Tuesday, 28 July 2015

AGATHA CHRISTIE'S PARTNERS IN CRIME (BBC ONE)

Husband and wife Tommy and Tuppence Beresford stumble into the shadowy world of espionage because of a strange encounter on a Paris train and Tuppence's curiosity. 

They're enlisted by Tommy's uncle, the head of a secretive Military Intelligence department.

« You read too many detective novels, do you know that? »

In 2014 the BBC announced that they would be the new TV home of English crime writer Agatha Christie in the UK for the 125th anniversary of her birth, thanks to a major deal with her estate. Partners in Crime is one of the first two commissions under this deal, with And Then There Were None (1). It is based on a collection of short stories written by Christie between 1922 and 1973 and featuring crime-fighting duo Tommy and Tuppence Beresford. Francesca Annis and James Warwick played the Beresfords in a 1983-1984 series for LWT. In France, André Dussollier and Catherine Frot were the sleuth couple in three movies from 2005 to 2012. Since 2009 French television airs Les petits meurtres d'Agatha Christie, adapted from the author's work with local detectives (2).

« The field... It's not for you. »

Partners in Crime, the six-part series launched on sunday on BBC One, is set in 1952 and stars comedian and actor David Walliams as Tommy and Jessica Raine (Call The Midwife) as Tuppence. Walliams and Hilary Strong, of the Agatha Christie Group, got the idea to bring back the Beresfords. The first three one-hour episodes are an adaptation of The Secret Adversary by Zinnie Harris. In Part One the couple is taken out of their money worries and daily routine when they embark on the trail of a missing young woman and a Soviet assassin known as "Mr Brown". They now work for Major Anthony Carter (James Fleet), Tommy's uncle and the head the Third Floor, a branch of British Military Intelligence which doesn't officially exist. Tommy and Tuppence are assisted by Albert Pemberton (Matthew Steer), a chemistry teacher and part-time agent for Carter.

« Where did you learn all this?
- John Buchan, Conan Doyle, Dorothy L. Sayers.
- Books.
- And boarding school. Dodging the housemistress. »

Partners in Crime is charming, fun and gorgeously produced. David Walliams pleasantly surprises, Jessica Raine is excellent as usual and their duo works perfectly. It's the kind of classy and entertaining drama you expect from the BBC, whose special relationship with the estate of Agatha Christie starts well. Clarke Peters and Alice Krige are amongst the guest cast of The Secret Adversary. Partners in Crime is produced by Endor Productions and Agatha Christie Productions for the BBC. It is executive  produced  by  Hilary Bevan Jones for Endor, David Walliams, Mathew Prichard and Hilary Strong for Agatha Christie Productions, and Matthew Read for the BBC. Tim Phillips composed the great score. Peter Anderson Studio designed the titles.

« Why, Mr Beresford. I do believe your pulse has quickened just a little. »

The last three episodes are adapted from N or M? by Claire Wilson. The whole series is directed by Edward Hall. Partners in Crime is distributed by All3Media.

(1) http://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/latestnews/2015/then-there-were-none
(2) http://tattard2.blogspot.fr/2015/07/les-petits-meurtres-dagatha-christie.html

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02vf6rn
http://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/mediapacks/partners-in-crime
http://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/latestnews/2014/agatha-christie.html 
http://www.electrictp.com/ (Tim Phillips)

Saturday, 25 July 2015

LES PETITS MEURTRES D'AGATHA CHRISTIE: PENSION VANILOS

[Spoiler-Free] Commissaire Laurence works in conjunction with Scotland Yard on a case of drug trafficking between England and France. He handles things more than personally. 

His secretary Marlène would like him to investigate some weird events which happened at the Pension Vanilos, a student hostel owned by her sister Solange, but Laurence doesn't care. Reporter Alice Avril agrees to infiltrate the place in exchange for information about the drug investigation.

