Easy Virtue a very British and always current remake
by Gabriele Barcaro
One of the paradoxes at the current Rome Film Festival is that the event’s most British film is directed by an Australian, Stephan Elliott (Priscilla: Queen of the Desert). His latest film, Easy Virtue [+see also:
film profile], written with another Australian, Sheridan Jobbins, is the second adaptation (after a silent film made by the young Alfred Hitchcock) of the Noel Coward play.
John (Ben Barnes of The Chronicles of Narnia), the young heir of the aristocratic Whittaker family, returns to the family castle with his new bride Larita (Jessica Biel) shortly after his parents find out about the quick marriage. Larita is beautiful, emancipated and…American: all qualities to make her loathsome to her mother-in-law Kristin Scott Thomas.
With its rapid fire, razor sharp dialogue and clockwork quips (a special mention goes to family patriarch Colin Firth), the film captures the spirit of Coward (“But we limited his tremendous cruelty and added a few episodes,” said the director). “Some of the lines seems to come from the original play, but were actually written in Sidney,” said admiring producer Barnaby Thompson.
No stranger to remakes of European films (Elliott’s penultimate film of 1998, Eye of the Beholder, is a remake of by Claude Miller's Deadly Run), Elliott had no qualms about doing a remake of Hitchcock’s 1928 title. “At the time he was not yet the master of thrillers that he became. I shot the film thinking how the Hitchcock of the 1960s would have made it, the mature Hitchcock that we all know”.
The director is convinced that Easy Virtue is very current. Apart from the soundtrack, in which Cole Porter songs are flanked by classic arrangements of new songs (of note is a foxhunt set to “Sex Bomb”), the work’s original themes are still very modern: “War, the economic crisis, euthanasia,” he said.
(Translated from Italian)
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