Monday, August 15, 2011

The Best British Period Drama of All Time

Because I am an idiot and was spending all my time thinking about what I was going to vote for, I missed my actual opportunity to vote in Anglophenia's poll of the Best British TV Drama of All Time.

It's just as well really, because I somehow failed to notice that the poll was for best TV Drama. My brain somehow read that as best "Period Drama". Wishful thinking I suppose. So, my ultimate choice, which I gave a lot of pointless thought to, was a period drama that is not a TV show but a movie!

However, since I stood ready to justify it to Anglophenia, I will justify it now to you. My thoroughly biased and unscientific decision about the best British period drama of all time: Gosford Park.

This will come as a surprise to anyone who knows how much I love Jane Austen. Why, when there are so many incredible Austen adaptations, would I not choose one of them? I think Gosford Park wins in large part for the reason that it is NOT an adaptation. Whereas Jane Austen adaptations (or any other literary adaptation) stands or falls in part on the merits of the book. Austen adaptations are brilliant because Austen was brilliant -- her work then molded and compressed and made to fit the modern audience and modern format that is either TV or film -- while Gosford Park is brilliant and whole entirely on its own strengths.

What I mean to say is that, written and produced as a period drama specifically for film, Gosford Park feels complete as the expression of an artistic vision brought perfectly to life as it was imagined.

When I think of something that is visually superb, evocative of a particular time period, impeccably acted, witty, fresh and beautifully directed and filmed, I cannot think of anything that, on the whole, outshines Gosford Park. Its social commentary, emotional pull and great character-driven plot provide layers of viewing interest. The juxtaposition of class structure on top of a clever murder mystery was a stroke of brilliance.

And the cast has to be one of the best assembled ensembles I've ever seen.  Anything with Maggie Smith AND Helen Mirren in it gets big time points. Claudie Blakely (also of He Knew He Was Right, Lark Rise to Candleford and the 2005 Pride and Prejudice film) is fast becoming one of my all time favorite British actresses. Her performances are always heartfelt, deep, earnest and likeable. And don't even get me started on Michael Gambon, Jeremy Northam and Clive Owen.

So there it is: the answer to the question that nobody asked!

"The Best British Period Drama of All Time." LostinBritishTV

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