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A Handful of Dust

4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 88.96
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars brilliantly acted and visually stunning Dec 20 1999
Format:VHS Tape
Evelyn Waugh's novel gets more than your average "period piece" treatment here. Art direction is a plus, as are costumes, set design, and score. But there's also a consistent (and coherent) effort to convey the sense of inevitability present in the novel. Thanks to superb acting (particularly by James Wilby and Kristin Scott-Thomas) that effort pays off. You feel the main cahracters spiralling down - but there seems to be no way to guess their end. Rupert Graves is also very good, but Judi Dench and Alec Guiness in comparatively smaller roles give us performances that are as luminous as ever. Intriguing score. Why not 5 stars? Tempo. Pace. A few minuts less wouldn't hurt it - they're not essential to plot or characterization, they just let the camera take in the beautiful sets languidly... Maybe for some people that would be deserving of a 5th star. Maybe. I still think it's a beautiful music, the acting is superior and it's something of an unknown gem.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A film in a place of its own. July 7 2003
By Gm
Format:VHS Tape
Films haven't got much better than this recently. The jewel in inception and the making of this film which makes it is that the producers know the limitations of the "great" film and just how many ingredients of a great film, and also then elements of the stage, go into making this world-beating drama.
This is one of the most distinctive films which has been made therefore: a film which knows the entertainment context of film, drama, literature, the stage and then the television or movie-house film today. This is supreme entertainment.
In the same tradition and indeed category, without qualification or doubt, as the great pieces of cinema of old - "as Lawrence of Arabia" - this is a modern piece of dramatic art for the nineties and remains remarkably unchallenged in this decade. There are few films of the the last few decades which see so far ahead. Neither an enfant savage nor an enfant terrible - rather this film is as it knows these have been high or prevalent in the cultural climate, in the general cultural prescription. And these notions or identities are and have long been lurking in a culturally bound class (and country). This is embedded within the dramatisation of the tale. The compass of the film and of the story are great but limited.
I give it five stars because of the supreme, engaging and limited but total cinematic nature of this piece, which unexpectedly touches but also inspires the intellect with the emotions in making the story true by successfully refusing to explicate this human fantasy story in anyway; by its actual subtlety of treatment of the book; by giving the audience a direct light to see this literary tale.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Understated and beautiful Sept. 12 2002
Format:VHS Tape
This dramatization of Evelyn Waugh's novel is nicely done. The story concerns the marriage of Tony and Brenda Last, members of Britain's upper crust. From all outward appearances and, as far as the oblivious Tony is concerned the marriage is perfect. Brenda is bored and proceeds headlong into a destructive relationship with John Beaver, a man without personality or resources. Tony watches in denial and Brenda watches in self-absorption as their "perfect" world crumbles.
The dialogue in the film is remarkably faithful to the novel. With one notable exception, the actors quietly underplay the scenes, almost all of which involve tense and emotionally-wringing scenarios. This serves to underscore the absurdity of the "stiff upper lip" social mores of the time. The film stars James Wilby as Tony Last. Wilby is a dead ringer for the young Evelyn Waugh -- a nice touch given the story's autobiographical origins. Kristen Scott Thomas stars as Brenda.
About three-fourths of the film is set in London and rural Great Britain during the years between WWI and WWII. The remainder is set in the Amazon jungles. The film's score features native South American musical instruments throughout the scenes set in Great Britain which, again, serves to underscore the film's social themes.
Sir Alec Guinness dominates the jungle scenes as the amoral Mr. Todd. He's the one actor in this film who doesn't underplay his role. In this film, Guinness is unwashed, unshaven, scheming, hateful and maniacal. In short, he becomes "The Man Who Liked Dickens". I felt that his performance here was one of the best I've seen.
I rated this film 4 stars rather than 5 because there are one or two scenes which are so underplayed I would have missed them entirely had I not read the novel beforehand and been on the lookout for them.
Overall, this is definitely worth watching.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Marvellous Dec 30 2000
Format:VHS Tape
This is a brilliant adaptation of Waugh's sharply satirical novel "A Handful of Dust" (also worth reading). The pace is beautiful and I thought the casting was perfect. Kristin Scott Thomas is remote and succinct as Lady Brenda, James Wilby as her husband Tony is restrained panic. Giving Rupert Graves the part of near-sociopathic Mr Beaver was a stroke of genius. He is good-looking without being overly unctuous.
The story is set in England of the 1930's. Tony and Lady Brenda, and upper class couple who live mostly in the country, have been married for seven years when Tony invites a man from his club to come and stay, Mr Beaver. Brenda gets an odd hankering for their guest, even though Mr Beaver proves himself to have feet of clay over and over again - but then so does she. There is a slow decline in Tony and Brenda's relationship, the deterioration filtering through layers of genteel gossip and impeccably good manners. The ending has a marvellous twist to it also. The script retains some of the sharpness of the Waughs novel, and much of the humour.
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