Lthe six seasons of the series downton abbeycreated by Julian Fellowes and broadcast between 2010 and 2015, it awoke the attraction of the French for the british touchEnglish mansions and the refined accent of an aristocracy transgressed in the law of ” never explain, never complain “. Should we give this small-screen masterpiece a second life by offering it cinematic sequels? The first film of city center abbey, directed by Michael Engler and scripted by Julian Fellowes, released in 2019, left him in doubt. Featuring, while retaining the same actors, the flamboyant Crawley family and their endearing panel of loyal servants, who were moved by an unexpected visit from the King of England, the play was disappointingly lukewarm, served up by thread-thin intrigue and an all-soft setting. . devoid of the dramatic intensity and poisonous dramas that made the series salt.
If that first film failed to unleash the power of the original television drama in just over two hours, the second try, city center Abbey: AN new weather, directed this time by the British Simon Curtis, always following a script by Julian Fellowes, finally accepts the challenge. It is true that the film does not revive the virtuous sadism that is regularly dispensed in the episodes of the series, in which the lives of the heroes, whether masters or servants, were marked by cruelty and injustice: violent deaths, miscarriages repeated, violations, diabolical judgments. , homophobia, but the work nonetheless finds its way into the viewer’s heartstrings.
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Marriage and dark clouds
East New era opens with a wedding day, that of Tom Branson, going through the different seasons of the series from the rank of simple driver to that of a full member of the Crawley family. But the blue sky of the idyllic day does not take long to load -literally and metaphorically- with black clouds. As a torrential downpour falls over the English countryside, revealing roof leaks that threaten to flood the penthouse, a proposition is made to the estate’s owners, emanating from a Hollywood director. If the Crawleys agree to let him shoot his next movie at their home, he’ll write them a check to save the roof and allow the family, whose fortunes have been at half-staff for a few years, to enter the 1930s with panache.
Second sign of destiny: the venerable Lady Violet Crawley, a key character in the saga (played by the great Maggie Smith) to whom we owe the most scathing and tasty lines in the series, teaches her family that she inherits a villa in the south of France, which he intends to donate to Sibbie, daughter of Tom Branson and the deceased youngest of the Crawley spouses, Lady Sybil. The villa is that of the late Monsieur de Montmirail, a French nobleman who dated Lady Violet for a week in 1864, when she was already married. To what folly did the Dowager Countess, known for quick to inflame men in her youth, indulge herself to inherit such an estate, under the nose and beard of Madame de Montmirail?
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a breath again
This double narrative axis dynamizes the scene of this New era, which takes off when the family splits in two: Lady Mary and most of the servants stay behind to oversee the filming, while Lord and Lady Grantham travel south to unravel the origin of the mysterious inheritance. True to its aesthetic sense, the series surprises with its sets and costumes, among the exuberant beauty of the sunny villa of Montmirail, where a Roaring Twenties atmosphere reigns. gatsby the Gorgeous, and the solemn bombast of Downton Abbey, magnified by the costumes and the Hollywood atmosphere of the shoot. The pleasure of the eyes caused by the precision of the atmospheres that lovers of city center abbey is more intense than ever.
“Women like us fall into two categories: dragons and idiots. Be a dragon! hints at her ancestor, Violet, to her granddaughter Mary, whose steely temper has been dedicated since the first episodes of the series to taking up the torch from the matriarch of the Crawley clan. The passing of arms, another red thread in the film, the throat of a suppressed emotion, but real, that is, 100% British. From a script perspective, this New era lives up to its title. If fans orient themselves there, particularly to the modest but powerful ties that bind members of the Crawley family, the play is also stirred by a gleeful whiff of novelty. The idea of inviting Hollywood to Downton, through the shooting of one of the last silent movies in the history of cinema, is excellent. Sowing discord (worthy of the “worst excesses of the French Revolution” to the taste of the very uptight Carson, iconic head butler), the event disrupts the precise daily life of the Downton empire.
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a new ambition
The nobility, undermined from the very beginning of the series -which opened in 1918 with the sinking of the Titanic- by a modernity that it is difficult to adapt to, finds in this crazy American director by trade an unexpected partner, threatened by his production company. having to cancel the shooting of his silent film, now outdated by the arrival of sound films. Downton’s staff are discovering new talent, from waitresses to trainer for angsty stars, an outstanding valet in the role of screenwriter, and a fabulous Lady Mary as a voice double. we don’t say Never Surrender, “Never give up”, in Great Britain? Thanks to their joint efforts, the English save the film. In return, the young Hollywood set offers them a new dynamic. Under the American influence, several characters feel their wings grow and allow themselves to dream of another destiny. And the director enters, thanks to the good advice of these tough Brits experienced in the exercise of resilience, in the age of modernity.
Slightly less exciting, the sequences take place in the south of France, all in sunny languor and existential angst (Was old Lady Crawley as scandalous as one might think? Is her son half French, like the calendar). young? Does Violet’s love seem to suggest?), have the advantage of splashing the film with an unprecedented dose of sunshine in the English countryside settings in which the series has educated our students. Authentic jewels of this mischief on the Côte d’Azur: Madame de Montmirail and her son, played by a perfect Nathalie Baye as a wounded widow and a moving Jonathan Zaccaï in the role of the only son who hopes to find a brother in the deceased .
“That’s life: facing the unexpected,” declares Lady Mary, resolutely willing to follow in her shrewd grandmother’s footsteps. That is what the director and the writer of this new work have done, managing to preserve the aesthetic DNA of the series while infusing it with a new ambition. There will be less jokes, acid and tragedy than in the original saga. But there is in this New era the sincerity, the romantic and the human, capable of (re)conquering the fans of the series, while seducing the neophytes. The film is sweet, beautiful and moving: the most sensitive of us might well shed a tear at the moment of parting with our beloved Lady Violet Crawley. Come on, you’re going to have a little sugar in your cup of tea ?
city center abbey, AN new weatherdirected by Simon Curtis, with Hugh Bonneville, Maggie Smith, Elizabeth McGovern, Nathalie Baye… In theaters.