Madonna & W./E. Against Us!

DATELINE: Material Girl Directs!

Andrea Riseborough Andrea Riseborough as Duchess of Windsor!

If you are looking for Madonna in her 2011 movie W./E., you won’t see her. She was behind the camera, directing it.

The film is everything you might expect—and is also totally unexpected. It may seem like Downton Abbey in Material Girl terms, but it is really a solid case of Woody Allen’s Play It Again Sam meeting Henry James and The Aspern Papers.

Two women named Wallis, 70 years apart, have what appears to be a paranormal encounter.  They are unsympathetic protagonists, but what the world hates, Madonna loves.

Back in 2011, the movie was widely castigated by critics as an overreach and under-achievement. Those tuning in to see the iconic woman will see only her stand-ins: the two Wallys.

Now with a few years passed, we can see W./E. as something far more interesting and poorly judged by audiences and the anti-Madonna contingent. The film is beautifully constructed and under-appreciated.

A modern 1998 woman is obsessed with Wallis Simpson and her husband, the one-time King of England.

Here the legendary singer stretched her wings to make a film about a woman researching the legendary love affair of the exiled Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Wallis advises her modern counterpart, as both women are rapacious and obsessive.

Madonna seems intent on showing the Duchess of Windsor sacrificed far more than her husband.

In Madonna’s hands, this tale becomes a curious parallel to the Henry James story called The Aspern Papers. The conceit is that Wallis Simpson has left some letters that explain the affair in more comprehensive terms of the 21st century. It seems the King may not have given up the throne for the woman he loved exactly as advertised. He made his wife a glamorous prisoner.

Madonna’s modern woman is flawed greatly, intense and refusing to be denied: much like the Duchess of Windsor and the Madonna of music.

Intriguing Abbie Cornish is the modern Wally, and Andrea Riseborough is the brilliant version of the Duchess Wally. This is a fascinating film on many levels. You need to re-discover it.

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Operation Finale, Fastidious & Fatal

DATELINE: Kingsley’s Bookend Performance

eichmann

The story of the capture of Adolph Eichmann in Argentina in 1960 is now the subject of an extremely compelling docudrama called Operation Finale.

If there is anything outstanding in the story about the man who was dubbed the Architect of the Final Solution and his kidnapping to bring him to trial in Israel, it is that Ben Kingsley (75 years old) plays the 56-year old Eichmann.

This performance comes toward the end of a long career that started with Kingsley playing Gandhi. These are bookend performances of resonance. From the epitome of goodness to the epitome of evil, Kingsley manages to make the banal fascinating and fastidious.

We were reminded of Laurence Olivier who also played much younger in flashbacks when he was in his 70s. Here, Kingsley is done up, perhaps from special computer effects, to look like his forty-something self.

His Eichmann is not a monster but manages to charm his Israeli Mossad captor, Peter Malkin (Oscar Isaac) in a compelling role playing the main protagonist (as well as film producer) and foil to Kingsley. He is witty with gallows humor hiding his post-traumatic stress over a sister lost in the Holocaust.

Two other notable actors seem to return to the big screen in minor roles:  we were surprised to find king of the TV miniseries of the 1970s, Peter Strauss, as a blind refugee, and that zaftig woman, looking so familiar as Eichmann’s wife, is amazing Greta Scacchi.

The film resonates in many ways, making it more than a precursor to Shaw’s play, the Man in the Glass Booth. We see Eichmann only in that display case for a few fleeting moments at the end of the movie.