Director: Jérôme Salle.
Starring: Lambert Wilson, Pierre Niney, Audrey Tautou. France 2016. 123 mins. French with English subtitles.
Explorer Jacques Cousteau’s career is re-played in Jérôme Salle’s impressively mounted biopic. Lambert Wilson (Of Gods And Men) is the charismatic and opinionated French naval captain who made oceanography and environmentalism household words with his 1960s and ’70s TV series. But for all Cousteau’s vision, entrepreneurial skill and bravery, relationships with his wife (Tautou) and sons Philippe (Niney, Frantz) and the less-favoured Jean-Michel (Benjamin Lavernhe) were anything but easy. After Philippe was killed in a plane crash Cousteau was for a time a broken man and he never he fully recovered his indomitable spirit. Spanning some 30 years, Salle’s film skilfully intersperses accounts of the Cousteau family dynamics with underwater sequences which are as impressive as any accomplished by the man himself. A film as delightful to behold as it is thoughtful.
Director: Stephen Frears.
Starring: Judi Dench, Ali Fazal, Eddie Izzard. UK/USA 2017. 112 mins.
The year is 1887, and the British Empire is celebrating Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. A young Indian clerk, Abdul Karim (Fazal), travels to England to present the monarch with a ceremonial coin. “Whatever you do, you must not look at Her Majesty,” he is told. But he does. And he smiles. And so begins one of the unlikeliest friendships in history. As the Queen (Dench) questions the constrictions of her long-held position, she forms a strong bond with her newest servant. Their devoted alliance provokes outrage and conspiracy within the Royal Household, but it also rejuvenates the cosseted ruler, who begins to see a changing world through new eyes. A lavish, heartfelt period drama with wit and charm, Victoria And Abdul allows us to peek beyond the portraits and imagine the hardships – and joys – of being the figurehead of the last true empire.