Man in the Iron Mask 20 Years Later

DATELINE:  Re-assessment

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Twenty years ago (was it really 1998?), we saw the TV movie version of The Man in the Iron Mask—and pronounced it the film in which a generation of venerated actors knelt down before the new god of acting. So we were reminded today by a little magpie.

It now seems a good time to re-assess the movie, now in HD and streaming.

Yes, the passing of the torch literally happened at the end of the film when the Three Musketeers (Jeremy Irons, Gerard Depardieu, and John Malkovitch) dropped to their knees before Leonardo di Caprio as if to pay homage to the new acting marvel. Yes, literally, not figuratively.

The young star was stunning, both in his performances in the dual roles of the man in the mask and his egregious brother.

And, on top of that, he was beautiful beyond words.

Over the years, he has morphed into a character actor and downplayed his looks. If you are not beautiful at 24, you never will be.

As for the film, as period pieces go, the production was quite impressive, with only one matte shot that seemed fake. The most shocking shot was Depardieu naked.

It was a rousing tale of the aging Musketeers, and their swan song too. Each of the principal actors (Gabriel Byrne was D’Artagnan) shone in his place—but all had to play second fiddle to the twice the  Di Caprio that you might expect as both the good boy and bad one.

The film’s actresses fared less well and were less known, as even the minor male stars turned out to be Peter Skarsgaard as Malkovich’s son (looking surprisingly alike) and in a throwaway role, Hugh Laurie, almost comical.

Twenty years did not dampen the film’s high-quality appeal.

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Man & His Infinity

DATELINE: Not an Ancient Alien

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With a plethora of British biopics about geniuses in recent years, it seems only expected that we would have the story of Ramanujan, the brilliant mathematician from India before World War I.

The movie is The Man Who Knew Infinity—and it’s not his car he covets.

Yes, this was the Raj version of Einstein—and you may know all about him from Ancient Aliens, which has touted his connection to star beings.

This movie is the antithesis of that. It is what’s known as a stolid effort with a couple of extraordinary actors. Jeremy Irons is Prof. Hardy, mentor at Trinity to Ramanujan. Since Irons has been appearing in comic book movies lately, this comes as a bit of a shocking throwback to Brideshead Revisited.

He’s wonderful as a dry academic, and Dev Patel is workmanlike as the boy wonder.

It’s hard to make formulae look like a car crash, or even a car chase. As a result, all those esoteric chalklines lose the average viewer. Since numbers are Ramanujan’s best friends, the rest of us lose out.

The film depicts the usual British racism from the Raj—and a misunderstood genius suffers for his talent. The movie is by the book, and we don’t mean graphic novel. This is like Downton Abbey Meets Theory of Everything.

Of course, you know we like any movie that has Toby Jones and Stephen Fry as supporting actors.

We can’t tell a Brahmin from an Untouchable, but this film left us feeling untouched. That’s a shame because this is a good enough movie.