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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Nothing's more exhausting than breaking in a lady's maid."
The upperclass friends and relations of Sir William McCordle (Michael Gambon) arrive at his country house for a weekend of shooting, accompanied by maids, footmen, and valets, all of whom will be staying under one roof. Sir William is a mean-spirited and self-centered old man, married to a much younger, emotionally distant wife (Kristin Scott Thomas), with many family...
Published on July 14 2004 by Mary Whipple

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Blu-ray transfer pretty bad - save your money
Whether you like this movie or not, you will be disappointed with the lack-lustre transfer that Alliance have provided. I swear the regular DVD looks better than this! Avoid!
Published on April 30 2010 by Basel


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Nothing's more exhausting than breaking in a lady's maid.", July 14 2004
By 
This review is from: Gosford Park [Import] (VHS Tape)
The upperclass friends and relations of Sir William McCordle (Michael Gambon) arrive at his country house for a weekend of shooting, accompanied by maids, footmen, and valets, all of whom will be staying under one roof. Sir William is a mean-spirited and self-centered old man, married to a much younger, emotionally distant wife (Kristin Scott Thomas), with many family members dependent upon his continuing largesse. The hilariously waspish Countess of Trentham (Maggie Smith), who believes she has a lifetime stipend, arrives with young Mary Maceachran (Kelly MacDonald), who is trying valiantly to become a good lady's maid. Ivor Novello (Jeremy Northam), a Hollywood star, and Morris Weissman (Bob Balaban), a producer of Charlie Chan movies, are the only guests without aristocratic backgrounds and inherited privilege. The atmosphere of the house, filled with venomous "friends" and relations, soon becomes even more poisonous.
The "below stairs" lives of the servants are also fully revealed, as they share living quarters, eat meals together, tend to the laundry and cooking, and gossip about their employers. The butler Jennings (Alan Bates) and the head housekeeper (Helen Mirren) run the household and try to guarantee that no real-world cares will intrude upon the lives of their employers. Since "upstairs" and "downstairs" occasionally meet very privately at night, secrets abound, many of them secrets of long standing. When Sir William is poisoned and stabbed ("Trust Sir William to be murdered twice"), nearly everyone has a motive for wanting him dead.
For director Robert Altman, the primary focus of the film is on the characters, their way of life, and their values, with the murder mystery secondary. Set in late November, the end of the year 1932, the action takes place when this secure aristocratic lifestyle is also nearing its end, something that the arrival of the newly rich Hollywood characters, Novello and Weissman, illustrates. Dramatic cinematography (by Andrew Dunn) emphasizes the cold and rainy dreariness of the weekend, and suggests parallels with the coldness of the dying aristocracy.
Interior shots reveal the contrasts between the elegant and mannered lives of the "upstairs" characters and the hardworking daily lives of the "downstairs" characters, who adhere to their own rigid social codes. Every detail rings true, and as the characters' lives and interrelationships are revealed obliquely in brief snippets of seemingly unrelated conversations, a broad picture of the upstairs and downstairs lifestyles gradually emerges. Fully developed, many-leveled, wonderfully acted, often funny, and impeccably directed and filmed, this is a film one can watch again and again with delight. Mary Whipple
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Altman does UPSTAIRS/DOWNSTAIRS & Dame Agatha - or does he?, Feb. 23 2004
By 
Themis-Athena (from somewhere between California and Germany) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Gosford Park (DVD)
Well, strictly speaking he doesn't of course - Robert Altman never simply tags onto an established genre; he plays with it and makes it his own by turning it upside down. So, while the idea for "Gosford Park" may have been inspired by murder mysteries "Christie style" and by the likes of "Brideshead Revisited" and the BBC series about the Bellamy's Eaton Square household, we leave familiar territory the moment we enter the estate ... through the servants' entrance; for although large parts of the action take place "upstairs," it is manifestly told from a "downstairs" perspective.
