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Gosford Park

Tea At Four. Dinner At Eight. Murder At Midnight. 

Year: 2001 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 (Scope) 
Certificate: BBFC 15 Cert – Not suitable for under 15s 
Subtitles: The level of subtitling in this film is unknown to WSC 
Directed by Unknown 
Starring: Unknown  

Gosford Park is the kind of project that could make a British film producer run a mile. A period society murder mystery in the vein of Agatha Christie without even a American star in sight, what hope would it have in this country, let alone any kind of trans-atlantic appeal. However Robert Altman has shown that the opposite is true and has the box office receipts and awards to prove it.

The film follows the events above and below stairs at a country mansion where a raft of guests meet up for a weekend of grouse shooting and verbal back stabbing. As with all of AltmanÕs films the events, including the murder of the host, play a secondary role to the interplay between the characters with everyone having something to hide or an axe to grind.

With the quantity and quality of talent on show it seems almost unfair to single anyone out but Clive Owen, Kelly Macdonald and Helen Mirren pull off the subtlest performances whilst the showboating roles are played to the hilt Richard E Grant as the snobbish butler, Maggie Smith as politely rude old lady and Stephen Fry as a bumbling detective who seems to have wandered in from a different production and threatens to unbalance the tone of the entire film. The presence of the Fry is probably to avoid any possibility of the audience believing that the murderer will be caught, a lightweight twist to the ending that is forgivable only because the murder itself seems almost superfluous to the story.

The film's success stems from the amount of life, depth and movement invested in every scene. This is not simply due to thesps but the subtly probing camera which guides the audience through the house, which becomes a character in itself. Gosford Park can survive comparison with Altman's best work, and that is possibly the highest compliment that can be paid.

David Goody

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Screenings of this film:

2002/2003 Autumn Term (35mm)