Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Anthony Minghella,a legend in his own time

Some very sad news to report,folks-Academy Award winning director Anthony Minghella has passed away at the age of 54. He had just finished work on an adaptation of Alexander McCall Smith's "The Number 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" that is due to air on the BBC this week.

Minghella was best known for his successful book to film translations and no doubt his take on the foibles and follies of Mma Precious Ramotswe(portrayed by singer Jill Scott)would've done the books justice. He was also a writer and a producer of films that he did not direct such as Michael Clayton and the upcoming The Reader.

Anthony Minghella's directorial style always seemed to be similar to Ang Lee's;both men were and are drawn to elegant emotional dramas that have beautiful,glossy exteriors and visuals but the true artistry is in the minute details of each character's development over the course of the film. To honor his memory,as well as recommend a few good rentals for those wanting to know more about his work,here is a handful of the best of Minghella on film:


One of Minghella's earlier movies,which was written by him and first meant as a BBC TV production. It stars Juliet Stevenson as Nina,a woman in such deep mourning for her recently deceased boyfriend,Jamie(Alan Rickman) that his ghost just shows up one day and moves in with her.

At first,things are great but after awhile,Jamie gets as annoying as living with a live person can be,with bringing his ghost buddies over at odd hours to hang out or move the furniture around. Eventually,Nina does meet another man that she falls for,but she is reluctant to give up her connection to Jamie:


This is the film that made Minghella a major player in Hollywood and a prominent person in the literary adaptation circles with this film based on Michael Ondaatje's novel. It won several Oscars that year,including Best Picture,Best Director and Best Supporting Actress for Juliette Binoche,who played Hana,the nurse who tends a mysterious burn victim in WWII ravaged Italian countryside. Her reluctance to get romantically involved with Kip,a bomb defuser is balanced by the slow unraveling of her "english" patient's past.

The patient is actually Hungarian and is named Almasy(Ralph Finnes). Almasy was working on a map of the Sahara desert and along the way,fell in love with Katherine Clifton,(Kristen Scott Thomas)the wife of one of his sponsors. His tragic physical condition is nothing compared to what happened as a result of their forbidden love:


Another Minghella adaptation,this time using Charles Frazier's popular Civil War novel as the platform for Jude Law and Nicole Kidman to strut their stuff on,as lovers parted by the war who struggle to reunite with one another. There were high expectations for this film,due to the success of The English Patient,but while it did receive some praise and box office revenue,many still found it lacking.

I didn't read Cold Mountain but this movie certainly tempted me to do so,at one time. One thing that the movie did have in common with The English Patient was that it gave another actress her first Oscar;Renee Zellweger won Best Supporting Actress for her role as Ruby,a tough country woman who teams up with Kidman's Ada to survive the harshness of civilian life in their war torn neck of the woods:


This is my favorite Anthony Minghella film,and one of the best adaptations of Patricia Highsmith's cannon,right up there with Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train. Thomas Ripley isn't as vicious as Bruno Anthony but they both share a talent for ingrating themselves into the lives of men who seem to be more important and glamorous than they are(in their own minds)and people pleasing skills that venture down some rather dark paths.

As Ripley's desire to become Dickie Greenleaf gets more and more twisted,leading to a goodly number of murders and lies,you can't help but root for him to get away with it. Matt Damon brings a strong sympathy to the character(boosted by Minghella's screenplay,which takes a few liberties with the plot as did Hitchcock with SOAT)that makes Ripley less of a sinister sociopath and more of a lost soul in search of acceptance and love.

If you only want to see one Minghella movie,I wholeheartedly recommend this as his best work. The Talented Mr. Ripley did get a few Oscar nominations but didn't win any Academy awards(the movie did get a couple of British awards and Minghella received the Writers Guild award that year),which is a crying shame to me. The Talented Mr. Ripley showcases the many talents of Anthony Minghella as a filmmaker to a T:


Robin Brande said...

Truly, Madly, Deeply is one of my favorite, favorite movies of all time. I love how Juliet Stevenson just lets the drip come out of her nose when she's crying--so genuine, and I'm always dripping right along with her.

Very nice tribute to the man, Lady T. It's hard to lose talent too early.

lady t said...

Thanks,Robin. If you get a chance,check out Library Diva's tribute to Minghella for his work on Jim Henson's The Storyteller series(that was a good show,wasn't it?). It was nice to be reminded of that.