The Anderson Tapes is one of three Sidney Lumet and Sean Connery collaborations. Sidney Lumet is one of my favourite directors, and I’ve also believed that he’s the only director to make Sean Connery act. The opening credits reveal that ‘and Introducing Christopher Walken.’ There was no way I would skip this movie, despite the flaws I’m sensing. Then Dyan Cannon, the less human-looking yet more talented Farrah Fawcett. The flaws kept coming in, yet Martin Balsam plays a dated version of a gay guy. Are there names for the eras when gay guys dressed like Balsam’s character as opposed to today, when gay guys dress like douchebros?
Their characters are some members of a mish-mash group representing maligned groups in America, all involved in a caper that will rob an Upper East side apartment building while being spied on by multiple government agencies.
My mother talks over movies, but I’m in the school of criticism that listens to both Roger Ebert and Carmela Soprano equally. Apparently he looks older and more gaunt here than he did in the 90’s. Also, can I call on the BS on Connery retiring please? His contemporaries are fed leftovers these days. Guys getting roles are five decades younger than him. It’s equally ridiculous to expect him to work. But don’t crap on movies today. If you hate the movies made today, make better ones.
Now, on to the movie itself. The commentary at “The Interviews” suggest a science fiction feel set in their contemporary times, engendered by the digital font of the opening credits, the score and the non-diagetic sound playing while Duke Anderson (Connery) notices the cameras that are obviously watching him. All of those feel a little forced, but it does bring out the futuristic anomalies that people at that time and even this time have to constantly update themselves with. Duke has been in jail for ten years, Pops for forty, prison then mitigates their distance from the evolving technology they missed out on. Being secluded from society during a long period, the changes are more drastic for them, the loss of control of their privacy more alarming. The opposing teams of the film – the capers and the Italian mob against the wealthy New Yorkers and the government, arguably are all groups from the old guard, playing in a new, more technologically equipped playing field.
The film also keeps cutting back and forth between events and locations, calling itself to its narrative. A scene between Duke and Italian mobsters are interrupted by, such as the IRS committees spying on them for other suspected crimes. An audio of a love scene between Duke and Ingrid (Cannon) is played back to them days later, the second time with Ingrid’s other lover present and spying on them. The robbery scenes are intercut with interviews of the robbed after the fact. This structure of the film calls out on how every scene has information we spell out in our heads. Recounting a scene also emphasizes its consequences, who will get caught, who’s getting hurt, who wins.
Final thought on the love scenes, not sex scenes. A little goes a long way. As well as the acting, and that Connery and the other actors playing capers express all that masculine bravado and vulnerability through those masks.
So that means yes, I’ve seen the film before in parts. I honestly thought that Glenda Jackson as Mary’s rival Queen Elizabeth I in this film, was the best in show. The way her head and hands move when she’s thinking up a plot to offer her own lover, Sir Robert Dudley, to Mary is fascinating. The first act of the film shows her driving the plot instead of being passive within it. When the rejected Dudley talks about how Mary has charmed him, Elizabeth also gets physically aggressive. Which is fun to watch.
Elizabeth almost steals the show because of the damage done when Mary repeatedly cries out ‘Francois,’ to her dead husband King Francis II. Mary sounds girly, lovesick, dependent. In a way, my fears about the character getting stuck like this has become true, Mary becoming a queen who’s repeatedly imprisoned by her enemies, never becoming a woman and person in her own right. Redgrave keeps pace with those plot points by giving her character a vitality – a woman in her mid-30’s convincingly portraying the youthful obliviousness of someone ten years younger or more. That, nonetheless, is a better portrayal than the saintly inhuman interpretation of Mary in an earlier John Ford film in 1936.
Of course, those two characters grow up. Elizabeth wants to survive and still holds grudges but won’t use her ruthlessness to even imprison and execute the woman who also happens to be her cousin. She feels sorry for having to send Mary to Forthingray. Mary repeats the same adulterous mistake with a Lord Bothwell that Elizabeth has made with Lord Dudley – Elizabeth suspected of murdering Dudley’s wife, Mary accused of murdering her own king consort for and with Bothwell. She isn’t convincing when she says that she has made peace with her God and pities Elizabeth. She nonetheless carries on to her beauty and dignity, fighting fer her crown till the end.
Mary’s story isn’t told in film with such frequency as Elizabeth’s, the latter being told in film or television every decade. It’s probably because Elizabeth, as an English Queen and one who has reigned for decades and made the kingdom into a superpower, whereas Mary’s seems like the story of an outsider, even if she is the matriarch of England’s future kings. Elizabeth’s is always shown as a victory, whereas Mary’s shows victory and defeat in both sides, which interests me more.