Thursday, February 13, 2014

"The Scarlet Pimpernel" (1982) -- Initial Thoughts

I have finally seen this!  After reading people's rapturous allusions to it in the blogosphere for the last year or so (since I came out of my internet shell and started reading more blogs, basically), I've been wanting to see what all the fuss is about.  Especially since... Ian McKellen!  Jane Seymour!  Intrigue and costumes and bits of dialog that have been quoted so often I knew them already even though I'd never seen the movie!

So my dear friend DKoren and I got copies and watched it together over three nights.  Despite a few technical difficulties, we had a jolly time laughing at Sir Percy's (Anthony Andrews) affected foppishness, exclaiming over Marguerite's (Jane Seymour) loveliness, and marveling at Chauvelin's (Ian McKellen) dark good looks.

I know Chauvelin is supposed to be the bad guy and all, but wow... even 20 years ago, Ian McKellen was an amazing actor.  The nuances he could add with a cheek twitch or a lowering of his eyebrows, and the way he could switch his voice from calm to brusque or angry in one breath -- I was agog.

Not to mention that the man is gorgeous here!  Look at those eyes!  Look at those cheekbones!  Look at that wonderful hair!  Hello, salty goodness.  And does anyone else say, "You idiot!" with quite such disdainful vehemence?

By comparison, I'm afraid that even when Sir Percy wasn't making up the most horrible poetry or taking excessive snuff, I wasn't particularly interested in Anthony Andrews or his character.  Except when he would look very sad and pensive once in a while, that was quite nice.

And definitely except when, toward the end, he got all scruffy and manly looking for one of his disguises.

Bare forearms with those awesome gauntlets, a gorgeous shadow on his face, and that wonderfully tousled hair.  If he had looked like that during the whole movie, I would have been reduced to a puddle of drool within the first twenty minutes.  Ten, if he and Ian McKellen had had more scenes together.  So, Anthony Andrews fans, point me to some movies where he looks more like that!

And I cannot neglect to discuss Jane Seymour's flawless beauty.  I've seen her at about this age before in Somewhere in Time (1980), and almost a decade younger in Live and Let Die (1973), but I have never seen her quite this beautiful.

Perfect nose and eyes as always (and you could really see here that she has mismatched eyes, which is so mysterious and alluring), but the fancy hair and clothes really set off her face so perfectly here.  Breathtaking.  Not to mention she had a pretty difficult role -- Marguerite has to be intelligent enough to see the man behind the mask at the beginning, but not so swift that she figures out who her husband really is right away.  How she didn't recognize his whispers in that library scene is beyond me.

Speaking of library scenes -- what wonderful sets!  I kept remarking to my friend about how I wished for all those built-in bookcases that kept appearing in various shots.  And there's a ball where they're dancing on such a wonderful black-and-white checkered floor.  Some day I'm going to have a floor like that in my kitchen.

I suppose I should really make a brief mention of what this movie is actually about, in case anyone reading this doesn't already know.  The French Revolution is in full swing, heads rolling everywhere, and this mysterious guy known as the Scarlet Pimpernel keeps rescuing aristocrats from the guillotine.  He's called that because a pimpernel is a little flower (not a squash, a dark bread, or a facial blemish), and he signs his notes with a red one.  So anyway, Citizen Chauvelin is hunting this guy, but no one knows who he really is because he always has such clever disguises.  We the audience know right away that he's actually Sir Percy Blakeney, who pretends to be the most air-headed British aristocrat you have ever imagined.  Cowboy refers to him as "that annoying little English dude" and kept insisting the French should chop his head off for being so irritating.  But he wasn't actually watching the movie, he was just using the computer in the same room and supposedly not paying attention, so we'll let that slide.

Anyway, naturally Sir Percy falls in love with Marguerite, who happens to be the same woman that Chauvelin is in love with already.  And that's why I feel horribly bad for Chauvelin through the whole movie.  He really does seem to love Marguerite, but he doesn't have the money or power or mysteriousness of Sir Percy, so he loses her.  Even though he's way more interesting and attractive than Sir Percy's pretended persona.

And then it's all daring rescues and misunderstandings and sword fights and fun.

So.  Did I enjoy this movie?  Yes.  But I didn't actually love it, so I am going to give away my copy!  It was brand-new when I bought it, and I've only watched it once.  Click here for the giveaway post.

Is this movie family-friendly?  Mostly.  There are a couple of bad words, low-cut dresses, very brief scenes of people kissing in bed, and some minor violence of the swashbuckling sort (swords and pistols).  You never see people's heads cut off, that's all implied.  They do hold up a head now and then, but you only see it from behind and it looks like a hairy ball.  I'd say this is either a mild PG-13 or a serious PG.

