Non amo che le rose che non colsi… Guido Gozzano

I try to translate these verses into the English language.

“My dream feeds on abandonment and regret.

I love only the roses that I didn’t reap, I love only the things that could have happened and they didn’t…

I see the houses, here are the roses of the beautiful garden of twenty years ago!”

Guido Gozzano was an Italian poet leader of a poetic school known as crepuscolarismo, a poetic current of the early twentieth century, characterized by the use of a simple and confidential language and by the search for small things in common use and daily gestures that become imbued with melancholy in memory.

The excerpt from this poem (Cocotte) expresses regret and nostalgic memories and every time I look at this scene, with the protagonists who are so close and yet so distant, that although they love each other so much they have never even managed to call each other by name, this poem always comes to mind.

TIFF Tribute Actor award

Congrats to the wonderful Anthony Hopkins who received the TIFF Tribute Actor awards.

Anthony Hopkins

The gala was held virtually due to COVID-19.

This award is yours,” Hopkins told first responders and front-line workers. He stars in The Father, a drama film directed by Florian Zeller in which he plays an old man who is losing his mind. The film also stars Olivia Colman, playing Anthony ‘s daugther who has to face her father’s mental deterioration.

Anthony Hopkins is astonishing. In a recent interview, when Emma was asked why it’s so good to act with Hopkins, she answered “He watches and listens and he’s completely without defenses or any internal systems that might get in the way. He’s not protecting himself. You know that you can do anything and what will come back from him has nothing to do with the actor and everything to do with the part. He’s remarkable in that way”.

For me Hopkins/Thompson remains the most close-knit couple of the cinema.

The father starring Anthony Hopkins

King Lear (2018)

King Lear is a 2018 British-American television film directed by Richard Eyre. It is an adaptation of the play by Shakespeare, starring Anthony Hopkins, Emma Thompson, Emily Watson and Florence Pugh.

The movie also features Jim Broadbent, Jim Carter, Anthony Calf.

King Lear

The story is set in an alternative universe in the 21st-century; in a highly militarised London, the sovereign and military dictator King Lear gathers his family in the presence of his troops to make arrangements for his will and he announces the division of his kingdom among his three daughters.

The two elder daughters, Regan and Goneril, declare loyalty to the sovereign while the youngest of the sisters, Cordelia, fails in her filial flattery and is disowned and ousted from the inheritance, which is now entirely divided between Regan and Goneril and she will have to rely only on his own devices to survive.

Emma Thompson – Goneril

Later Goneril will accuse her father of dotage.

Anthony Hopkins is brilliant and mesmerizing in his performance, his monologues are overwhelming and touching, he careens from furious to sentimental, his madness is imbued with humanity and vulnerability.

Emma Thompson – King Lear

Emma Thompson is stunning as the ambitious Goneril, and her presence gives luster and elegance to the film.

Emma and Tony demonstrate once again how well they work together.

Emma said of Anthony Hopkins’ performance “I will never see a better Lear, I know that. I will die not having seen anyone do it better.”

King Lear – The cast

The unattainable Mr Stevens (he shields himself using ordinary objects as a tool to create a physical distance)

In-depth study of Stevens personality and barrier objects (The remains of the day).

Anthony Hopkins – The remains of the day

Mr Stevens pays maniacal attention to his duties as a butler. He is meticulous and impeccable at all times and nothing escapes his expert eyes. He never takes off his butler suit, even in private.

He sets the table down to the tiniest detail, his focus is dignity and lack of external emotions. To achieve perfection he sacrifices his private life until an external factor comes to upset his routine: is the new housekeeper, Miss Kenton, a young woman who, day by day, develops an emotional attachment to him.

He perceives Miss Kenton as threatening and intrusive especially when she invades his private time by entering the room bringing flowers to brighten the parlor.

He is frightened because Miss Kenton might raise emotions and distract him from his duties, so he admits that he places his thoughts elsewhere while she chatters away.

In fact, although they always are “Mr. Stevens” and “Miss Kenton” to one another, the pair develop strong feelings for each other without stating them directly.

His restraint prevents him from revealing his feelings to Miss Kenton but maybe he’s not even aware that he loves her.

This undeclared, compelling romance wears down Miss Kenton, who craves his love, threatening to wed another but he denies his feelings and he always wears his mask made of a proper inscrutable facade.

He always knows what he is doing, he knows if he is allowed to talk or if he just has to serve at the table but Miss Kenton is unpredictable and often disrupts his plans forcing him to batten down the hatches.

So he puts barriers to their closeness to keep the distance, but what are the main physical obstacles between the two protagonists?

The desk, the window, the keyhole and the smoke of his cigar.

