"The Great" - on Hulu. (Based on Catherine the Great's life). Rating: /
DON'T DO IT. I decided to watch a couple of episodes to see how the costuming was - they were mostly... uninspiring. The plot / dialogue / divergence from almost all historical fact made it extremely painful to watch. The amount of modern slang used was enraging. The acting was vacuous... almost a bad parody of itself.
Filmed in Kazakhstan during the Second World War, Joseph Stalin wanted a propaganda piece to justify his autocratic rule, he picked Sergei Eisenstein to film a trilogy on Tsar Ivan IV. Part 2 was initially banned, later released after Stalin's death, Part 3 was never finished. Often considered a film school classic, the opulent costumes, set designs and lighting as reflection of Ivan's paranoia provide stunning images, the exaggerated acting makes the film unintentionally hilarious in places. Part one is more straightfoward biopic from Ivan's coronation, the conquest of Kazan and his temporary abdication. Part two concentrates on a plot to assassinate him, the oprichniki and a glimpse at Ivan's childhood. Works as psychological expressionism, just don't expect subtlety.
Warning: some of the themes in this series may be a bit too gruesome for certain viewers, as the series focuses on a series of sexually motivated child killings...
The show is amazing - in it's beautifully realized interpretation of New York in the 1980's and while the story is not true, it includes many accurate backstories to historical figures (Theodore Roosevelt makes a cameo). It's a pretty dark, psychological thriller / crime series... It deals with many of the cultural elements that would have been in play at the time, like childhood / lack thereof due to trauma, the reaction to women in workplaces, the reaction of New Yorkers to the influx of immigrants... it also touches on some that we rarely think about today, such as the prevalence and social stigma of syphilis.
The costuming is impeccable - not overstated or too modernized. The acting is superb. You feel like you are given window to actually see the past, due to the level of accuracy and integrity involved in creating the series.
Chinatown (1974): "Chinatown" follows private investigator Jake Gittes (Jack Nicholson) through a labyrinthine plot connected to water in 1930's Los Angeles. Evoking film noirs of a bygone era, the screenplay is a model of near perfection, a standard in screenwriting classes. Jack Nicholson was so pleased with his performance he wanted J.J Gittes to be the only detective he played, Faye Dunaway and John Huston provide strong supporting roles while Roman Polanski (his last film in America before his conviction) tells the story from Jake's perspective, letting the audience learn clues with the protagonist. Not the most historically accurate movie in the world, it's one of the high points of Hollywood cinema in the 1970s.