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I Feel Lucky

Review of "BELLE"
By Jayne Waterford
Copyrighted © Jayne Waterford, 2014 Revised 14th May 2014 Revised 17th May 2014 Revised 17th May 2014 Revised 26th May 2014 Revised 2nd January 2015
REVIEW: "BELLE" by Jayne Waterford

Beginning in 1769, Amma Asante's "BELLE" (2013) is a lovely film of dialogue examining a problem from the points of view of people who are bigots and reasonable people and a mixture of both. Miranda Richarson is fearless in the role of Lady Ashford and her family are stand outs.

As for the rest of the cast, Lord Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson) and his family tell the story of the fortunes of The Zong sweetly. The Zong is a slave ship that murders the bulk of it's cargo in an effort to rort insurance. Lord Mansfield, under the influence of a young man Mr. John Davinier (Sam Reid) not unlike himself, his smart wife (Emily Watson) and his intelligent niece Miss. Dido Belle Lindsay (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), sits in judgement on the case. He first concludes that, based on evidence The Zong is eligible from claiming insurance on its lost inventory. But secondly that the position of slave is so abhorrent that it should not describe anyone. His judgement contributes to the end of slavery across the British empire half a century later.

Amma Asante shows Miss. Dido Lindsay to be in a unique situation in England. As a wealthy heiress she doesn't have to marry to secure income. Her uncle and guardian, a judge, would forbid her from

diminishing her rank by marrying beneath her station while at the same time does not allow her to eat with the family as she is black (Mulato).

This film is all about race. The object of bigotry is the subject of the story. The black child is more talented and able than anyone else, like only the top seven percent of women were employed in a traditionally male sphere at one time, alongside ordinary people. And the costumes are so pretty.

Miss. Dido and Miss. Elizabeth are painted together and very prettily depicted. It's clear they are loved, though not if Mr. James (Tom Felton) has anything to do with it.

"BELLE" has all of the careful ingredients of a major Hollywood picture which make it very watchable. Perhaps even more so than Michael Apted's black-free "AMAZING GRACE" (2006). In terms of characterisation it is such an honest portrayal of bigoted people that I suspect it has surpassed Phillip Noyce's "RABBIT-PROOF FENCE" (2002) as my touchstone for nice people doing despicable things.

What really jumped out was Dido's cultural isolation, the inability of the dominant culture to obliterate her self-worth in light of her tremendous personal wealth, the long wigs on the gentlemen which was a very

natural style. This is a place Byron and Shelley could spring from, the genuine feeling for Dido expressed by Oliver Ashford, their pre-Austin obsession with income and the bombastic presence of he, his brother and his mother.

"BELLE" features the cutting edge of costume authenticity, locations, sets and props. Everyone makes considered pronouncements. Everyone stands and delivers. It beat the pants off Carlo Carlei's "ROMEO & JULIET" (2013) for exposition.

Amma Asante's "BELLE" (2013) was very fine. Very, very fine. And outrageous. It's offensive. Amma Asante defines the central character as a problem in the opinion of law and a majority. Asante defines a type and has decided for a reason that everyone who can be viewed as a slave, cargo or Mulato should be framed exclusively as such for the purpose of the film. Even when Dido walks with her bf he defines himself in terms of his stance on race. She is nothing but an object that occasions meditation on bigotry. Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) plays an object of bigotry. She is even shown as someone who is bigotted against by virtue of her isolation. I hated this experience.

Amma Asante should remake "TRIUMPH". 1/10

Copyrighted ©: Jayne Waterford, 2014.

It's like finding Paul Haggis' "CRASH" (2004) a film where you think one kind person, Officer Tom Hansen (Ryan Phillippe) is going to get us through a world of violence and racial assault only to see him shoot an innocent person because he feared he was dangerous. Bigotry is so endemic to the population in Dido's England, her guardian, her sister, the people closest to her and her uneasy, chosen future husband. Everyone. It is a value at the fore of all of any consideration of her place in their world.

But in "CRASH" Anthony (Ludacris) has his personal journey and frees the people from the van he's driving. Cameron Thayer (Terrence Howard) & his wife Christine (Thandie Newton) are on their dinner date before they meet the embodiment of hatred, Officer John Ryan (Matt Dillon). In "BELLE" Dido has no reprieve from being a dispised object. She does not exist beyond bigotry. That is why I dislike this film so.

Revised 26th May 2014

Amma Asante's
"BELLE" (2013)
Release Date 8th May 2014
Category Period Drama
Running Time 104 minutes (1 hour, 44 minutes)
Rating PG
Director Amma Asante ("A WAY OF LIFE")
Stars Gugu Mbatha-Raw ("LARRY CROWNE", "ACT OF GOD"), Matthew Goode ("STOKER", "BURNING MAN"), Tom Felton ("RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES", The "HARRY POTTER" movie series), Tom Wilkinson ("BATMAN BEGINS", "MICHAEL CLAYTON")
Distributor Icon Film Distribution
Official Blurb "Dido Elizabeth Belle was the
illegitimate daughter of John Lindsay a Captain in the Royal Navy, stationed in the Caribbean with a black woman named Maria Belle who bore him a daughter in 1762. Based on the true story, this film delves into Maria Belle and her status as a slave aboard a captured Spanish ship." - Icon Film Distribution PR

Photographs by David Appleby.