) and does a really good job negotiating tensions within a family that isn’t afraid to call out an otherwise sympathetic character when they need it. And though the speeches can seem pitched to the cheap seats, in the particulars the movie does very well deconstructing the past to illuminate the present. Its very gorgeousness takes on a layer of meaning.
The shot above was one of my favorites: it happens early on, when guests are being escorted from the dinner table, where Dido is not permitted to join the family, to the drawing room for evening entertainment. It’s such a telling moment: the opulence suggesting social status that still doesn’t do much to ameliorate Dido’s enforced and pointed solitude in the frame, the symmetry between her and the harpsichord – an amusing luxury – and the parade of snow-white statuary all around her. It’s a frame that tells us exactly what Dido has been contemplating during the time she spent sitting and waiting to be joined by the family she’s almost a part of, and why her hands are twined in her lap.
The movie also deals with the commissioned portrait of the two cousins, which of course exacerbates Dido’s concerns about her position in the family. This is a movie that knows art shapes perception. (Art was also behind this story, since the original portrait inspired the writer and director to first research Dido.) Obviously I am all about that, so my Spoils Everything column this week talks a little more about the role of art in the movie, a little more about the portrait, and a little bit about medievalpoc because of course.