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Nate's DVD Collection ~ Tristan + Isolde
Before Lancelot and Guinivere, before Romeo and Juliet and before Moonlight and Annapolis there was *Cue flaming sign effect, fwoosh* Tristan and Isolde.
Tristan and Isolde tells the story of, not too surprisingly, a man named Tristan from England and a woman named Isolde, from Ireland, who meet up at the most awkward of times. You see, since the fall of Rome, Ireland has been oppressing England and taxing them mercilessly. Well just as England decides to wage a Revolutionary revolt against their Irish lords, the Irish king decides that the best way to keep the tribes of England from forming a United front is to marry off his daughter, Isolde.
This of course causes some friction as Tristan and Isolde have all ready met and are now torn between their loyalties and each other.
Starring James Franco, Sophia Myles, and Rufus Sewell.
Audio Commentary by Executive Producer Jim Lemley and Co-Producer Anne Lai
Audio Commentary by Screenwriter Dean Georgaris
Love Conquers All: Making of Tristan and IsoldeFeaturette
Image Galleries (Behind-The-Scenes, Production Design and Costume Design)
Music Video:We Belong Together by Gavin DeGraw (2 Versions)
Theatrical Trailer and TV Spots
What I Like About It
I'm a sucker for period movies. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Kingdom of Heaven, Troy and just about any film that takes me hundreds of years in the past. A time when honor and decency were prized and making the most out of your life didn't include trying to get the rent paid or making credit card debt vanish. This isn't to say that I romanticize the past. Far from it, I totally realize that things were just as hard if not harder in those times as they are now. But come on. The Society for Creative Anachronism exists for a reason.
If anything, Tristan and Isolde is a story that reminds us of the fine lines between what we have to do and what we want to do. How sometimes there is something bigger than us and even when the things we want wouldn't necessarily hurt the outcome, sometimes we have to chose to sacrifice it because of that vague chance that it will.
Of course the actual Tristinian legends would lead you to believe that Lord Marke, the English Warlord who seeks to unite the tribes was actually a heartless bastard who didn't give a damn about Isolde's feelings. The movie makes him out to be a kind hearted and decent guy, which makes you actually feel sorry for him when Tristan starts “walking” with her. Fortunately, I'm not a history scholar nor do I have a great emotional investment in the original story of Tristan and Isolde, so I'm satisfied with the story this movie presents me.
There are some great visual scenes in this movie. The action is very fast paced and brutal, the sword fighting is real and to the point, so to speak. You don't have overly the dramatic swordplays sparked by lines of witty dialog and green tights that never get so much as a speck of soil on them.
Props also has to go to the lighting technicians. With movies like this you have to remember, there was no electricity back then. So you're limited to fire, moonlight and sunlight. The careful balance and use of these elements can make or break your period piece and Tristan and Isolde has some of the most visually stunning moments of any movie set in an historical period. There was never a moment filmed in a dark room where I thought, “What the hell is going on? Who is that? Who is she talking to? Where is he sticking his thumb?”
What I Didn't Like
James Franco is one of those actors who just doesn't get better with each role. He's basically the American answer to Orlando Bloom. He seriously owes much of his success to actors like Tyreese Gibson, Kirsten Dunst (Hell, the guy getting the shit kicked out of him in the alley in Spider Man 2 was a better actor) and Rufus Sewell for taking the attention away from him any movie where he plays a lead role.
This is to James and every single American actor playing an English character: You don't have to exaggerate vowel sounds to convince me that you are from England. Or if you're going to do it, at least be consistent. It's cute when Eloise does it (“Rawther) because she's six, not when you're in your twenties and trying to convince me to emotionally invest in your character.
Honestly, there has to be a group of teenage girls out there secretly hoping to do him, otherwise there would just be no demographic for him.
The only thing I give the casting director credit on is pairing him up with an actress who should never be trusted with a title character again, Sophia Myles. Here's another woman whose performance in this film would have been loads better if someone had managed to work a dialog coach into the budget. When Winona Ryder does a better Irish accent than you do it's time to go take classes.
Again though, I have to give them credit for the fact that as bad as their acting is, one never overshadows the other. Sophia and James have the perfect balance of bad talent in this movie. It's just too bad Sophia picked up her acting chops sixteen episodes too late for the producers to pick up Moonlight for another season. (Booya, there's my third Moonlight reference in two reviews)
Should You Buy This DVD?
I found this copy brand new for five bucks in a bargain bin at K-Mart on Tax Free Day. If your budget is tight I suggest either renting or borrowing it until you can find it for around that much.
Rufus Sewell: A Highly Underrated Actor Who has Paid his Dues
Can My Kids Watch This
There are some scenes of sensuality but the camera doesn't go below the clavicle and everything is under the covers. The battle scenes are intense and there is a scene of a guy's head being tossed around but for the most part the violence is very well handled for a PG-13 film and is mostly on par with Lord of The Rings