Foyle’s War 7 -- Back in 2010, I told my readers about Set 6 of the popular "Foyle’s War" series. Three years later, retired Detective Chief Inspector Christopher Foyle (Michael Kitchen) begins Set 7 by returning from the USA after the first A-bomb test and wanting only to return to his home in Hastings to enjoy his retirement.
But R&R does not make for dramatic action, and he is recruited by MI5 to investigate a Russian spy ring. He reunites with his former driver Sam(antha) (Honeysuckle Weeks), now married to a Labor candidate for a seat in Parliament. Guess what! She becomes his driver, while several of her husband’s constituency complain about this and that. And of course, it all ties in with Foyle’s investigations.
The second episode deals with the sudden deaths of Russian defectors; the last is about MI5 using an ex-Nazi to help them spy on the Russians.
In all three episodes, it is the government that comes out smelling like less than roses; although in the first case, a sort of good argument is put for those who make the laws breaking them. We have met the enemy and it is us! Yes, important issues are brought up in this series which, along with the excellent acting, make "Foyle’s War" a Grabbit for one and all.
As always, the acting is quite good and the plots no more knotty than those on other police shows. Both Kitchen and Weeks have aged noticeably since their early sets; and one must ignore the fact that not much time has passed in terms of the story.
For those who forgot or never saw the earlier sets, there is a short recap of what happened then, several behind-the-scenes offerings and interviews.
Each of the three episodes run 91 minutes and there are very helpful subtitles.
War and Peace -- Why is it that a remake of a classic for the screen is invariably worse than the versions made before? The best example of a remake that never should been made is surely the recent "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy," which attempted and failed to tell in two hours the complex story so perfectly done in the 5.4 hours of the Guinness version.
Now Acorn Media has released a seven-hour version (it would seem made for French television) of "War and Peace." I can see no reason for this retelling. The 1956 film with Henry Fonda and Audrey Hepburn clocks in at about 3.5 hours; and there is a Russian multipart version that adds more than an hour to that timing.
This 2007 "War and Peace" has a huge cast -- and an obviously small number of extras to represent the French and Russian armies. The concentration is on the love affairs of the several leading and secondary characters. Chief among them is Natasha Rostova, played by Clemence Poesy, who plays well an impressionable teenage girl, in love at first with Andrej Bolkonsky (Alessio Boni) and then with the utterly villainous Anatole Kuragin (Ken Duken, who looks distractedly like Jack Lemmon’s Dr. Doom in "The Great Race"). She is also allowed or directed to slur and whisper a good deal of her dialogue.
The other lead is Pierre Bezukhov (Alexander Beyer), one of the few characters that is not a Prince or Princess. He is a passive character, easily persuaded not only to hire as his estate caretaker Anatole’s slimy father Vasili Kuragin (Toni Bertorelli) but also to marry Anatole’s rotten-to-the-core sister Helene (Violante Placido). The three witches in "Macbeth" are absolute darlings compared with this father-son-daughter act.
Two faces familiar over here are Malcolm McDowell as the tyrannous head of the Bolkonsky family and Brenda Blethyn as Marja, a relation and advisor to the Rostovas.
Tolstoy intended that the main antagonists of the novel be Napoleon (Scali Delpeyrat) and General Kutuzov (Vladimir Ilyin). They have what amounts to cameo parts in this version, Napoleon even more so than Kutuzov, while the dully acted out love affairs are given most of the running time.
And as one can judge from the names in the cast, this production involved film companies from the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, and Poland. Any lip synching is barely noticeable.
Given a good deal of muttered line readings, the subtitles are most welcome.
Frank Behrens reports on classical and Broadway music as well as recordings of books and plays.