Saturday, November 18, 2017

The Orient Express: Monday, November 13 2017

Murder on the Orient Express (2017) is an American mystery drama film directed by Kenneth Branagh. The screenplay is by Michael Green, based on the 1934 novel of the same name, by Agatha Christie.

The original story is now dated, and there have been many films and TV shows made of it. It is a classic. This is an unique version, and it is necessary to approach it with an open mind. If you are wedded to the depiction of Hercule Poirot by David Suchet, of the TV series, you might be disappointed. Kenneth Branagh interprets the character quite differently. For one thing, he has a real, monster moustache, and for another, he isn't short and dapper.

The cast is fantastic, with Johnny Depp as Samuel Ratchett, the victim of the murder. Judi Dench is Princess Dragomiroff, and although she says hardly a word, she is an asset. Willem Dafoe plays the German professor, Gerhard Hardman, and does it so well: I really like his work. Michelle Pfeiffer plays Caroline Hubbard beautifully, and Daisy Ridley is Mary Debenham. The list goes on.

The cinematography is outstanding, and gives the train, the Orient Express, a large part in the film. There are some wonderful shots of the train wheels, and of the luxurious interiors. The scenery is also shown, with the grandeur of the mountains overwhelming the screen.

Most of my film group had forgotten the ending, which was good, as it came as a surprise. As did the reaction of Poirot to his findings. It left a good feeling of true justice having been administered, even if it weren't quite correct legally.

Kenneth Branagh directed with a sure hand. His version of this crime mystery from the hand of a master author, Agatha Christie, transports it from being an ordinary film in which the chief emphasis is on the cleverness of Poirot, and the solving of the crime itself, to what almost feels like a beautiful dance. The master director and actor has created something quite different from anything that has gone before.

When I came out of the Cineplex, my first reaction was that this is a magnificent piece of Art. It reminded me of how I felt when on my birthday, April 15 2010, I heard the Danish guest conductor Thomas Dausgaard, conduct the Toronto Symphony Orchestra for Concerto No. 1 and 2, by Sibelius. It was a magnificent performance and moved me to tears.

The Death of Socrates: Jacques-Louis David
It also reminded of when I walked into the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York on Saturday, June 16 2010, and saw in front of me "The Death of Socrates" (1787), a painting by Jacques-Louis David. Socrates is one of my most favourite philosophers, and this depiction of his choice of death over betraying his love of, and belief in, free thinking is so vivid, I love it. He is teaching to the end, as is indicated by his upheld hand. It seems to me he is asking his friends to think for themselves. Even if he wasn't politically correct, and didn't believe in the Ancient Greek pantheon of gods, we know he considered death the door into another form of life.

Great Art in all its forms, always leaves me with a feeling of delight and satisfaction. Kenneth Branagh's version of Murder on the Orient Express left me with that feeling. If the judges of the Oscars judge the Best Picture with Art in mind, as they appeared to do last year with Moonlight directed by Barry Jenkins, this film ought to win.

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