« Il faut que je vous parle, commissaire .
- Non pas maintenant, Marlène. Vous voyez bien que j'enquête.
- Non, justement. Ca ne se voit pas. Où alors c'est une nouvelle méthode, hein? »

Les petits meurtres d'Agatha Christie ("The little murders of Agatha Christie") is a French adaptation of novelist Agatha Christie's stories as a period crime comedy-drama 90-minute series focused on a trio of local sleuths instead of her detectives: Commissaire Swan Laurence (Samuel Labarthe), Alice Avril (Blandine Bellavoir) and Marlène (Élodie Frenck). Aired yesterday on Swiss channel RTS Un, ahead of French pubcaster France 2, Pension Vanilos is adapted from the Hercule Poirot novel Hickory Dickory Dock by scriptwriter Sylvie Simon and directed by Éric Woreth. 

« Dans Solange il y a "ange". »
 
Posing as a typist student, Avril meets Solange Vanilos, the stern sister of Marlène. Soon, one of the residents of the hostel is murdered. A stakeout ends badly, a stethoscope can be deadly and Swan speaks Chinese and Turkish fluently. A killer gives the commissaire and Alice the shock of their lives. Sylvie Simon's brilliant script is a classy and elegant roller coaster of mystery and suspense with nods to Poirot (Laurence's Scotland Yard contact is Inspector Japp) and to the French radio anthology Les Maîtres du Mystère. There's also a tribute to the Edgar Wallace films and the Giallo thrillers in the form of stylish sequences by Éric Woreth and director of photography Bertrand Mouly

« Je me souviens comme tu m'as défendue quand j'ai tué ce chat. Tu as réussi à convaincre papa .
- Mais c'était un accident, le chat. Hein?
Evidemment. Tu l'adorais. »
 
Élodie Frenck, who won Best Young Actress at the La Rochelle Festival of TV fiction in 2013 for her role, is astonishing. Samuel Labarthe experiments new aspects of his character. Blandine Bellavoir has the hairdo of French singer Sheila. Pension Vanilos is simply the best entry of Les petits meurtres d'Agatha Christie for now. New episodes (including adaptations of A murder is announced and The adventure of Johnnie Waverly) were recently announced with amusing promos (1) but the big budget hit series is at risk of leaving its production base of Tourcoing, in the north of France (2).

« Il a un grain c'est sûr, j'ai cru qu'il allait m'étrangler.
Il n'a peut-être pas aimé votre nouvelle coiffure. On ne peut pas lui en vouloir. » 

Blanche Cluzet, Edouard Giard, Lucile Marquis, Sandrine Salyères, Nancy Tate and Charles Templon guest star in this episode. Dominique Thomas plays Commissaire divisionnaire Tricard. Les petits meurtres d'Agatha Christie is produced by Sophie Révil for Escazal Films with Pictanovo (Witnesses), Conseil Régional Nord-Pas-de-Calais and the participation of France Télévisions, TV5 Monde and RTS Radio Télévision Suisse. The characters of Laurence, Avril and Marlène were created by Sylvie Simon and Thierry Debroux. The music is composed by Stéphane Moucha.

« Redescendez sur Terre, Avril. Personne ne vous prendra jamais en stop avec ce... cette...
Je vous déteste. »

Monday, 20 July 2015

GRAND HOTEL 3 (SECOND HALF OF S2, FRENCH REGION 2 DVD)

Spain in the early 20th century. The prestigious Grand Hotel, located just outside the (fictional) town of Cantaloa, belongs to Doña Teresa, the merciless matriarch of the Alarcón family. The idyllic luxury of the establishment actually conceals secrets, lies, intrigue, and danger. 

The second half of the second series of Grand Hotel (Gran Hotel, 2011-2013), the acclaimed Spanish mystery drama, is available in France on DVD from Koba Films since May as "Grand Hôtel - Saison 3".  

