Merry War on DVD
George Orwell's Flowery
Battle of the Sexes
Director Robert Bierman's
"A Merry War" is based on a not-too-well-known George Orwell
novel called "Keep the Aspidistra Flying." It's billed as a
comedy in the vein of the old Ealing Studios works that helped make Sir
Alec Guinness' name back forty or more years ago.
While a comedy it
may be, it isn't a knee slapper; it's subtle, gentle, and very, very British.
And that isn't a bad thing. In an era of being hit over the head with
jokes and gags, this film's quiet wit is a nice change of pace.
Starring Richard E.
Grant and Helena Bonham Carter, "A Merry War" tells the tale
of Gordon Comstock (Grant), a successful copywriter who throws it all
away to become a poet. His long suffering girlfriend Rosemary (Bonham
Carter) takes this scary metamorphosis in stride - at least for as long
as she can.
Along the way, Comstock
literally destoys everything he has and could potentially build, even
alienating his small circle of family and friends: his sister to whom
he owes money, his lovely lady Rosemary, and his one male friend, an upper
class commie who (as it turns out) doesn't care for the working class
nearly as much as he pretends to.
love triumphs, because eventually the lovely Rosemary tracks Comstock
down again (by this time he's living in squalor as a truly starving artist
- except that he's no longer creating anything) and lets him knock her
up (the sexual kind of knocking up, not the British expression).
We won't spoil the
plot by telling you more than that...
The cast, including
the supporting actors, turn in delightful performances, and the musical
score (by Mike Batt) complements the film nicely.
As a DVD, there's
lots to recommend "A Merry War," though we noticed several times
during playback when the movie seemed to freeze for a millisecond, then
continue on as if nothing had happened. We don't know why this happened,
but since more than one of us observed the phenomenon, we took to to be
real. It's an annoyance, but not a major one - though we really do expect
better from DVD.
The 1.85:1 widescreen
picture is very good, as is the audio - though in the latter's case you
should be prepared for simple two channel stereo with no center or surround
tracks in evidence.
Extras abound, including
a marvelous feature length commentary from director Bierman and screenwriter
Alan Plater. They discuss the film's genesis and development in a friendly
and entertaining way. There's also an audio interview with composer Batt,
and his score is featured on its own audio track as well (We really like
it when this is done - unfortunately, it usually isn't). There's also
some background info on George Orwell, UK and US theatrical trailers,
cast/production bios, and a reasonable set of liner notes.
"A Merry War"
is part of the "Prestige Collection" from DVD International,
a small independent company that's carving out its niche with "niche"
We wish them luck.
A Merry War, from
DVD International's Prestige Collection
Approx. 100 minutes, widescreen (1.85:1)
Starring Richard E. Grant and Helena Bonham Carter
Executive Producers Robert Bierman & John Wolstenholme, Screenplay
by Alan Plater, based on the novel "Keep the Apidistra Flying"
by George Orwell
Produced by Peter Shaw, Directed by Robert Bierman
Tell us at TechnoFile what YOU think