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Elizabeth
DVD disk
09.24.2007 By: Mathew Plale
Elizabeth order
Director:
Shekhar Kapur

Actors:
Cate Blanchett
Joseph Fiennes
Geoffrey Rush

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Elizabeth follows Queen Elizabeth I's (Blanchett) reign up until the Golden Age as she dodges naysayers, assassins, and husbands.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
“I have rid England of her enemies. What do I do now?” These are the determined words spoken by the once insecure Queen Elizabeth I. The eponymously titled film begins in 1554 with Catholic Queen Mary (Kathy Burke) at the throne. Shortly after her death and Elizabeth’s subsequent coronation at age 25, England is declared Protestant. Elizabeth isn’t played by (that would imply a performance)—she is embodied by Cate Blanchett, who is one of those rare actresses who can convey emotion (be it physical, internal, or otherwise) simply through the positioning of her placid lips.

Indian-born Shekhar Kapur, who acknowledges his being the least likely of candidates for the picture, directs the film with a spacious lens. This is a rare costume drama that doesn’t shroud itself in stuffiness, but rather breathes easily in its aesthetics (with much credit belonging to the makeup and wardrobe departments; the former took home the picture’s sole Oscar). But it’s still a period piece (on a subject fated for the AMPAS and BAFTAs), no matter how the misused, contemporary editing techniques may lead our minds. Contrarily, the modern glow about Elizabeth is so refreshing I’m half tempted to call The Virgin Queen Liz, or if she lets her hair down, Lizzy.

As with most historical dramas, accuracies are sometimes back-burnered. Elizabeth’s anti-textbook approach works for the film. What comes out of Richard Attenborough’s portrayal of trusted advisor William Cecil, for example, is remarkable, even if the actor is nearly twice in years than what Cecil would have been during the time of the Queen’s reign. The rest of the supporting cast is commendable as well. There is Jospeh Fiennes as Robert Dudley, Elizabeth’s lover in a sequence that can only be likened to the most elegant of ballets. Geoffrey Rush shines as well as the careful Sir Francis Walshingham, Mary of Guise’s assassin, with Christopher Eccleston the Duke of Norfolk who conspires to kill the Queen.

The murders (in an homage to The Godfather’s climax), like the exquisite dances, are executed with precision and dread, devised in a Shakespearean manner [note the fluent usage of red]. This is, after all, a historical drama with enough creation to make the film more of a lively story than a 3-credit course at University.
THE EXTRAS
Feature Commentary with Director Shekhar Kapur: Here is one of the most informed, layered, and balanced commentaries I have ever listened to. Kapur, flying solo, doesn’t just tell you what you’re seeing, but why it’s there. From the significant (motifs and symbolism) to the not-so (a shaky camera as a result of forceful winds), facts are thrown at a steady pace. A must listen.

The Making of Elizabeth (24:53): A number of cast/crew members sit down on the set for a lengthy discussion on the film. Kapur and Blanchett’s commentary is most notable, with both offering up a slim analysis of the film and Queen Elizabeth I.

Elizabeth Featurette (6:04): A self-congratulatory promotional piece that, compared to the previous feature, is wasteful.

Sneak Peek of Elizabeth: The Golden Age (5:50): Here it is, the only reason Focus Features unveiled this “new” DVD. But they’ve done their job—like I needed another reason to get to the theater this year.

And the Theatrical Trailer and Photo Gallery.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
Released simply as a promotion for October’s Elizabeth: The Golden Age, this Spotlight Series DVD for the 1998 Oscar winner consists of one only new feature. Quibble aside, the film is a refreshing costume drama that isn't as uptight as we might expect from such a picture. Worth at least a rental just for the visuals.
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