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The Life and Death of Peter Sellers [2004)

The kid stays in the picture.  Underestimated.  Geoffrey Rush does justice to cinema’s greatest anti-hero:  bumbling, fumbling Peter Sellers.  This is the capstone to Sellers-study.  Listen to his four EMI albums.  Search in vain for those early British films.  Perhaps you will find them.  It’s really no fun to order everything from Amazon.  Takes the whole sociological aspect out of it.  Go into the marketplace with your agoraphobia and see how the lesser-known films are scant on the shelves.  Even the shelves are scant.  Soon I will download Peter Sellers’ personality directly to my brain.

As this film makes clear, Sellers had no personality of his own.  Perhaps.

Charlize Theron makes as convincing a Britt Ekland as Rush does a Sellers.  Very.  Emily Watson is superb as Peter’s first wife Anne.  John Lithgow gives the best performance I’ve ever seen him do as director Blake Edwards.  Miriam Margolyes is striking as Sellers’ mother Peg.  Peter Vaughn does a tremendous job as Sellers’ father.

There are so many truly touching scenes in this biopic.  Tears of a clown.

Sonia Aquino was perfectly cast as Sophia Loren and she gives off just the right lust factor to make us feel what Peter must have been feeling.  He was insane.  He was never cut out for fame.  He was ill-prepared.  Like Andy Kaufman.

Perhaps the most pithy scene is when Sellers settles for shagging Sopia’s stand-in.  We pity him.  We despise him.  We laugh.  We cry.

The kid stayed in the picture.  Fat, homely Peter of The Goon Show.  He bared his teeth and sunk them into the arm of show business.  He bit the hand that fed.  He paid a heavy price for fame.  It is like the Leonard Cohen song “Came So Far for Beauty”…my favorite song ever written.  It is the story of all movie stars.  Godard was infinitely deft to include this song in Histoire(s) du cinéma.

Stanley Tucci hits just the right notes in portraying Stanley Kubrick.  But the real auteur here is Stephen Hopkins.  He made one of the best, most touching, genius films I have ever seen.  Emotion pours from every splice; every joint of montage.  May he be given many more projects as worthy of his talent as this.

One last note.  Geoffrey Rush does his best acting ever in this film.  Lithgow was right when he said that.  We will be forever indebted to the depths which Rush plumbed to show a true Hollywood story worth telling.

 

-PD

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