Thursday, April 02, 2009


My thanks to Viv Apple for the following piece:

The Velázquez painting, “The Toilet of Venus” is perfection. I had the pleasure of seeing it in an exhibition of the painter's work at the National Gallery two years ago. I saw Roger Michell’s ‘Venus’ at the cinema just before I visited the gallery, and I have to say that the film was pretty close to that description as well.

The ‘Venus’ of the film is Jessie (Jodie Whittaker), the great niece of ageing actor Ian (Leslie Phillips), one of a trio who regularly meet up in a caff for drinks and regrets. The other thespians are Richard Griffiths, and Peter O’Toole as Maurice, who is captivated by Jessie as soon as she comes to look after Ian in return for a room in his London flat while she looks for work.

Jessie is a bolshy 19-year-old, both repulsed by and emotionally drawn to Maurice, who conveys her confused feelings with an amazing skill and economy of words. Their relationship is tender, erotic, and revealing of their changing attitudes towards each other.

Vanessa Redgrave as Maurice’s ex-wife features in only two telling scenes, filling in the background to the old philanderer’s re-awakened longings. They’ve both been there, done that, and understand each other.

As in all the best films and the best reality, the story interweaves hope with resignation, hilarity with despair. Peter O’Toole was rightfully nominated for an Oscar for his part (he lost out to Forest Whittaker for ‘The Last King of Scotland’), and all the performances match the sharpness of writing and direction.

by Viv Apple

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