This post is part of the Anthony Andrews Blog Hop hosted by Carissa of Musings of an Introvert.  Click below to visit other peoples' blog posts about him and his movies.

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  1. *laughs* I feared you might like Chauvelin more than Percy since you're a Sir Ian fan. I confess that I'm not really, which puts me in a minority, so I was never in danger of liking him more than Percy. Especially when he began manipulating Marguerite. That was unforgivable in my eyes. I don't think that Marguerite ever actually loved Chauvelin to be honest. He was probably one in a line of admirers that attach themselves to an actress and because she is quite clever, she knew better than to refuse a man so powerful and deadly. At least, not until she had protection from him via Percy. But, that's all right, you're permitted to like Chauvelin. A great many people do! ;)

    Most of the time Anthony is very tidy and neat in his films. He is slightly grungy in Ivanhoe, though, so we'll just wait and see if you win that DVD tomorrow! Honestly, as much as I love Percy, I find Ivanhoe to be much more attractive as a man. A little grime and a different hairstyle do wonders for him. :)

    1. Yes, it does really make a difference if you're already someone's fan. I'd never seen Sir Ian this young before -- I did see him in The Shadow and Richard III in the mid-1990s, but he's playing an old father or a middle-aged tyrant in those, and not at all the same thing. Here -- wow. So handsome! I wasn't expecting that, I'll admit. And how blue his eyes are!

      Okay, I'll stop.

      I don't think Marguerite loved Chauvelin either. She was flattered by his attentions, certainly, and at the beginning didn't seem to be annoyed by him at all. But she did not look at him the way he looked at her. But when she spurned him and married Sir Percy, then his love turned sour and he sought to revenge himself on both her and her husband with his dirty trick ofsigning her name to that death warrant. You can see when he arrives at the Blakeney manor that he's very pleased his little plot worked and drove a wedge between them. And he almost could take her back at that point -- certainly he's very attracted to her still (look at how he leans over her still, echoing their tete-a-tete at the party in the beginning), but also is disgusted that she could have chosen a fop over him.

      I liked AA looking clean-shaven as long as he wasn't doing ridiculous things with his eyebrows, ie, when he was being serious. But scruffy? Wow! Totally more my style. But I like my guys scruffy and unafraid to get dirty, just my thing. If I don't win the DVD, I'll have to try to get a copy elsewhere and see what I think!

    2. I'll grant you that Sir Ian was very good looking in TSP, more so than I'd ever seen him before so I don't blame you for being stunned and impressed. I'd never actually seen him that young!

      It's sort of scary how what was once a pure love, and I do believe Chauvelin loved her, can turn so very sour. I'm sure it was a shock to Chauvelin that she would ever choose someone else over him, but his behavior turned frightening pretty quickly. That's the danger for people in power. They grow accustomed to being obeyed and then when someone doesn't obey, they lash out in a way to force them to obey. I can't remember what he was like in the book, it's been so long since I last read it.

      One of the things you'll learn about AA is that he's very much an eyebrow actor. His face responds to just about everything, although possibly less in his villainous roles, but he is always raising his eyebrows. But he doesn't stick his lips out in that weird Percyesque way in any of his other roles. ;)

    3. Eyebrows on their own don't bug me that much -- you're right, it's the combination of them with the funny lip-pursing that gets a bit much. And is intended to, I'm sure.

  2. I'd say I'm not a big fan of manipulators -- but saying that makes me a hypocrite, since I'm probably one of the most devout Phantom of the Opera fans in the world, and all HE does IS manipulate. =D

    I like Sir Ian, but mostly in his older roles -- Magneto, Gandalf, etc. I enjoy him in this, though, and I think he had fun doing it. I think he lost Margot less because he wasn't a fop and more because Percy intrigued her -- she knew it was a game, but she didn't know why, whereas Chauvlin wasn't mysterious. He was what he was, he put his true self out there, and she got... well, bored with him, as flighty romantics are prone to do. He would be the steady husband, and Margot simply can't have that!

    Percy has a wonderful mind, and yet he can be unbearably stupid, from a logical point of view. He doesn't bother to find out Margot's side of the story, he simply believes what he is told. And he lets Armand be a total moron and gets himself caught in the process of rescuing him. I'd never allow it! But he is quite sweet.

    1. I'm not a fan of Chauvelin's behavior, though I do understand it. And I appreciate people who can plot well and be secretive. I'm secretive myself, that's probably part of it.

