Posted by: Dr P | September 28, 2009

Dorian Gray

The story of Dorian Gray is a classic. A young man keeps his portrait in the attic … and while he himself never appears to age a day, his portrait gradually gets older and older. It’s basically the story of Cliff Richard.

This 2009 remake of the Oscar Wilde story is a pretty good affair. Set in Victorian London, we follow the tale of Dorian (Prince Caspian himself, Ben Barnes), a young socialite who is taken under the wing of the gloriously corrupt Lord Henry Wotton (Colin Firth) and the more sober artist Basil (Ben Chaplin). Dorian’s youthful innocence is swept away by Wotton within weeks of his arrival, as Dorian learns about the seamy side of life in swinging London. Amidst the merrymaking, Basil paints a magnificent portrait of the young man. We – and indeed Dorian – soon realise that the painting has a life of its own, and possesses some very odd qualities. When Dorian is hurt, he spots that his injury heals rapidly, whilst the bruising and marks appear on the picture … clearly something demonic is going on.

Dorian locks the portrait away in his attic and, realising that he is impervious to harm, he sets about building a reputation as a womaniser and cadaver of the highest order – indeed he soon surpasses the devilish Wotton at his own game. We see Dorian bedding a young debutante at her coming out party – and her mother at the same time! Nice. Wotton continues to urge him on; that is until Dorian returns after many years of travelling and Wotton realises that not only has Dorian not aged a day, his attentions have turned to Wotton’s daughter … amidst the seamy side, Gray has also become a murderer, killing anyone who discovers his secret.

This is a pretty raunchy film, and the lusty roles are filled admirably by the dashing Barnes and by Firth, who must have loved this opportunity to play a character very similar to the original author himself. The movie is set in a place of greed, corruption and huge class divides, which reminded me almost instantly of the Two Tubs pub in Bury, with slightly more refined dancing and better dressed patrons.

Big G and I were fortunate enough to get seats in the special screens at Bolton, which involve reclining chairs, proper armrests and copious amounts of nachos and popcorn (which we passed on). It was a comfortable way to watch a film that was, in itself, quite uncomfortable to watch at times. Gray shows little or no remorse for his actions until late in the movie, and an undercurrent of menace and threat pervade the film. It reminded me in some ways of the excellent “From Hell”, which of course featured Johnny Depp and Ian Holm, two other fine actors.

Big plus points for the cinematography, the lead acting and the portrayal of a dark and seedy London; and in truth, very few negatives for me. I really enjoyed the filma nd would recommend it to anyone familiar with the story, and indeed anyone who wants to enjoy a bit of debauchery with their minstrels 🙂

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