Oscar Bait: The English Patient

List Item: Watch all Best Picture Winners (to date)
Progress: 71/87

After dismantling the jigsaw puzzle, which was oddly traumatic after spending hours and hours constructing it, I needed to watch a movie to take my mind off of it. So rather than going for another foreign flick I thought that I would hit up the Academy Award Best Picture winner list which resulted in this:

englishpatientTitle: The English Patient
Director: Anthony Minghella
Year: 1996
Haul: 9 awards in total

I have an odd memory related to this film. I remember GMTV (a morning TV show) being on and them covering the sweep made by The English Patient with a montage of numerous actors and members of the film community declaring “and the winner is… The English Patient“. This is something that really should have meant that I might have seen this film earlier but so much commentary has swirled declaring it as over-rated so I have left it until now.

As someone who lists Fargo as their 4th favourite film of all time was always going to be hard for me to watch the film that beat it to Oscar glory. Then again Frances McDormand took the Best Actress win so I guess that’s something.

Still, with both the Fargo-beating and the spectre of this being an overrated film hanging overhead I did not exactly go into watching this film clean. Then I saw the illuminating face of Juliette Binoche as French-Canadian nurse Hana and knew everything was going to be okay. Fine, I know that it is cheap to sit up and pay attention when an actress you enjoy watching but this is what happened with this film.

The story of the film, in brief, is told primarily through flashback as we learn the identity of the eponymous English Patient (Ralph Fiennes) who lays in an abandoned monastery covered in burns. He recollects his story primarily to Nurse Hana and a Canadian thief (Willem Dafoe) and we learn of the patient’s previous life as a desert mapmaker and of his affair with the, very much married, Katherine (Kristen Scott-Thomas).

Despite Ralph Fiennes doing solid work in his lead role (and by God is he just exuding the silent sex appeal when he is not knee deep in latex) this is really a film that belongs to Binoche and Scott-Thomas. The fact that the original studio pushed for Demi Moore to play Katherine is perplexing (not least because it is painful to imagine the accent she would have to affect).

There is so much to this film that makes it a compelling watch but at 162 minutes it feels a little bit bloated and I know exactly where it could be trimmed. The dinner scene where a drunk Fiennes reproaches his fellow cartographers, some of the occupation scene with Dafoe and (sad to say this) a number of scenes with Colin Firth could have been edited without losing the formation of his intense jealousy.

As an ensemble and cinematographic piece The English Patient is a really good watch. If it was just trimmer by 15-20 minutes this could have been even better… as long as no Juliette Binoche scenes are cut.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.