      I think both Ian and Anthony were having a huge lot of fun in this movie, especially in their scenes together. I wish they'd gotten more time opposite each other.

      And I have a very steady husband, so that could also be why I was drawn to Chauvelin more. I love to read and watch mysteries, but I don't like them in real life.

      And yes, there were a couple of plot points that really didn't work. Not talking to Marguerite about his suspicions? Stupid! Even without revealing he was the Scarlet Pimpernel, he could have just asked her. And then she didn't recognize his voice int he library scene -- whatever. And yes, letting himself walk right into that trap. Too cocky!

      But he is quite sweet :-)

    2. Sir Percy, stupid, set in his ways, believing he's always right? Never! ;)

      Sorry, couldn't resist! *snorts*

    3. I don't know if you've ever read the novel, but I'm almost certain there was more confirmation of what Marguerite was supposed to have done than in the movie. I think that she would have found the fop's concern uncharacteristic and of course he couldn't show his SP side to her, because if her sympathies were indeed with Chauvelin, et al., the game would have been up. Also, they didn't really play up how much contempt Marguerite had for Percy/the fop -- it's much harsher in the novel, IMHO.

    4. Nope, haven't read the book yet -- but I have it, and now I really want to read it, so... sometime this year, I hope.

  3. I think this is the first time I've heard Chauvlin described as gorgeous. I guess I haven't seen him in anything else, but here he seems to sneaky for my liking. However, I DO admit to feeling a little sorry for him when Marguerite chooses Percy over him. He's just not my favorite character.
    Percy is certainly one of my favorite heroes - risking his life so often for other people, who couldn't like that? It was so hard for him when he'd married the love of his life and then she appeared to be against him. If I were him I wouldn't have lied to her like that, but if he hadn't what sort of movie would this be? :) Anthony Andrews is in a version of Ivanhoe, which I haven't seen, but recommend if you're interested.
    Marguerite is lovely. And I'd never noticed before that her eyes aren't quite adds whimsical touch which is very attractive.
    Anyways, thanks for the review! And I'm SO happy you decided to watch it. :)

    1. Oh my goodness, both my friend and I were absolutely in raptures over Sir Ian here! So, so handsome. But yes, very sneaky.

      Percy is exceedingly heroic, no question. I'm eager to read the book now!

      I think I'd been watching Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman for several years before I realized that Jane Seymour has one green eye and one brown. A small detail, but striking when you see it.

      I actually just entered a contest on "Musings of an Introvert" to possibly win the AA version of Ivanhoe -- if I win it, I'll be sure to review it here. If I don't, I'll try find a copy when I can.

      I'm happy I got to see it at last too! Hey, have you ever done a portrait of Marguerite on your blog?

    2. Oh, and you HAVE seen Ian McKellen in something else. He's Gandalf!

  4. You all might enjoy this. This is a kind of Shakespeare masterclass with Ian McKellen, David Suchet (Hercule Poirot) and Ben Kingsley -- at one point they all work together. Lovely!

    1. Sorry -- it starts at 28:34 where they're all playing together.

    2. Oooooooooh! "Playing Shakespeare" is on YouTube? Shiny! I've wanted to see those for a while now. Thanks! Bookmarking...

  5. i LOVE TSP!!!!!!!!! And i love all the acting! One of my all time favorite movies ever. Have you listened to the broadway musical of it? It's beyond amazing! So beautiful and elegant! I love anything to do with TSP!

    1. The acting was superb! Anthony Andrews was clearly having the most fun ever whenever he got to be all disguised as a peasant. It's always so fun watching actors who enjoy what they're doing, isn't it?

      I haven't read the book yet, or heard the musical -- I have a copy of the book, but haven't tracked down the musical or soundtrack yet. But it sounds intriguing!

  6. *giggles*
    Oh dear, falling in love with the villain is not a good idea, my dear Hamlette! :)

    1. Pish tosh. Chauvelin's not a villain! An antagonist, yes, but he's not villainous. Bent on capturing an adversary, bent on protecting things he holds dear. Okay, using Marguerite was a bit villainous. But I do like guys who are a bit grey around the edges, like Wolverine and Sirius Black and Mr. Rochester. Not that I would put Chauvelin in the same category with any of them, but you see what I mean.

      Actually, it's much more dangerous to fall in love with a secondary character. Boromir, Sirius Black, Archie Kennedy... not a safe way to live at all.

    2. Archie Kennedy...
      I cried buckets when he died... *sighs* Perhaps you're right... :(

    3. And when I say "not a safe way to live at all," I actually mean "I love all those characters so much and cry and cry over them." Boromir and Sirius are my fave LOTR and HP characters, and I almost love Archie as much as Horatio. Sniffle.

