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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Agatha (1979)

In 1926, after her husband (Timothy Dalton, wound tight as a clock) asks her for a divorce to marry his secretary (Celia Gregory), the famous mystery writer Agatha Christie (Vanessa Redgrave) disappears for 11 days. A totally fictionalized account of what might have transpired during those 11 days, the film attempts to concoct a mystery as complex as an Agatha Christie novel. Only this time, with Christie a character in the mystery rather than its author. This "what might have been" scenario stretches credibility and the Agatha Christie of the film doesn't resemble the real Christie and I'm not talking physically. Redgrave, looking breathtaking in her 1920s chemises (which got Shirley Russell an Oscar nomination for costume design) and hair styles, looks radiant. Dustin Hoffman as an American journalist investigating her disappearance lacks Redgrave's effortless luminosity. We're too cognizant that he's trying too hard to not be Dustin Hoffman to take any pleasure in his performance. The film does, however, contain one of the great movie kisses of all time. The tall goddessy Redgrave reaching down to kiss the height challenged Hoffman is a terrific romantic movie moment. Directed by Michael Apted (COAL MINER'S DAUGHTER). Vittorio Storaro is responsible for the rich looking cinematography and Johnny Mandel did the lovely score. With Helen Morse, Timothy West, Alan Badel and Paul Brooke.

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