Downton Abbey 2: A New Era - review of a bunch of aristos

Downton Abbey 2: A New Era – review of a bunch of aristos

like the good old times

The former butler of the Crawley family, Charles Carson (the always excellent Jim Carter) sits at the end of the kitchen table, the domain of Downton Abbey staff. With a serious face, a dark look, overwhelmed by the weight of age and his long years of work, he remembers the hardships he went through.

In a slow tracking shot forward, the camera advances towards him, erasing at the same time everyone outside, consolidating the feeling of loneliness specific to the character. In his cavernous voice, he declaims an extract from King Lear from Shakespeare: “Winds, blow to burst your cheeks! Rage! Blow! Cataracts and hurricanes…“.

I breathe in, Shakespeare…”

The choice of King Lear is of course not innocent, Julian Fellowescreator of Downton Abbey and Oscar winner for the screenplay of Gosford Park, knows his classics. Shakespeare’s play recounts the life and fall of the King of Brittany and his three daughters. The parallel with the series Downton Abbey is so obvious that it is almost crude. Lord Grantham, that good Hugh Bonneville, is the patriarch who reigns Downton, and has three daughters himself (Mary, Edith, and the late Sybil) and he too has had to face many hurricanes.

This scene alone seems to carry the envy of Julian Fellowes for the saga Downton : turn it into a Shakespearean tragedy of the interwar period. Violence, betrayal, rape, lawsuits, the worst tumults shook the daily life of the Crawley family during the six seasons of the TV series. Almost uninterrupted waves of annoyances that made the show almost hypnotic at times. For the first movie Downton Abbey, it all fell flat, everything seemed too easy. Unfortunately, this is also the case for this brideNew era“.

Downton Abbey 2: A New Era: PhotoLooks like those Widescreen bastards are going to criticize our movie.”

Downton Abbey on Sea

For this New era promised, Julian Fellowes catapults the high society of Downton in 1928, a year after the events of the previous film. The Crawley family celebrates the wedding of Tom Branson (Allen Leech) and his new girlfriend Lucy Smith. A union celebrated and dispatched in a few scenes that confirm that Tom is now indeed a Crawley in his own right. It was time.

Lady Violet, camped by the always excellent Maggie Smith, receives a strange letter telling her that she has inherited a mansion in the south of France. A residence bequeathed to him by the Marquis de Montmirail, officially unrelated to the Godefroy des Visitorsand who unofficially could have had an affair, villainous or notthat will be the question, half a century earlier with the then barely married Lady.

At the same time, Lord Grantham is approached by an American director who would like to shoot his next film at Downton. An indecent proposal that the Lord ends up accepting reluctantly, because the castle is in dire need of costly maintenance. But this at the cost of the invasion of the Holy of Holies by a film crew and actors at the antipodes of the upscale aristo-monarchical milieu.

Downton Abbey: A New Era : photo, Allen Leech, Tuppence MiddletonUn only honeymoon weddingI

It is clear that despite some not very bad setbacks, everything is pretty rosy with the Granthams. The film unfolds like clockwork, and the stakes are so low that it’s hard to give it much importance. Some of the show’s issues have even been swept under the rug, such as Carson’s Parkinson’s being shelved.

Then remains the cast to console themselves, present in its almost entirety (although Henry Talbot is absent subscribers). If the faithful will be delighted to find Anna, Bates and others, it is very difficult to get caught up in these two hours of fairly bland stories, barely supported by the flat production of Simon Curtis.

The salt of the film comes only from the geographic split of the family, if not ideological, which Fellowes had nevertheless accustomed the public to. One part having to go in search of the secrets of Lady Gratham in the south of France, the other managing a film team at the castle. A double dynamic that works rather well in the series format, but which here falls flat, the fault of a poorly digested cinematographic format.

And therein lies the problem: Fellowes’ view of cinema leaves one in doubt.

Downton Abbey: A New Era : photo, Harry Hadden-Paton, Tuppence Middleton, Allen Leech, Laura Carmichael“Auteuil, Neuilly, Passy, ​​such is our ghetto”

cinema my love (or not)

In addition to the false riddle of “Did Lady Violet make a mistake, with a sagouin of French to boot?”, the outcome of which is obvious, the real attraction of this Downton Abbey 2 is located in his film in the film. Jack Barber, American silent star director, and his gang of anguished and painful actors must face the change and the success of talkies. Julian Fellowes and Simon Curtis then deliver a blatant echo of Let’s sing in the rainsome scenes copying this model so cheerfully that it is difficult to define the limit between homage and parody.

Julian Fellowes seems to play with these Russian doll films to show how much he himself is torn between the will and the need to evolve, to have to transform his saga into feature films, and the blessed era when the series had a beginning and an end, without obligation of cliffhanger or spectacular action. His view of cinema is that of a man both disillusioned and resignedwhich ends up leaving the viewer with a bittersweet feeling, as his own film sounds almost like a testament, even an admission of exhaustion.

Downton Abbey 2: A New Era: PhotoVSwas better before (it’s wrong)

Since then, the very name of “New era“starts to ring false. There is no evolution here. Even if there is a symbolic passing of the torch between two major figures of the saga, this second film is not the passage towards a revival, but rather towards a new beginning. An eternal return to the same steeped in nostalgia, which relies far too much on the achievements of the saga to be able to claim to advance towards new horizons. And it seems obvious that Fellowes doesn’t want to.

The question then arises, why? What interest was there in bringing back this cast, brilliant moreover, to subject these endearing characters to a semblance of suspense coupled with an awkwardly staged comedy? Some will say that like Lord Grantham, it was the sirens of film finance who got the better of the author’s inclinations. A final mise en abyme for a show that is neither unpleasant nor joyful, and much more melancholy than it seems.

Downton Abbey: A New Era: French Poster

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