Cate Blanchett in ‘Charlotte Gray’

We are in the final stretch of the podcast series. This week it’s another of Cate Blanchett’s many titular roles and Charlotte Gray (2001). In this episode Murtada discusses Gillian Armstrong’s World War II film, the many loving close ups she affords Balnchett and whether the film works as both a sweeping epic romance and a narrative about life in occupied France during the war.

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What is the film about?

From IMDB: A young Scottish woman joins the French Resistance during World War II to rescue her Royal Air Force boyfriend who is lost in France.

What year did it come out?


Box Office: US= $741,000 Outside US = $4.5MM

Critical Response: Metacritic : 48    RT: 33 

Topics Discussed:

  • The top notch crew behind this film. From the director Gillian Armstrong (Oscar and Lucinda) to the cinematographer Dion Bebe (Memoirs of a Geisha) and custom designer Janty Yates (House of Gucci).
  • The many loving and gorgeous closeup Cate Blanchett is afforded in this film.
  • Does the film work as a sweeping epic romance as well as a narrative about life in occupied France during World War II? Two scenes are dissected .
  • Charlotte Gray announces early in the film, “I want to be brave.” Does the film deliver on that declaration?
Billy Crudup and Cate Blanchett in Charlotte Gray

Film within context of Cate’s career:

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Cate Blanchett in ‘Oscar and Lucinda’

One of Cate Blanchett’s earliest films, Oscar and Lucinda finds her working in Australia with Gillian Armstrong and Ralph Fiennes. It’s an odd, eccentric but very feminist tale.

HostMurtada Elfadl, some of Murtada’s film writing can be found here.

Guest : Andy Stewart.

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What is the film about?

 From imdb: In mid-1800s England, Oscar, a young Anglican priest, and Lucinda, a teen-aged Australian heiress, are both passionate gamblers. Lucinda bets Oscar her entire inheritance that he cannot transport a glass church to the Outback safely, and this leads to the events that will change both their lives forever.

What year did it come out?

December 1997.

Who does Cate play?

Lucinda, an heiress obsessed with glass and gambling and who has an almost desperate desire to liberate her sex from the confines of the male-dominated culture of the Australia of that time.

How is Cate introduced?

13 minutes in the pond speaking French. 

Box Office: Domestic = $1.8M   Int’l = Unknown.

Metacritic : 66. RT: 66.


Topics discussed:

  • Chemistry with Ralph Fiennes. Funny that their paths never crossed again.
  • Cate in love stories. Always weird, this is one and Benjamin Button was another. Why?
  • Costumes by Oscar nominated Janet Patterson (The Piano, Far From the Madding Crowd).
  • Lucinda as a feminist character to be admired.
  • Gilliam Armstrong’s My Brilliant Career – another headstrong feminist heroine. Role was originally meant for Judy Davis.
  •  Has a strange combination of b plot themes and tones:  rape and murder of indigenous Australian people, religious themes. It starts as a love story, becomes a grim sorta war story  while telling the from cradle to grave life story of the titular characters.
  • The whole Oscar trip without Lucinda was weird and tried my patience.
  • They meet almost 40 minutes into the film, then they are separated for the last 40, it is a strange conceit for what is a maybe love story.
  • Cate and Richard Roxburgh – who plays the villian – have acted together many times on stage.

Memorable quotes:

In order that I exist, two gamblers, one obsessive, one compulsive, must meet.” 

Costumes we loved:

They look right for the period though not memorable. More memorable is that they are roughed up and tousled, don’t look pristine like stuffy costume dramas.

Fiennes, Blanchett and Armstrong on set

 Scenes we liked:

The confession scene where Oscar and Lucinda “lay their cards on the table” is exhilarating and fun. Played for comedy and both actors are playing several notes.

What seemed off:

Mash up of tones which made it interesting if not entirely successful.

Film within context of Cate’s career:

  •  Her second film post Paradise Road (1997).
  • Shekhar Kapur saw stills or scenes from it and cast her in Elizabeth (1998), ultimately leading to her breakout and huge career.
  • Seems to have a small passionate following among Cate’s fans, though not broadly remembered in the culture.

What reviews said of film / Cate:

Ms. Blanchett, whose strength and vivacity recall the young Judy Davis ”My Brilliant Career,” is appealingly well teamed with Mr. Fiennes, who manages to make Oscar as bashfully likable as he is quaint. ’ – Janet Maslin, NYTimes

Ralph Fiennes plays Oscar, an odd Anglican minister addicted to the thrills of wagering; Cate Blanchett is his soul mate, Lucinda — the kind of warm-blooded feminist that may be Armstrong’s most important contribution to the image of women on screen.” – Lisa Schwarzbaum EW

Press coverage other than reviews:

Armstrong to NYTimes on why she chose Cate for the part: “We were looking for someone who wasn’t quite conventional. Cate has this slightly magic quality, as if she can be transported into other worlds.’

Promotional appearances:

New York premiere December 1997.

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