A Tudor costume saga diligently sensationalizes the folie-à-deux of King Henry VIII (Burton) and Anne Boleyn (Bujold), the queen he falls in and (a thousand days later) out of love with, one vacuously succumbs to his hardened promiscuity and the fixation of begetting a male heir, whereas the another tragically falls victim of her own delusional abuse of power.
Hardly as operatic and opaque asAnthony Harvey’s THE LION IN WINTER, the movie doesn’t mince words in depicting the outrageous predisposition of Henry VIII, a horny, spoilt, reckless, cold-blooded pig might be quite an apt description if one can pay no heed of lèse-majesté and Mr. Burton’s rendition is competent more than somewhat, drumming up his sonorous rhetoric with blistering confidence (he acquired his penultimate Oscar nomination), but overtly and uncompromisingly, he is shy of any trace of compassion in portraying a famous monarch, which may deter even the most devout monarchist to concoct rational excuses to his inexcusable wantonness and callousness, a stratagem doesn’t seem to be out of sync with the makeup of the movie’s targeted audience.
On the other hand, we have the Canadian Francophile actress Geneviève Bujold in her first English-speaking film, a career-making opportunity which earned her an Oscar nomination, her Anne Boleyn is a much complicated character than Henry VIII, her metamorphosis from a headstrong ingénue to a queenship-coveting hard-liner strikes home through the agglomeration of her implacable gaze and intractable ferocity (she only relents when she becomes love-struck, a tangible human touch never materializes in Henry’s front), to a point we feel impelled to rally our antipathy to let her be answerable for the ongoing persecutions (both religiously and maritally), and in fact, there is only one man who has the power to allow all those things to happen, that is how good Ms. Bujold’s performance is, not to mention her Tower of London monologue, her resounding delivery is quite an unparalleled showstopper in almost every aspect.
The Greek goddess Irene Papas (although miscast for her ethnic looks), brings about ample poignancy as Queen Catherine of Aragon, and British thespian Anthony Quayle circumspectly treads the board as Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, a piteous prey of a king’s whims but also eloquently registers that vice is never devoid within his consecrated remit, another Oscar-calibre feat shouldn’t go unnoticed. But the same merit cannot be related to John Colicos’ Thomas Cromwell, a peripheral but important character marred by Colicos’ repugnant haughtiness.
Directed byCharles Jarrott with due mettle and moxie, ANNE OF THE THOUSAND DAYS might be a worthy period drama gallantly grappling with unsavory subjects such asadultery, incest and illegitimacy, but in this day and age, its uncritical overtone jars bytesting one’s moral line in the sand, even Anne’sprophetic revenge of a gyneco-sovereign doesn’t really pay off in the end of the day.
referential point: Anthony Harvey’s THE LION IN WINTER (1968, 6.2/10)