Tristan & Isolde (7/10)
by Tony Medley
Position wanted: Editor.
Deficiencies: I don’t
know how to operate any of the equipment
Qualifications: In the
past decade I have seen what seems like 2,000 films and 99% of them were
Modus Operandi: I have a
pair of scissors and I will cut unmercifully. I won’t be influenced by the
Alas, I’m too late to save
“Tristan & Isolde.”
I actually enjoyed the film.
Unfortunately, however, many in the audience were laughing at lines that
writer Dean Georgaris did not intend as funny. As for me, I didn’t laugh
much. I liked the girl, Isolde (Sophia Myles). She’s pretty and a good
actress. As for the boy, Tristan (James Franco), the script didn’t give
him much acting to do as his character is always pretty morose. He was
unable to cry on cue, as was Myles, always a black mark for me. I’ve said
it before, but if your actors can’t cry on cue, cut the crying scenes.
But, given what he had to work with, Franco came through with a
I also liked Lord Marke (Rufus
Sewell), who becomes Tristan’s putative father. Even though the action
takes place in the Dark Ages (the 5th Century), he apparently
had one of the first razors that can cut your beard so that it always
looks like you haven’t shaved in three days; not two, not four, but three.
His beard never varies throughout the film. It doesn’t get longer and it
doesn’t get shorter.
This is a retelling of the
legend of Tristan & Isolde. Amazingly, almost the same story was being
acted o’er at about the same time just down the road at Camelot. Tristan
equates to Sir Lancelot, Marke to Arthur, and, obviously, Isolde to
The time period has been
brilliantly captured. In the old days of Hollywood, when I was growing up,
these times were presented in glorious three strip Technicolor. The heroes
were beautiful people like Robert Wagner and Robert Taylor and they wore
gorgeous clothes and the castles were resplendent. In contrast, one of the
best things in this movie is Production Designer Mark Geraghty, who has
created realistic landscapes and locations (the west coast of Ireland and
the Czech Republic) that could easily have been what they looked like in
the 5th Century. The “castles” are just wooden structures, made
by unsophisticated people. There are no thrones or crowns or sable capes.
The “tournament” is in a dirt patch and is rough and tumble.
To its detriment, Kevin
Reynolds directs the film without any sense of pace. There is no reason on
earth why this story couldn’t have been told in 90 minutes instead of the
plodding 126 minutes Reynolds has produced.
Despite this, the acting is
good all around. The story of star-crossed lovers is always a grabber and
Franco and Myles make an attractive couple to present it. There are some
bad guys, like Isolde’s old man, who happens to be a king in Ireland who
likes to raid and kill the English (or Saxons or whatever they were in the
Even though it’s too long and
Reynolds still needs to take (and pass) the film school courses on pacing
and brevity, I enjoyed this.
January 11, 2006