Academy Award-winningly scripted by Julian Fellowes (himself a descendant of British nobility and therefore able to draw on manifold personal insights in creating the movie's characters), "Gosford Park" is primarily an examination of the unquestioningly accepted rules of the early 1930s' British class society: where, beset by primogeniture and a lifestyle often beyond their means, an aristocrat's daughters and younger sons were compelled to marry rich to maintain their expected standard of living - making a marriage for love much less desirable than one for money, even to a disliked spouse, and a marriage for love almost akin to a crime if not combined with wealth -; where servants were a necessary element of the aristocracy's life, even if largely treated as non-persons, banished to the basement and not even allowed to speak if not spoken to when called upstairs by virtue of their duties (notwithstanding the almost friendly relationship often existing between members of the two classes outside the public eye); where the perfect servant's existence was a life so unrealized that it often resulted in an overbearing interest in all aspects of his employer's life and in a precise emulation of the latter's prejudices, standards and pecking orders; where nevertheless domestic service was an important finishing school, especially for girls, frequently employed as early as at 12 or 14 years of age; where both "upstairs" and "downstairs" the greatest transgression against social etiquette was the causation of any kind of scene, as *nothing* was to be talked about as if it were truly important - requiring an immediate return to form if a breach of decorum had occurred after all - and where minute behavioral patterns such as a person's habits in pouring milk for his tea unfailingly exposed him as a member of one particular class, try as he might to associate himself with another. Yet, for all its observations, "Gosford Park" never judges: it takes each of its characters, and the entire unspoken "upstairs-downstairs" class arrangement at face value, leaving it up to its viewers to determine themselves what to make thereof.
The movie is named for the estate of Sir William McCordle (Michael Gambon) and wife Sylvia (Kristin Scott Thomas), who have invited friends and family to that most English of all country sports events - a shooting party. And they have all come: Lady Sylvia's aunt Constance Trentham (Maggie Smith), her sisters Louisa and Lavinia with husbands Lord Stockbridge and Commander Meredith (Geraldine Somerville, Natasha Wightman, Charles Dance and Tom Hollander), the Nesbitts (James Wilby and Claudie Blakley) and last but not least (real-life) actor Ivor Novello (Jeremy Northam, who also displays his outstanding vocal talent with several of Novello's songs), along with Hollywood director Morris Wiseman (Bob Balaban), in England for research on a projected "Charlie Chan" movie, and young Henry Denton (Ryan Philippe), whom Wiseman presents as his valet. Yet, while Novello is the hosts' halfheartedly-tolerated relative, Wiseman and Denton are instantly identified as outsiders: Not only are they American, but Wiseman is Jewish (and thus, implicitly socially suspect), a vegetarian (making him even more suspect for "fussing" over his food) and swears on the telephone; and Denton is quickly branded disingenuous by the servants, particularly Lady Constance's young maid Mary (Kelly Macdonald) and Lord Stockbridge's valet Robert Parks (Clive Owen), only to incur even greater wrath both upstairs and downstairs when the full measure of his deception becomes apparent.
Despised by his wife and aristocratic in-laws and also, for reasons of their own, by his own staff, primarily housekeeper Jane Wilson and cook Elizabeth Croft (Helen Mirren and Eileen Atkins), Sir William is found murdered after the second night's dinner. Enter Inspector Thompson (Stephen Fry) - and the movie's delicious survey gains another dimension, now also taking on the mystery genre; playing with it in "Charlie Chan" and "Pink Panther" fashion, with inept policemen, matching background music and cliches turned on their head, such as the obligatory assembly of all suspects, which here occurs at the investigation's beginning, not at its end.
While "Gosford Park"'s many awards are undoubtedly deserved, most fitting of all is its outstanding cast's SAG ensemble award; as all actors, including the late, great Alan Bates (butler Jennings), Derek Jacobi (Sir William's valet Probert), Richard E. Grant (first footman George) and Emily Watson (housemaid Elsie, Sir William's secret paramour and the only person grieving his death) put aside their claims to genuine starring roles in the interest of the ensemble's achievement. In addition to Robert Altman's, his son/production designer Stephen's and Julian Fellowes's painstaking attention to even the smallest set detail - including a king's ransom in tapestry and authentic vintage jewelry - and the counsel of several advisors with real-life service experience, all actors thoroughly researched the tenets of their roles; enabling them to respond in supreme fashion to Altman's preferred style of directing, which favors spontaneity, "mistakes" (often actually a movie's greatest moments), constantly moving cameras with shifting focus and overlaying, partly ad-libbed conversations over strict adherence to the script. The movie is jam-packed with information, each morsel provided only once; therefore, you not only should but actually must watch it several times to pick up on all the details you will necessarily miss initially. This is not a film for casual viewers, nor for fans of primarily plot-driven stories - but it is strongly recommended to those who appreciate delicate social comment and exquisitely-drawn characters.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars --Wonderfully Entertaining--, Jan. 11 2004
By 
Judith Miller (Bluemont, VA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Gosford Park [Import] (VHS Tape)
GOSFORD PARK was a nice surprise. The movie was purchased as a gift for my husband and I and we had no expectations because we didn't know what the film was about. It is a British film, and although we recognized the faces of a lot of the actors, we were glad to have the opportunity to learn their names. The acting was superb!
