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A House in the Country, An Ensemble Cast

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There’s something about an ensemble cast. And oh, the pastoral charms of a country house. Though I’d say this cinematic genre is English is certain fundamental ways, it works just as well elsewhere, a demonstrated by the list below (Italy, France, Greece, Los Angeles, Spain, Canada, the O.C.). One of the other interests of this genre is that some of its finest examples (Gosford Park, The Big Chill, Peter’s Friends, and The Anniversary Party), work according to the classical unities (unity of time, unity of place, unity of action). Call them antiquated and fussy if you will, there is a certain satisfaction in a movie that stays put and, in something approximating “real time,” resolves the troubles it introduces.Howard’s EndGosford ParkMargot at the WeddingStealing BeautyThe Anniversary Party (Gwenynth Paltrow, John C. Reilly, Alan Cumming, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Parker Posey, Jennifer Beals and more – fab LA house)Peter’s Friends (The Big Chill, across the pond: Emma Thompson, Kenneth Brannagh, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Imelda Staunton, Phyllida Law)The Big ChillSwimming Pool (Ludivigne Sangier avant nosejob)My Family and Other Animals (the inimitable Imelda Staunton and others – set in Greece, a must for animal lovers)”Arrested Development” (the dystopian take on the “country house”/ensemble cast)Mansfield ParkSense and Sensibility (Ang Lee’s)Loaded (early Thandie Newton – a dark take on the genre)Belle Epoque (a young Penelope Cruz and a bevy of others easy on the eyes)”Jeeves and Wooster” (country estates-agogo, plus young Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie)Jules et JimThe Barbarian Invasions (Canadian Big Chill)My Summer of Love (Emily Blunt and Natalie Press – a gorgeous, disturbing watch – a little Swimming Pool-ish)Match Point (from Woody Allen’s recent spasm of Anglophilia)”Brideshead Revisited” (I think they’re remaking it, but a little Jeremy Irons never hurt anyone)Coming Home (a very young Kiera Knightly, Emily Mortimer, Paul Bettany, Peter O’Toole, Joanna Lumley – very “Brideshead”)My Mother’s Castle (ah, Provence)Happy Memorial Day.

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