Sunday, 22 April 2012


April 1912, the Earl of Manton, his wife, their rebellious daughter and their servants embark on the RMS Titanic for the maiden voyage of the world's largest ship from Southampton to New York. On board the British aristocrats rub shoulders with nouveau riche Grace Rushton, and with wealthy Americans like John Jacob Astor and Benjamin Guggenheim.

Also on the Titanic are Irish lawyer John Batley, who works for the Earl, and his embittered wife Muriel. Paolo Sandrini gets a waiter job on the ship, where his brother Mario is a stoker, and meets young stewardess Annie Desmond. Irish Catholic engineer Jim Maloney wants to start a new life in America with his family. His wife Mary gets attracted to the mysterious Peter Lubov.

Titanic is a £11m event miniseries from producer and financier Simon Vaughan, who founded his company Lookout Point in 2009, and BAFTA-winning film and TV producer Nigel Stafford-Clark's Deep Indigo Productions (Bleak House, Warriors). It is penned by actor, screenwriter and novelist Julian Fellowes, Best Screenplay Oscar for Gosford Park (2001) and creator of the acclaimed Carnival/ITV drama Downton Abbey.

The 4 X 60-minute drama has been pre-sold to 86 broadcasters around the world, including US network ABC, with ITV providing a third of the budget. Scheduled to mark the one hundredth anniversary of the maritime disaster, Titanic aired in the UK on ITV1. It is now available in France on DVD from Koba Films as two feature-length episodes after TMC aired them in a different version.

« I suppose we're all men of the world. »

The project originated in 2008 when Simon Vaughan asked Nigel Stafford-Clark to think about a drama for the centenary of the tragedy. Stafford-Clark almost declined because of the iconic James Cameron movie but he got the idea to tell the story of a whole society, whereas the 1997 film was primarily a love story set against the sinking. He devised a narrative structure moving back and forth in time around different sets of passengers, and in which the ship starts to sink at the end of each part with a cliffhanger until the final episode reveals who survives.

Nigel Stafford-Clark didn't know Julian Fellowes just started to write Downton Abbey when he thought of him for the script, but liked his depiction of social relationships in Gosford Park. Fellowes accepted because of his fascination for the Titanic and the development process took from spring 2009 to autumn 2010. The 10-week filming of Titanic began at the end of april 2011 in Budapest, Hungary, where its director Jon Jones also filmed Terry Pratchett's Going Postal (2010). And the post-production took place in Canada.

A vast range of characters, fictional or real, and a ship concentrating every prejudices of the time offer Julian Fellowes opportunities to display his sense of social commentary and his trademark one-liners, those ingredients which make Downton Abbey such a treat for viewers. Amongst the superb ensemble cast are Linus Roache (Law & Order), Geraldine Somerville, Ruth Bradley (Primeval), Timothy West, David Calder or Sophie Winkleman. Toby Jones delivers a BAFTA-worthy performance as John Batley. The talented Lee Ross (Mr Barnes) would be a great addition to Downton. And Jenna-Louise Coleman as Annie Desmond proves the producers of Doctor Who made the right choice for the next companion.

Titanic started on ITV1 in march with 7.4m viewers but attracted 4.7m viewers on its second week and only 3.5m for the third instalment. The nonlinear storytelling on four consecutive nights and the return of the ever popular Silent Witness on BBC One contributed to sink the ratings of "Drownton Abbey", as it was nicknamed on Twitter. In France private channel TF1's DTT channel TMC aired both parts of a 2 X 90-minute version on a very competitive saturday lead by TF1's own adaptation of juggernaut format The Voice. Needless to say that even a chronological edit didn't save it.

Anyway the miniseries works definitely better in feature-length, as released on DVD by Koba Films. This version preserves the specificity of the original narrative structure with, in the second part, some flashbacks and returns on some scenes from another angle and point of view. The two parts are on separate discs, with its French dubbing or with the original dialogues, subtitled or not. A Making Of and A Behind the Production featurette are in bonus. Ambitious, lavish and moving, Titanic has a consequent amount of what you can expect from a Julian Fellowes script. The cinematography is by Adam Suschitzky and the score is by composer Jonathan Goldsmith. (In French)

See also: (French ratings)

Tuesday, 3 April 2012


Review of the 2005 Colditz French Region 2 DVD from Koba Films (On the French version of this blog only).