Review – Kind Hearts and Coronets

Continuing on my BFI 100 Quest (I still have 76 films left -_-;), which is progressing in somewhat-random order, I watched the #6 film…..

Kind Hearts and Coronets (UK, 1949) dir. Robert Hamer.  B&W, 35mm.

A charming Victorian black comedy about murder and ambition, Kind Hearts and Coronets tells the story of Louis (that’s pronounced the French way) Manzini, 9th or 10th in line for the D’Ascoyne family’s dukedom.  He grew up learning all about his family, taught by his mother (who was exiled from the family because she married for love).  After his mother dies and the D’Ascoynes refuse her dying wish (and after a girl he loves turns him down because he’s poor), Manzini starts to play a more active role in trying to acquire the dukedom.  It’s here that the film gets a lot more interesting, as Manzini starts killing off D’Ascoynes right and left.

Like Sellers in Dr. Strangelove, Alec Guinness (one of the great actors of our time) plays multiple parts: 8 different members of the D’Ascoyne family!  One of them is a woman, so if you’ve ever wanted to see Alec Guinness cross-dressing, look no further.  Yes, some of them are nearly identical “dignified old people,” but Guinness’s acting is well-played and amusing.

The film is very entertaining and darkly humorous, with a witty, dry narration by Louis.  Some of the shot composition is also quite good.  Here’s the requisite batch of images….to cover up the fact that I can’t write a long review for this one 😛

(click images for full size)

No, this picture isn't upside down.... it's just a brilliant point-of-view shot of when Louis is using one of those old-fashioned cameras (when you look into one, the image is inverted).

This is a gorgeous shot.

Louis is up to no good again. Nice foreground/background setup in this shot.

See that nude statue in the foreground? Yep. Total symbolism.

He was a big, boorish bear of a man....and the mise-en-scene tells us that.

—-Recca 9/19/08

Rating: 7/10

Availability: Region 1 DVD (special edition) from Criterion, Region 1 standard edition from Anchor Bay, Region 2 DVD, VHS.



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