Magazine article The Spectator

Imperial Sunset

Magazine article The Spectator

Imperial Sunset

Article excerpt

Cinema

The Last September (15, selected cinemas)

Imperial sunset

Mark Steyn

I like practically anything with Deborah Warner and Fiona Shaw's names on it. I've had a soft spot for Miss Shaw ever since she told me I looked like Tom Selleck, with whom she had recently filmed Three Men and a Baby 2. Or Two Men and a Baby 3. Whatever. The Shaw screen oeuvre to date is a ragbag of assignments one assumes were taken on for other than artistic reasons: a cartoon villain in Super Mario Brothers, amiable supporting roles in Persuasion and My Left Foot, but nothing that approaches her stage work with Miss Warner - their electrifying Electra for the RSC; The Wasteland, which I saw in the ruins of the Liberty Theatre, an old porno house on 42nd Street.

Miss Warner's Don Giovanni for Glyndebourne a few years back was also a cracker. She saw it as a thriller played out in real time, from its opening rape through the wedding party to the Don's final rendezvous in the flames of Hell - in a single evening. Played as one almighty bender, it all falls into place, even the finale: after all, every night in London, bargain-basement Dan Giovannis lurch from one joint to another until eventually, blind drunk, they stagger out of the last club at 3 a.m. and wonder, `Where now?' If the Devil showed up and said, `Hey, Hell's still open,' more than a few would take him up on it. Great stuff.

It's disappointing, then, to have to report that her film debut, The Last September, is not quite as special as her stage fans might have expected. I suspect this isn't entirely her fault. Neil Jordan brought the property to her - an Elizabeth Bowen novel, adapted by John Banville - and she seems to have been hemmed in from the beginning. We're in imperial sunset territory - County Cork in 1920, in one of those grand old houses whose inhabitants haven't quite discerned that the new political settlement has neglected to make provision for them. In this case, it's the Anglo-Irish - too Anglo for the Irish, too Irish for the English. The IRA are out there, just over the hedgerow, picking off squaddies and tossing their bodies in the river. But at Danielstown, their ancestral pile, Sir Richard and Lady Naylor are still throwing tennis parties under the assumption that the gunfire is just a minor nuisance. …

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