Saturday, June 30, 2007

Judi, Judi, Judi

Ten years ago, Dame Judi Dench was nominated for an Oscar for her performance as a grieving Queen Victoria in Mrs. Brown. This was the first time that Americans became fully aware of an actress who had captivated British audiences for years. Since then, she has been nominated for 6 Academy Awards and won for her mesmerizing performance – all 6 minutes – of Queen Elizabeth I in Shakespeare in Love. You may have seen her work in Chocolat, Pride and Prejudice, Notes on a Scandal, Iris, Tea With Mussolini or Ladies in Lavender (all movies that we have here at the library). But to really understand why she is Dame Judi Dench, you should see her work throughout her 50-year career. The Judi Dench Collection presents nine different BBC productions spanning four decades, from her 1962 portrayal of Anya in Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard to a 1991 production of Absolute Hell, in which she plays the boozy proprietor of a London nightclub after WWWII. Dame Judi can do comedy, tragedy, farce, musical theater (the Collection has a moving rendition of Send in the Clowns), and Shakespeare. She can be vulnerable, vicious, common, commanding, ditzy and malevolent. Everything she does seems effortless, but she is consistently the best performer in any production. She can even make James Bond films watchable. Don’t feel compelled to watch all 19 hours of this DVD set, but you could definitely find one or two plays that you will really enjoy. And if you are just bowled over by Dame Judi, we have plenty of other films in which she appeared, including a few small, but meaty, parts: A Room With a View, Henry V and Hamlet (the Kenneth Branagh productions).

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