The desk is the place behind which he hurries to seek shelter when she comes too close. It also reminds the formal nature of their relationship as butler and housekeeper and his highest position than she at Darlington Hall.

The window is the glass barrier that allows him to look at her when she leaves the house.

The keyhole is the slot through which he looks at her secretly.

The thick smoke of the cigar is a ruse to keep her at a safe distance and he often puffs smoke towards her while speaking.

Hopkins makes his character’s vulnerability visible in the eyes, and in the smallest of gestures but his attitude remains professional and detached.

Anthony Hopkins, as well as Emma, is able to give his best in the speechless scenes, they are both able to speak with their eyes and their facial expressions better than any other actor in the world.

Stevens shows no emotion but we can feel his suffering when he gazes at the departing Miss Kenton from the window.

Actually Mr Stevens is extremely attracted to Miss Kenton and he constantly stifles his desire for her. The audience perceive his inner turmoil, feeling sorry for him. His heartbroken expression at Miss Kenton’s harsh words and the wounded pride written on his face when she later apologizes, always bring tears to my eyes because I feel his despair despite his usual exterior coldness.

Mr Stevens, as he listens to Miss Kenton’s hurtful words and shows imperturbability while he’s dying inside
Mr Stevens during Miss Kenton’s apology speech

The moment they fail to declare their love they miss the last chance for happiness and even in that moment, when she goes over the desk and reaches him behind it and they are so close that their faces almost touch, he raises a hand, as desperate defense, to protect himself from a dreaded kiss and he brings back the arm by his side only when she has left the room releasing him from his fears.

Although they are in love with each other, their feelings will never lead to engagement: their chance is lost, Miss Kenton cannot overcome the barriers created by Mr Stevens, the erected wall is saved forever.

In the last picture the flowers she brought stand out overbearing ironically towards him almost to blame his inadequacies becoming the umpteenth fence that separates him from life and love.

Emma Thompson and…

Anthony Hopkins!

Anthony Hopkins – The silence of the lambs

During their “Merchant Ivory period”, Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins developed a fantastic chemistry on screen, they generated electricity on screen and their performances in both Howards End and The Remains of the Day are stunning!

They have been poignant and believable as a loving couple despite the age difference.

While Howards End was Emma’s movie (it earned her an Oscar), The Remains of the day belongs to Anthony Hopkins and he gives probably his best performance ever.

Emma affirmed that there is something similar about their characters in both films, “especially the fact that it’s based on tremendous attraction.”

In that period they were defined the new Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy.

Ivory said “Hopkins and Thompson jointly create such an absolutely magical world, onscreen and off, that I never try to twist out of shape what they do.”

They played together recently on King Lear and Emma told they were happy to meet and work together again after so many years, and she also said aging has its bright sides, “isn’t it wonderful being old? it doesn’t matter what we do, we don’t care what we do because we have no fear anymore, we are not frightened and if it fails it doesn’t matter!”.

Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson

Please, don’t eat her!

When Anthony Hopkins was cast as Henry Wilcox in Howards End, he was fresh from the huge success of The silence of the lambs, in which he played Hannibal Lecter, a psychiatrist imprisoned for being a serial killer who cannibalized his victims.

This performance earned him the Oscar as best leading actor and the audience liked so much this dark and sharp character, that he was afraid he would have remained imprisoned in that role.

Emma said that the first time she met him, she was really scared by his icy blue eyes, but later she realized that he was so kind and funny.

And Emma’s mother sent him a note: she’s my daughter, please, don’t eat her! 🤣🤣🤣

Please, don’t eat her! – Emma Thompson

The remains of the day (1993)

Miss Kenton and Mr Stevens

The remains of the day is my favorite film, the one that made me discover and appreciate Emma’s skills.

The film tells the story of Mr Stevens (Anthony Hopkins), a loyal butler who has dedicated the whole life to his employer, Lord Darlington, an old misguided gentleman who sympathizes with the Nazis. Stevens never questions his lord but remains faithful to him.

Stevens is emotionally blocked, dignity is the only word in his vocabulary and he blindly trusts his master. There is no room for feelings in his life, only work counts for him.

The remains of the day

Something changes with the hire of a new housekeeper, Miss Kenton (Emma Thompson), whose references satisfy Mr Stevens’ high expectations, he defines her “a young woman with excellent references, very pleasant demeanor, who appears to be very able”. She soon falls in love with him, makes him waver but not enough to declare his love. He certainly develops an affection towards her but his emotional detachment keeps the relation from growing.

The body language is essential to understand the attitude of the characters, Miss Kenton is always connected with other people, she seeks physical contact while Mr Stevens avoids it. He is aloof and unemotional most of the time and he only relaxes when he is alone in his private room, smoking cigars, drinking whiskey and listening to old records.

