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Cold Comfort Farm - DOC by stdepue


									“Cold Comfort Farm, (1995), a 105 minute period romantic comedy, is a real odd duck
among British films. It was, firstly, made as a television movie, as a collaboration of the
BBC and Thames International, ordinarily rivals. I don’t know what that’s all about,
never seen that partnership elsewhere. But perhaps putting together the remarkable
aggregation of talent before and behind the camera in this enterprise was so expensive
that the production required the resources of the two firms. At any rate, somebody took a
look at that talented collection of people, and gave the film a theatrical release, in which
it did quite nicely, thank you.

In 1930s London, 20-year old Flora Poste, a pretty young debutante with ambitions to
write, suddenly finds herself orphaned, and she’s inherited only ₤100/year. So she must
go to live on the farm with the Starkadders, a group of her nutty, unsophisticated rural
cousins, who apparently believe they’ve done her father and family some unspecified
injury. Ada Doom, the bed-ridden, iron-willed matriarch of the farm objects strongly, but
Flora, who loves cleanliness, tidiness and order, tries to achieve some in the tumbledown
higgledy-piggledy house, in the lives of its occupants -- and in her own life.

For a TV movie, the investment in talent must have been quite substantial. The
production is, of course, based on the beloved novel of the same name COLD
COMFORT FARM, by Stella Gibbons, who collaborated on the screenplay with
Malcolm Bradbury, author of at least one very funny novel that I’ve loved for years, THE
HISTORY MAN. The enterprise was directed by the big-screen prize-winning John
Schlesinger (DARLING, MIDNIGHT COWBOY). Kate Beckinsale made her film debut
in the production, giving no hint of the sort of movies she was later to star in, such as the
UNDERWORLD QUADRILOGY. The greatly talented Dame Eileen Atkins
(CRANFORD) stars as the gloomy Judith Starkadder. Sheila Burrell (THE SIX WIVES
OF HENRY VIII) creates a vigorous Ada Doom, who saw something nasty in the
woodshed as a child. Comic Stephen Fry (STEPHEN FRY COLLECTION) gives us an
unbuttoned Mybug, novelist vacationing in the area. Freddie Jones (THE CAESARS) is
an endearing Adam Lambsbreath, farm hand. Joanna Lumley (AB FAB) makes an
impression as Flora’s wealthy, glamorous aunt, Mrs. Mary Smiling. The great Sir Ian
McKellen (RICHARD III) gives us a spirited Amos Starkadder, preacher of hellfire and
damnation, who discovers he yearns after a Ford van. Miriam Margolyes, (IMMORTAL
BELOVED) whom many considered the best actress living in her time, plays Mrs.
Beetle. The uncommonly tall, dark, charismatic and handsome Rufus Sewell plays the
uncommonly tall, dark, charismatic and handsome Seth Starkadder, just as he plays the
similarly gifted title character in ZEN. Rupert Penry-Jones (WHITECHAPEL) turns up
as Dick Hawk-Monitor, beloved by the Starkadder girl; Angela Thorne and Tim Myers
play his none-too happy about it mother and father. Christopher Bowen is Charles
Fairford, airplane-flying minister to be, who is a little in love with Flora. Many viewers
will find some more familiar favorites in smaller parts.

The film’s nicely done, with quite a light touch, while showing us lovely panoramas of
the countryside that Schlesinger, often considered an urban filmmaker, was entirely
capable of delivering. Clothes, cars, airplanes, kitchen tools all look era-appropriate.
Mind you, the film’s more of a constant chuckle than a guffaw. There is an older version
of this film, also quite entertaining; starring Dame Judi Dench, but it’s hard to get hold of
now. Luckily, this one will do quite well, thank you.

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