Produced by Bambu Producciones, the company of Ramón Campos and Teresa Fernández-Valdés, for channel Antena 3, Gran Hotel was sold to more than 60 territories, including France (groupe M6), the UK (Sky Arts) and the United States. Series two of Grand Hotel consisted initially of 16 X 70-minute episodes but Antena 3 decided to reduce it by half to preserve ratings and the remaining 8, already filmed, were added to the 14 episodes of the third series (1). Lovers Julio Olmedo (Yon González) and Alicia (Amaia Salamanca), the youngest daughter of Doña Teresa Alarcón (Adriana Ozores), search for Fernando Llanes (Victor Clavijo), the man spotted in the film of her wedding with Don Diego Murquia (Pedro Alonso). They're convinced Llanes tried to kill Julio's best friend and fellow waiter Andrés Cernuda (Llorenç González).

Alicia is blackmailed by Diego's henchman Garrido (Miguel Mota) who plots revenge against his master. Doña Ángela, the austere head housekeeper (Concha Velasco), holds many answers to the questions of Alicia and Julio. Doña Elisa (Kiti Mánver) visits her son Alfredo, the marquis of Vergara (Fele Martinez), much to the annoyance of his wife Doña Sofia (Luz Valdenebro). Doña Beatriz (Cristina Brondo), an old flame of Alfredo, arrives at the establishment. Julio and Alicia get help from the shrewd inspector now simple agent Horacio Ayala (Pep Anton Muñoz) and his "superior" agent Hernando (Antonio Reyes). The life of Andrés is threatened again during the Grand Hotel masked ball and Alicia gets in big trouble. Belén (Marta Larralde) and Gonzalo Alarcón (Alfonso Bassave) join forces to bring problems.

Known internationally as "the Spanish Downton Abbey", Gran Hotel was in fact born from the passion of its creators Ramón Campos and Gema R. Neira (Gran Reserva) for mystery stories and the work of Agatha Christie (2). A young incarnation of the novelist, "Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller" (Carolina Lapausa), even appeared in the sixth episode of this second series. Another real-life figure, Harry Houdini (Jorge Bosch), appears in an episode where the famous magician challenges Ayala and Hernando, Spain's Poirot and Hastings (regrettably they didn't get their own spin-off). It's all mystery, suspense and murder as the infamous Gold Knife Killer resurfaces.

Series two of Grand Hotel is definitely not exempt of problems: a couple of added characters (Don Ernesto, Angela's sister Violeta) don't work and the tiresome antics of Javier Alarcón  waste the talent of Eloy Azorin. Nevertheless, Gran Hotel remains generous in riveting twists and turns culminating in a spectacular cliffhanger worthy of the U.S. supersoaps of the 1980s. The settings are gorgeous (3), the cast is composed of Spain's best actors and the music of Lucio Godoy is both magnificent and ingenious. Asunción Balaguer (the Miss Marplesque Lady) and the great Manuel de Blas (the ex-maitre d'hotel Benjamin) are back.

The 8 episodes of this DVD set from Koba are on 4 discs in French only. French subtitles for the hearing impaired are available. An Italian adaptation of Grand Hotel produced by Cattleya (Gomorrah) and Beta Film for pubcaster RAI 1 will start this autumn. It stars Eugenio Franceschini and Valentina Bellè.

(1) http://blogs.formulatv.com/aldia/antena-3-corta-la-segunda-temporada-gran-hotel-para-emitirla-mas-adela/
(2)  http://nachomedivas.es/secretos-gran-hotel-creador-ramon-campos/
(3) Grand Hotel was primarily filmed at the Palacio de la Magadalena, an early 20th-century palace on the Magdalena Peninsula of the city of Santander (http://palaciomagdalena.com/en/).

http://www.kobafilms.fr/catalogue/grand-hotel---saison-3-438.html
http://www.bambuproducciones.com/?language=en 

See also:

http://tattard2.blogspot.fr/2014/08/grand-hotel-series-two-french-region-2.html (First half of Series 2 DVD review)
http://tattard2.blogspot.fr/2014/05/grand-hotel-french-region-2-dvd_10.html (Series 1 DVD review) 

Saturday, 11 July 2015

THE FINAL CUT (FRENCH REGION 2 DVD)

Francis Urquhart wants to be remembered as the greatest British Prime Minister since Winston Churchill. But his popularity is low and his leadership is disputed. Will his plans to make history backfire?

