Tuesday, March 18, 2008

R.I.P.: Anthony Minghella (1954-2008)

The obituaries are bound to emphasize Anthony Minghella’s biggest, best known films – The English Patient (for which he received an Academy Award as Best Director), Cold Mountain and the lushly perverse Talented Mr. Ripley – but I must admit my preference for his more intimate and affecting works.

Truly, Madly, Deeply, his debut feature as writer-director, is a subtle, precise and quietly endearing supernatural romance, with a bittersweet ending that truly earns your tears. Much of it is extremely funny, and even more of it is warmly charming, thanks in large measure to the delicately balanced lead performances by Alan Rickman and the under-appreciated Juliet Stevenson.

The criminally under-rated Breaking and Entering – Minghella’s most recently released film -- is, as I have written elsewhere, a coolly intelligent and subtly allusive drama that speaks in a quiet yet insistent voice to anyone with the mind to perceive and the heart to sympathize. I strongly suspect -- well, OK, I dearly hope -- that, in the wake of the director’s passing, it will undergo an extensive critical re-evaluation.

And speaking of re-evaluation: Mr. Wonderful, a relatively obscure (if not completely forgotten) romantic comedy Minghella made in 1993, is well worth tracking down. It’s undeniably lightweight, but extremely likable, with splendid performances (by Matt Dillon, Annabelle Sciorra, Vincent D’Onofrio, Mary-Louise Parker and, briefly, William Hurt) that are in perfect sync with the shifting moods and melancholy wit of the screenplay by Amy Schor and
Vicki Polon.

BTW: Jeffrey Wells offers a deeply felt tribute to Minghella -- and acknowledges a personal tragedy -- here. My condolences to Wells and his family, and to Minghella's family and friends. There is nothing more I can say. Death says it all.

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