A Midwinter's Tale

( 2 )

Overview

When his professional career hits a lull, an actor attempts to revitalize his career by staging a production of Hamlet, directed by and starring himself. Director and star Kenneth Branagh would in fact release his own film version of Shakespeare's classic play a year later, but this comedy provides his fictional counterpart with far less in terms of production value. Lacking money and time, he recruits a rather motley group of drunks, incompetents, and oddballs, including a middle-aged female impersonator in the ...
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Overview

When his professional career hits a lull, an actor attempts to revitalize his career by staging a production of Hamlet, directed by and starring himself. Director and star Kenneth Branagh would in fact release his own film version of Shakespeare's classic play a year later, but this comedy provides his fictional counterpart with far less in terms of production value. Lacking money and time, he recruits a rather motley group of drunks, incompetents, and oddballs, including a middle-aged female impersonator in the crucial role of Queen Gertrude. Given only three weeks of rehearsal, and an abandoned church in a remote town in the English countryside, this unlikely group nevertheless struggles valiantly to make theatrical magic. The film attempts to pay loving tribute to the madness that surrounds the staging of a play, with all of the backstage dramas, inevitable disasters, and unexpected triumphs, but the end result is often less amusing than it ought to be. The film was released in the United States under the title A Midwinter's Tale.
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Dan Friedman
After the success he achieved with Dead Again and Much Ado About Nothing was followed by the ego-driven disappointment Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Kenneth Branagh regrouped with A Midwinter's Tale, the story of a ragged acting troupe brought together by an out-of-work actor for a Christmas production of Hamlet. Following the line that simpler is better, Branagh keeps everything very low-key, even shooting in black-and-white as a symbolic throwback to the days when films were not big-budget extravaganzas. Although Branagh does not appear in the film, his presence permeates the plot and characters. Many have compared him to Orson Welles for his work in bringing Shakespeare to film, but this particular film harkens closer to Woody Allen in its approach and subtlety. It's a tribute to anyone who has ever suffered for their love of the theatre, and Branagh manages a few clever tweaks on the familiar "let's put on a show" themes. Michael Maloney is Joe Harper, the stand-in for Branagh. A talented actor, Joe struggles with making the transition to films at the expense of his craft. Joan Collins, the most recognizable name and face to American audiences, phones in a stereotypical performance as Joe's agent. The acting troupe itself is filled with a talented group of comedic actors, led by BBC staple John Sessions, who plays the drag queen cast as Gertrude in Joe's Hamlet. Gerard Horan also turns in a nice performance as the man cast as both Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. It's difficult to watch this film without feeling like a spectator to Branagh's therapy sessions, and considering that his follow-up project was a four-hour film version of Hamlet, obviously it worked.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 12/7/2010
  • UPC: 883316307038
  • Original Release: 1995
  • Rating:

  • Source: Warner Archives
  • Presentation: Wide Screen / B&W
  • Time: 1:38:00
  • Format: DVD
  • Sales rank: 34,602

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Michael Maloney Joe Harper (Hamlet)
Richard Briers Henry Wakefield (Claudius, the Ghost, and the Player
Mark Hadfield Vernon Spatch (Polonius, Marcellus, and First Gravedi
Nicholas Farrell Tom Newman (Laertes, Fortinbras, and messengers)
Gerard Horan Carnforth Grevilly
John Sessions Terry Du Bois (Queen Gertrude)
Allie Byrne Tap Dancer
Hetta Charnley Molly
Joan Collins Margaretta D'Arcy
Patrick Doyle Scotsman
Robert Hines Mortimer
Celia Imrie Fadge
Brian Pettifer Ventriloquist
Shaun Prendergast Mule Train Man
Jennifer Saunders Nancy Crawford
Julia Sawalha Nina Raymond (Ophelia)
Technical Credits
Kenneth Branagh Director, Screenwriter
David Barron Producer
Neil Farrell Editor
Peter Glossop Musical Direction/Supervision
Caroline Harris Costumes/Costume Designer
Tim Harvey Production Designer
Roger Lanser Cinematographer
Simon Moseley Asst. Director
Jenny Shircore Makeup
Jimmy Yuill Score Composer, Songwriter
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 2 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 5, 2002

    For Anybody Who's Ever Wondered about what Really Happens!

    This film was produced, so rumor has it, as film actor Kenneth Brennagh's flip side reaction to the stresses of making his own uncut big-ticket version of Hamlet. In A Midwinter's Tale a struggling actor, Joe, attempts to redeem himself and his art by producing Hamlet over the Christmas Holidays as a fund raiser to try to save an old church. Unfortunately, the only actors he can get run the gamut of emotional and personal problems, some of whom work them out using the rehearsal process! What Joe's cast of ''misfits and nutters'' finally manage to accomplish by the end of the film defies description. Interestingly, Brennagh made the decision to film it in black and white, which gives the film the feel of an older melodrama, rather than a modern movie. It is well acted, certainly over played in parts, but to my way of thinking, that is the entire point of the movie. A Midwinter's Tale is a movie for actors and those who love theatre. I have shown it to a number of friends who are not theatre techs, like I am, and they frankly, snoozed right through it. Nevertheless, it is funny and charming, a wonderfully realistic look at the wierd, often blackly comic reality behind putting on a theatre production. It has poignant moments that are sweet and touching and as well is a great blend of lowbrow humor and erudite cosmic questioning. If you enjoy British comedy and/or theatre, you'll probably enjoy this one too.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 15, 2002

    Excellent film regarding what happens backstage

    A Midwinter's Tale by Kenneth Branagh is an excellent film regarding what happens backstage during rehearsals for a show. Having grown up in Children's Theatre, I looked on with delight at visiting ''old'' friends. Most of the actors in the film have were in Henry V or have appeared on British TV. I strongly encourage people to rent this film.

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