Monday, September 8, 2008

A Good Year

A Good Year was released in 2006. It didn’t make much of a splash. In fact, I don’t remember seeing any advertisements for this movie, which was Directed by Ridley Scott. With Scott Directing, and notable actors like Russell Crowe and Albert Finney, it seems that this movie would have had a stronger release. However, it is obvious from the outset that this movie does not have the mass appeal that other movies might generate. This romantic comedy was filmed in Britain and France, contains a smithering of sub-titles and has a pacing that is slower than what many viewers desire. This movie is predictable but quaint. Russel Crowe stars as Maximillian Skinner, a young lad raised on a vineyard by his Uncle Henry (Albert Finney). Max Skinner shows early signs of his later genius as a ruthless stock trader with impeccable timing. Skinner loses touch with his pastoral upbringing and early life’s lessons after departing France to pursue his stock trading career in London. Max also loses touch with his Uncle, who represented Max’s only family. After twenty years in London, ten of which Max has not been in contact with Uncle Henry, Max learns that he is the sole heir to his Uncle’s vineyard. Max intends to make short work of disposing of the vineyard to the highest bidder. The quicker the better. Fate intervenes, reconnecting Max to his roots in a predictable but comical (and sometimes touching) series of events. Although this plot line is predictable, I thought that the writing in this film was impeccable. Plot is certainly an integral part of writing. However, Peter Mayle (who wrote the novel) and Marc Klein (screenplay) manage to weave an interesting story around a simple concept. There are a few minor sub-plots in this film that are important to the story. There is very little in the way of diversion, although this story could probably be told in less than the two hour run time allotted for this film. What I liked most about the writing was the rich dialogue (to include the sub-titles), the interesting cast of characters and most importantly the way that this story connects to all of your senses. Good writing has a way of making you employ more than just your mental processes. When your senses are engaged by a book or film you become more connected to the story. A Good Year provides this appeal on every level. There are scenes that show Max connecting to his past when he looks at his Uncle Henry’s cigar still sitting in an ashtray on an outdoor table. Max holds the cigar up to his nose visually reminiscing about his youth. Although there are flashbacks interspersed throughout the movie, there is no need for a flashback at this juncture. It is obvious from watching that the smell of Uncle Henry’s cigar has taken him back. The beginning of his process of reconnecting. The soundtrack also helps tell the story, with old records helping to tell the story. In addition to the involvement of the soundtrack within the story, music that was not directly related to the story also drew me in. I was amused at hearing Jimi Hendrix’ Hey Joe done in French. The smells, sounds, textures and tastes of Provence are amply displayed throughout this film, which created a greater enjoyment for me.


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