wed 19/06/2024

Elizabeth: A Portrait in Parts review - she is a human being | reviews, news & interviews

Elizabeth: A Portrait in Parts review - she is a human being

Elizabeth: A Portrait in Parts review - she is a human being

Roger Michell's swansong is a curious, humane jubilee collage

Head of state: young ElizabethSignature Entertainment

Roger Michell’s films described a range of Englishness, from Notting Hill’s foppish comedy to acerbically humane Hanif Kureishi scripts (Venus, The Mother, The Buddha of Suburbia), Cornish Gothic (My Cousin Rachel) and his last feature, The Duke, which warmed working-class malcontent Jim Broadbent and Helen Mirren’s frozen marriage with Wellington’s stolen portrait.

The Duke’s docu-slivers of early ‘60s London dovetail into this film, finished the day Michell died. Other subjects were considered: Nick Drake, or apartheid-busting cricketer Basil D’Oliveira. It might as well be the Queen, approached here as an English person and prism – “the stuff of our dreams, our projections,” Michell wrote, “by far the most famous female face in the history of the world…the Mona Lisa…a cult: like Mao, like Stalin, like Marilyn…our collective Mother”.

The arresting opening splices backflipping royal impersonators and that Olympics Bond parachute drop – Danny Boyle’s perfect patriotic coup – set to Robbie Williams’ “Let Me Entertain You”. This isn’t a Julien Temple film, though, dodging Johnny Rotten’s jubilee jeremiad “God Save The Queen”, and neither punkishly disloyal not forelocking-tugging. The defenestrating brilliance of Temple’s underground history of these Isles as a rock rogue’s gallery, his jagged immersiveness, is ignored for editor Joanna Crickmay’s quieter rhythms. The mood is quizzical, curious, humane, and no more interesting than its subject.Elizabeth A Portrait in PartsThere’s Beatlemania at the Palace gates as mohair-jacketed Fabs stroll coolly through its forecourt in 1965 while “Norwegian Wood” plays, then a functionary shows Lennon’s MBE return “for various reasons”, still on file. Dead Di-mania is more threatening to the monarchy as bouquets pile accusingly high at Buck House, intercut with Nicholas and Alexandra, and Lenin’s bullet for a Romanov queen.

The patriotism she embodies curdles in flag-waving National Front marches and a White Defence League racist pompously intoning against “mass interbreeding”, while Lenny Henry recalls his starstruck West Indian mum at a Royal Variety Performance. Changing times swirl closer to the Queen’s status with what David Cameron calls “growing the Commonwealth” – imperial retreat cast as victory a national characteristic. Singapore PM Lee Kuan Yew is more evocatively trenchant, recalling his colonial youth as a “citizen of Rome”.

Obsequiousness is endemic, Eamonn Andrews nervously wringing his hat as he says, “Your Majesty, welcome to Crackerjack”, and the Queen’s remaining iconic contemporary, David Attenborough, creakily racing to meet her whims.Elizabeth and Philip in Elizabeth A Portrait in PartsLove of language, and her favourite PM, is glimpsed in her fond recall of Churchill’s “romantic and glittering” way of speaking. Hot-blooded girlishness in shipboard tag with good-looking sailors (obviously her type) meanwhile endures at the races, the sanctuary where her sense of duty drops. You would not believe how mad for it Her Maj gets here.

Michell poignantly saves Elizabeth’s defining tragedy till near the end. Leafing through her childhood copy of Peter Pan, she remembers her dad’s bedtime storytelling. “I am ready to grow up,” Disney’s Wendy says, then here is the uncrowned Queen, 25, descending from a plane dressed in black, before an overhead shot of George VI’s state funeral. It’s a universal sort of grief, swollen by pomp and circumstance, setting her course, and setting her in aspic: “accepting the fact that here you are,” she recalls, “and it’s your…fate”.

This is a decorous documentary, nodding to complexity, mildly irreverent, but finally sympathetic: a constant Roger Michell strength.

The mood is quizzical, curious, humane, and no more interesting than its subject


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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