The story takes place in the 1930's at a country estate in England called Gosford Park. Sir William McCordle invites a large group of guests to a weekend hunting party. The movie begins with Constance (Maggie Smith) leaving her estate to travel to the event along with her driver and maid. We're treated to wonderful scenes as the guests arrive with their own assemblage of various servants. The often-snobbish guests are assigned rooms and at the same time their servants are in the kitchen receiving their own room assignments. The interesting part is to see that the pecking order for the Earl's guests is not that different from that among the various servants.
The camera scans the room while people are talking and it's difficult to hear most of the comments. I guess the director was giving us the feeling of being in any large place where dozens of people are making small talk. Constance is very snobbish and we get to clearly hear her views about the other guests. When a murder takes place, a bumbling detective is brought in to solve the crime. He doesn't have a clue, but several other people are able to surmise what happened. Everyone has his or her own individual stories and that's really what makes this big film work. I found myself more interested in what was going on with the servants than I was with their wealthy counterparts.
I especially enjoyed the acting of Clive Owen, Helen Mirren, Derek Jacobi and Maggie Smith. Jeremy Northam as a Hollywood star gives an excellent performance and also demonstrated a great singing voice.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Blu-ray transfer pretty bad - save your money, April 30 2010
By 
Basel (NL, Canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Gosford Park [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
Whether you like this movie or not, you will be disappointed with the lack-lustre transfer that Alliance have provided. I swear the regular DVD looks better than this! Avoid!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly different, May 13 2007
By 
bernie "xyzzy" (Arlington, Texas) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Gosford Park [Import] (VHS Tape)
This has the look and feel of English "who-done-it". It is as much the society as it is a mystery. The first quarter of the movie is just introductions to the characters as they approach the manor. Then the discussions start as they are settling in and the sub plots show up but do not overwhelm the main story. If you are trying g to guess ahead forget it. Also plan for every English cliché.

I suggest that you use the closed caption option the first time through as the mumble a lot and the background music is louder than the speech tract. Don't be surprised to find that it has ended just as you are getting into it.

The DVD extras add a dimension to the movie as after watching them you can view the movie with out the sub tittles.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, luxurious mystery, Nov. 7 2008
By 
Kona (Emerald City) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Gosford Park (DVD)
The story opens in 1932, at the country estate of Lord and Lady McCordle; guests arriving for the weekend include friends and relatives and even a Hollywood movie producer. Of course, they all bring their servants who bustle around downstairs to make life grand for their betters upstairs. When someone is found dead - and it appears he was murdered twice - everyone seems to have a motive.

The ensemble cast includes just about every famous British actor of the day and is led by Maggie Smith who steals the show with her funny/snobby countess role, Helen Mirren who is tragically efficient as the housekeeper, Kristen Scott Thomas as the self-absorbed lady of the manor, and Kelly Macdonald who plays a wonderfully meek ladies' maid. Each of the wealthy guests is incredibly spoiled and oblivious to the world downstairs, where the servants have their own hierarchy and drama. Everyone has a secret and they all unfold much to our delight.