  7. I think Anthony Andrews is just the bomb as the SP!!! So handsome and sexy, yes, even when he was acting the foolish Sir Percy. Sorry, don't think Sir Ian can hold a candle to his beauty. But that's just MHO.

    1. I'm definitely in the minority when it comes to this movie :-)

  8. Okay, so this is my favorite movie ever, so anything in praise of it is sweet to my ears, if never quite enough. :) I think the three leads all act their roles superbly, and yes, Ian McClellan is magnificent as Chauvelin. I love his initial scene with Sir Percy, where he's looking all bewildered while Percy hops from fashion to politics and Chauvelin has no idea whether to take him completely seriously or not. A couple of scenes where his acting gets quite nuanced are when he's discussing his assignment with Robespierre right after the Duc de Lionne (sp??) gets away, and he goes from nervous he's going to lose his own head to confident he can catch Percy in England; and the scene when he realizes he's lost Marguerite which is so filled with emotion. But my total favorite moment of his (which is also my favorite still from the movie) is that instant when (spoiler alert) he realizes Percy isn't dead and whirls around with a completely shocked expression. SO perfect.

    I don't believe Maurgerite left Chauvelin because he bored her! There's one scene where he is trying to convince her to denounce a family as traitors and she realizes how bloodthirsty he has become. She says, "I see now that what begins as a dream may end as a nightmare, and some causes can become warped and twisted like some men." THAT'S why she doesn't marry him -- she realizes he is getting far too tied up in the Revolution and she can't follow him into the violence. Of course it helps that she's intrigued with Sir Percy by that point, but her refusal of Chauvelin has far more to do with his increasing bloodthirstiness than his steadiness.

    I could go on and on and on about this movie, but I had better stop. Even though I wish you liked Sir Percy better, I appreciate your comments about Chauvelin and Maurgerite. They are perfect in this movie.

    By the way, did you ever get around to reading the book? It's very good in my opinion, although it would be way better if you hadn't spoiled the huge plot twist by watching the movie first. I'd be curious what you thought of it though.
    -- Marcy

    1. Marcy, nope, I haven't read the book yet. It's on my TBR bookcase, waiting still. I will read it one day, since it inspired Johnston McCulley's creation of Zorro, one of my favorite characters ever.

      I don't think Marguerite left Chauvelin because he was boring, not at all. She leaves him because of what he's become, as you say. But she also married Sir Percy before she knew what he truly was, which... yeah.

      If Chauvelin hadn't been played by Sir Ian, I probably wouldn't have cared a whit for him. Totally an instance of me liking a character because of who played them. This does happen.

    2. The book is very good too in my opinion, though it's quite different from the movie, both because Marguerite is already married to Sir Percy and because the movie knitted two books together, meaning that the climax is completely different in movie and book. (There is a whole series of Scarlet Pimpernel books, though I've only read the first one.) I don't think my brother and I have ever been so impatient in urging my mother to keep reading as when we came near the end of that book. We had no idea what was going to come next!

      Yes, I know what you mean about liking characters because of the actors who play them, though I can't think of any instances at this particular moment. Except that although I don't love Chauvelin in this movie, I like him way more than I should. (I don't think you'll like the Chauvelin of the book at all, though. He's not nearly as sympathetic, and he doesn't have Sir Ian to redeem him either.) It's funny, because Chauvelin is very short in the book, and when I first heard that the guy who plays Gandalf in LOTR was going to play Chauvelin, I immediately got the idea that the opposite would happen and he'd be towering over everyone else! I'd only seen one clip from the movies when Gandalf was mounted to base this on, but I was assuming that he had to be a lot taller than anyone else, for some reason. I guess I thought wizards should be tall. Anyway, it was a relief when he wasn't taller than anyone else, though he's not particularly short, either. (That concept kind of plays into the books as a contrast between Sir Percy and Chauvelin, because Percy is very tall and broad-shouldered, and Chauvelin is very short and slight. This didn't really come across in the movie, but I didn't really mind, as long as Chauvelin wasn't towering over everyone else.)

    3. Marcy, of course Gandalf seems very tall in much of the LOTR movies because he's hanging out with teensy hobbits. And in "The Hobbit" he's hanging out with dwarves and hobbits, so again, he's the tallest for a lot of the time. But Ian McKellen isn't particularly tall -- says 5'11" which is how tall my husband is. Anthony Andrews tops him at 6' even.

    4. Ahh, yes, that must be why I thought of him as really tall! Thanks for the explanation and their actual heights.


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