As time passes they work well together and their relationship becomes friendly but they don’t have the courage to confess their love, even if sometimes their friendship looks like a romance. Stevens often hesitates but never yelds even when Miss Kenton comes forward and tries to draw closer to him.

Whenever the two are in the same room, there is always a hurdle that stands in their possible proximity. The more used prop in this film, to separate phisically Mr Stevens and Miss Kenton is the desk in Stevens’ private room. He always hides behind the desk when he feels in danger, and the threat, for him, is the physical closeness of the housekeeper and the desk metaphorically represents the insurmountable wall for miss Kenton.

He is only able to look at her through a barrier, for instance there’s a scene in the movie where Mr Stevens watches her through the door’s keyhole. Another scene shows Mr Stevens secretly spying her through the windows while she is leaving Darlington Hall by bicycle. This explains how is he emotionally disconnected.

She, on the contrary, feels comfortable with him and seeks his company, brings him flowers, she often enters his room and jokes with him.

There’s a moment (their only) in which they are really closer, it’s the climax of the movie but something comes up and they start to pull away ruthlessly and forever.

The book scene – Miss Kenton and Mr Stevens

The most compelling scene of the movie opens with Miss Kenton who enters Mr Stevens’ room bringing in flowers while he is dozing with a book in his hands. He wakes up and she asks him what is he reading. He feels exposed and won’t tell her what sort of book he’s reading but she becomes pushy and keeps on chasing him with questions about the content of the book. “Is it racy?” She says with a suggestive smile on her face and she looks very excited by this. She stares at him funny and he hurries behind the desk alarmed by her gumption but this time she doesn’t stop, she is bold as never before, maybe she thinks this is the right time to declare each other.

She steps around the desk and joins him. Stevens is in the corner, completely helpless while she tries to gently tear the book from his hands. It’s a great emotional scene, he is torn between the will to touch Miss Kenton’s hair and the fear of their proximity and the fall of every barrier.

James Ivory’s direction is spectacular and makes this scene even more intense thanks to the play of lights and shadows that create an intimate atmosphere and arouse deep emotions.

Stevens is still as petrified but he can’t hide the liveliness of his eyes that peer into Miss Kenton’s face trying to fix eternally in his memory the beauty of her face and the uniqueness of that once-in-a-lifetime moment for him.

I think this is the most beautiful and romantic scene in the history of cinema. There are neither kisses nor hugs but their emotions are burning and the mutual desire is about to explode, she ogles with him looking forward to that kiss that will never come. He wants her and yet he stands still and so the mood abruptly breaks.

The remains of the day – the book scene

Stevens is aware of her feelings but is not able to reciprocate. Only during their final rendez-vous Stevens reaches awareness of wasted time and long last sees Miss Kenton in a romantic light but it’s too late because she has married another man to spite him.

This is the story of lost opportunities, unlived love, unspoken words, regret, despair, hidden and never confessed deep longing.

A must see film even if too heartbreaking.

Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins at their best, with their furtive glances, superb control of the nuances, restrained emotions, they are really a wonder to behold.

Miss Kenton and Mr Stevens

Howards End (1992)

If you like period films you can’t miss Howards End. The film juxtaposes the emotional, intellectual Schlegel sisters against the materialistic Wilcox family, showing us the differing attitudes toward emerging class early in the century.

Emma won the Best Leading Actress Oscar for her performance, acting Margaret Schlegel, an open-minded intellectual, highly educated, who likes music, poetry, politic and intellectual discussions; she marries Henry Wilcox, a pragmatic, snobbish business man, becoming a class-conscious woman, but deeply she goes on musing about human nature.

She takes care of her younger and selfless sister, Helen, to whom Henry gives a cynic advice: “don’t take up a sentimental attitude towards the poor. The poor are poor, and one’s sorry for them, but there it is!”

Margaret tries to make her husband a better man (and for me, beneath the icy surface, he owns a likeable side too).

The complexity of Margaret’s character with its many nuances lead us through Emma’s own path for the whole film, that’s why she deserved the Oscar: Howards End is Emma Thompson’s film from start to finish. Her charm fills the scene.

The following clip is about Henry’s proposal and Margaret’s excited and sweet reaction.

All is perfect: Henry’s piercing eyes, Margaret’s question about the ceiling heights to disguise her emotions, her hopeful eyes and her trembling gaze when she realizes that he is asking her to be his wife, the way she bites her lips saying “yes, I know, I know” walking off, the shy kiss, Henry’s hand touching slightly Margaret’s, the elegant way she goes down the stairs, the satisfied look on Henry’s face at the top of the stairs.

Their mimic and gestures, every movement, are studied in detail and yet everything is so natural.

It’s a stunning performance disguised as normal acting. Two hugely talented actors at their tops!

Henry’s proposal – Howards End