Director Robert Altman's style of overlapping dialogue can be frustrating; at first it was hard to understand what was being said because everyone talks at the same time or mumbles, but it's still fun to soak up the atmosphere of the filthy rich who find everything just too, too boring. This movie is part comedy, part drama, dripping with period authenticity. It was nominated for seven Oscars and won for Best Screenplay. Lots of fun Extras on the DVD.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The British Class System Through a Periscope, Oct. 25 2003
By 
April O'Connell, Ph.D. (Gainesville, Florida, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Gosford Park [Import] (VHS Tape)
Although this film has a murder in it, it is really not a murder mystery. The murder simply serves as a maypole around which the large cast of characters and the many subplots weave in and out. For me it was a fascinating portrayal of the British class system, extending as it does from the Aristocrats (and Wannabees) to the servants that wait upon them. The chief complaint among the reviews that I read was that it was hard to hear. Those hushed tone are purposeful. Since everyone at the country estate, Gosford Park, has a secret agenda he or she is pursuing (money,illicit sex, a past to keep hidden), the characters must often speak to each other in hushed tones. What reveals their secret agendas often comes out in the sly and subtle non-verbal communications they carry on with each other. That it takes a while to catch on to each character and subplot is also purposeful. It's as if each of us (the viewers) is a first-time guest for this weekend "shoot" of birds and it takes us a while to catch on to the overtones and undertones of these people who are congregated under one roof. I found it a remarkable and fascinating experience, as if I am catching glimpses of life in a country estate through a periscope and having to connect the dots from one scene to another. I was willing to see it over and over (six times so far) to catch every nuance and subplot. The acting is undeniably superb.
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5.0 out of 5 stars walkin' n' talkin' done right, March 4 2003
By 
steve geertsen (waldport, or USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Gosford Park [Import] (VHS Tape)
I see Gosford more as an athletic event than as a movie. I have never seen the physical movement and gesture of the human person shown as beautifully and as subtly as Altman does it here. To me this masterpiece is about movement and how it explains personality and character. Elsie picking up the little dog and handing it off to Sir William in the hall is every bit as impressive as any double play that Chavez and Tejada have ever turned for the A's. (and they turn the most beautiful around the horn double play in baseball.) And Altman gave every character at least one move that I would say was all their own. Maybe the move is just standing there a certain way, like Constance's butler in the first scene did as the car drove away. I've seen it ten times now and the more I see it, the more I see it as a dance. Even though the dialogue was brilliant, I think its purpose was to accent a distinct manner taking place at that moment which is why if some piece of conversation is not heard or followed or understood perfectly, it ain't that big a deal......
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5.0 out of 5 stars An Altman Triumph!, Jan. 13 2003
By 
Donald D'Haene "Author, Father's Touch" (London, Canada) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Gosford Park [Import] (VHS Tape)
Reading the customer reviews, it's obvious people either love or hate this movie...and sometimes for personal reasons. One commented on the phoney British accents - odd, considering many of the actors hail from England. Another found the characters evil - I found them refreshing honest in their dishonesty.
I loved this movie which surprised me 'cause I am not a great fan of director Altman's MASH or Nashille.
You have to really pay attention to what's on the screen because each scene is like a painting...there's almost always more than one thing to focus on; often more than one character talking at the same time. I loved that. I could't believe the bitchiness, the selfishness -- and not like Hollywood's usual over-the-top portrayals. These are people you meet at large dinner parties (minus the accents).
Maggie Smith and Helen Mirren were nominated for best-supporting Oscars and I had thought, as much as I love these performers, I wonder if they're just nominations for their body of work. Wrong...they simply are amazing.
I won't promise you will enjoy this movie as much as I, but I highly recommend you give it a try.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Potential Unfulfilled, Jan. 7 2003
By 
This review is from: Gosford Park [Import] (VHS Tape)
I was wild to see this film after seeing the trailer for it. The cast, the British murder mystery, rainy country weekend, bumbling inspector, etc. Just my cup of tea. Yet, while this is very moody and atmospheric, with top-drawer casting, as a mystery it doesn't make it. The pace is very slow, almost excruciatingly so. The murder, which is led up to cleverly, takes far too long to happen. There are many suspects with overlapping plotlines, but when you unravel them all, they lead nowhere. The ending was a complete bust. It's your typical abovestairs/belowstairs British class system drama. It's more about that than the murder; a dismal let-down when one was expecting a more updated Agatha Christie-type mystery, which is just what the trailer portrayed. There were too many unresolved storylines, some of which were interesting, but destined to remain unexplored. My overall impression is that this is just a slice of a better, more rounded film. Others have complained that Altman focuses more on style than substance, and I would have to agree in the case of Gosford Park.
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Gosford Park
Gosford Park by Robert Altman (DVD - 2002)
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