The Final Cut (1993), the final BBC drama serial in the House of Cards trilogy based on the books by Michael Dobbs, is available since May on French Region 2 DVD from Koba Films as "House of Cards - Saison 3".

« All things pass. Nothing lasts forever. »

Ian Richardson bows out as Francis Urquhart (nicknamed "FU"), the Machiavellian politician created by British author Michael Dobbs, an ex-advisor to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, in his realistic political thriller House of Cards. Scriptwriter Andrew Davies adapted the novel in 1990 as a BBC serial directed by Paul Seed. He turned Urquhart and his wife Elizabeth into modern Richard III and Lady Macbeth, modified some important elements of the book and reversed its ending.

The Shakesperean portrayal of Francis Urquhart by the amazing Richardson and his "You might very well think that; I couldn't possibly comment." entered  popular culture. Michael Dobbs brought back the scheming FU in his novels To Play The King (1992) and The Final Cut (1994).

« After all that - the calculation of the odds, the sifting of the probabilities - and then, the fear. Fear in the smell of damp newsprint and the crackle of the radio. Fear that this might be the day that we wake to find the magic gone.  » 

Andrew Davies and Paul Seed reunited  for the adaptation of To Play the King in 1993 and Mike Vardy replaced Seed for the four-part serialisation of The Final Cut, penned by Davies. The tone is set with the pre-credit sequence where FU shoots his ageing Gun dog before attending Margaret Thatcher's state funeral. Upset by the latter scene because she was still alive at the time, Dobbs demanded his name be removed from the credits.

« The woman simply hung around too long. Better a quick exit than clinging to the wreckage of a lost career. Some people seem to lack all sense of timing. »  

As his 65th birthday approaches, Francis Urquhart wants to "leave his mark on the world" with a resolution of the Cyprus dispute while Elizabeth (Diane Fletcher) works to secure them a wealthy retirement. Her husband needs to show his authority within the Cabinet to discourage potential rivalry but he alienates his Foreign Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister Tom Makepeace (Paul Freeman). Ambitious backbencher Claire Carlsen (Isla Blair), who has an affair with Makepeace, becomes Urquhart's new Parliamentary Private Secretary.

«  Look, Francis, I'm awfully sorry, but I've got myself in a spot of bother.
- What is it this time, sex or money? 
- A bit of both, I'm afraid. »

The twilight of Francis Urquhart's reign mirrors his own irony towards Thatcher. Weakened by unpopularity and a road incident, the Prime Minister struggles to keep power. His last supports seem to be his wife, his sinister bodyguard Corder (Nick Brimble) and the eccentric and innocuous Geoffrey Booza Pitt (Nickolas Grace). Urquhart plays with fire and a personal connection with the Cypriot history could seal his fate.

The Final Cut concludes the House of Cards trilogy with a bang. Skillfully crafted by Andrew Davies, the four-episode serial is, like its predecessors, blessed  with the stellar performances of a splendid cast led by Ian Richardson and Diane Fletcher. BBC One aired The Final Cut in November 1995. Koba Films releases it in a 2-disc DVD set with the original dialogue track and optional French subtitles.

http://www.kobafilms.fr/serie/house-of-cards---saison-3-436.html
http://tattard2.blogspot.fr/2015/06/to-play-king-french-region-2-dvd.html  (To Play the King)
http://tattard2.blogspot.fr/2013/10/house-of-cards-french-region-2-dvd_11.html (House of Cards with Ian Richardson)  

See also:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/art-aping-life-i-couldnt-possibly-comment-1538535.html
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/bbcs-final-cut-upsets-author-1596844.html