Prince Philip: The Royal Family Remembers


A prince for all time.

(2021) Documentary (Discovery Plus) Prince Charles, Prince William, Princess Anne, Prince Harry, Princess Beatrice, Princess Eugenie, Prince Andrew, Sophie Countess of Wessex, Camilla Parker-Bowles, Alexandra McCreery, Zara Tindall, Mark Philips, Timothy Laurence, Louise Mountbatten-Windsor. Directed by Faye Hamilton and Mark Hill

 

To mark the occasion of the 100th birthday of Philip the Duke of Edinburgh, documentary filmmakers Faye Hamilton and Mark Hill sat down with various members of the Royal family to get their impressions of the husband of Elizabeth II, reigning monarch of the United Kingdom. When Philip passed away unexpectedly on April 9th of last year, two months shy of his birthday, the conversations took on an entirely different tone.

Additional interviews took place following the passing of the prince, and along with the anecdotes about the Prince, his temperament and his love for sports, hunting and the outdoors, his family opened up about what Philip meant to the family and to them individually. It is an unusually candid and emotional documentary; very often the Royals tend to keep their emotions in check.

We also have a tendency to judge Philip based on different portrayals of him in the media, particularly here in America. Most who know him through portrayals in such films as The Queen or TV series like The Crown, in both of which he is second banana to his wife (as I suppose is proper), we are given a portrait of a tone-deaf man giving his wife terrible advice in the days following the tragic death of the former Princess of Wales Diana, or being a bit standoffish while arguing for conservative values from a bygone era.

Nearly everyone interviewed here from his children and grandchildren to his staff remark on his sense of humor, his tendency to tease those he was close to with affection, and above all his devotion to his family. Considering his early history – his family was forced to flee Greece after a coup and he lived in exile in Britain, his family nearly penniless. He made an impression in military school and served with distinction in the Second World War, before catching the eye of a princess whom he later wed. Their marriage was, by all accounts, a good one and certainly Elizabeth leaned on her husband for support and advice throughout her reign, and he provided her with both.

The movie is replete with lots of wonderful anecdotes about Prince Philip, as well as archival footage and even some home movies – I’m sure most people don’t know this but the late Prince was an aficionado of the barbecue and worked the grill whenever he had the opportunity to, and we see him doing just that.

A biography is sometimes defined as a portrait, warts and all whereas a hagiography is completely without blemish, and the latter is true here. Then again, this was meant to be a birthday gift before it became a tribute, and neither occasion is appropriate for a tell-all exposé, For those here in the States who are fascinated by the Royals, this is absolutely indispensable. For history buffs, it has merit but should be taken in the spirit it was intended. For those looking for a complete portrait of the man, well, I’m sure he’s not going to be nominated for sainthood anytime soon but this film provides a point of view we don’t often get to see, and in that sense, it’s invaluable.
REASONS TO SEE: Plenty of archival material and family photos.
REASONS TO AVOID: About as hagiographic as one would expect this would be.
FAMILY VALUES: Suitable for all audiences.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Philip at more than 70 years was the longest-serving consort in the history of the British crown.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Discovery Plus
CRITICAL MASS: As of 01/10/22: Rotten Tomatoes: No score yet; Metacritic: No score yet.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Diana, Our Mother: Her Life and Legacy
FINAL RATING: 6.5/10
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Aulcie

Can’t Stand Losing You: Surviving The Police


It rocks to be Sting!

It rocks to be Sting!

(2012) Musical Documentary (Cinema Libre) Andy Summers, Sting, Stewart Copeland, Kate Lunken Summers. Directed by Andy Grieves

In the heyday of MTV, the Police were one of the bands that were essentially made for the music video age. Blonde and good looking, sometimes the fact that they made really good music got lost in the image. Melding a variety of musical forms including (but not limited to) New Wave, reggae, jazz, blues with the occasional burst of discordant noise, they were often unfairly characterized as purveyors of disposable lightweight pop. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Behind the easygoing blonde facade were three strong personalities who often clashed. Bassist Sting was never much of a team player and said so; he would get into heated arguments with his band mates over things ranging from chord changes to which singles were released off of albums. The band member’s egos stemmed from the fact that all three were talented musicians and songwriters in their own rights, and recording sessions often became wars of attrition.

Finally, the band called it a day in 2006 which startled the music press and fans alike; their most recent (and it turns out final) album Synchronicity had been a monster success and they were considered by many to be the biggest band in the world. All went their separate ways, however; Sting to a successful solo career, drummer Stewart Copeland to TV and film composition and guitarist Andy Summers to a string of instrumental albums both solo and with other guitarists like Robert Fripp of King Crimson.

In some ways though, the way the band broke up left both the fans and the band itself feeling a lack of closure so in 2007, partly in honor of the 30th anniversary of the release of their first single “Roxanne” the band announced a reunion tour. It would be a one-time event; as Sting put it, “There will be no album. There will be no follow-up tour.” The tour would be the last hurrah for the band, a way of saying goodbye to their fans one final time.

Summers, prior to the reunion, wrote a book on his time with the Police entitled One Train Later and decided to do a documentary. Copeland, who had taken Super 8 movies of the band on tour, had previously released a documentary entitled Everybody Stares: The Police Inside Out back in 2006 but it wasn’t until well after the reunion had concluded that Summers and Grieve, assuming the director’s chair for the first time after establishing himself as a film editor, assembled both from archival footage of the band as well as newer footage from the reunion tour shot by Lauren Lazin.

Here we hear Summers laconically reading from his book over the images and video. Summers, who these days resembles comedian Eric Idle portraying a rumpled professorial sort, is not the most expressive reader ever; most of the voiceover is monotonic which can lull the viewer to sleep, or at least lead them to lose interest. To be sure, however, he’s a good writer and the prose is well-written.

One drawback is that the film is exclusively from Summers’ point of view. That’s a double edged sword; we get a very definitive, consistent viewpoint throughout, but that’s the only viewpoint we receive. While we hear Sting and Copeland in interviews talking about the band, there’s a kind of facade that is practiced by members of any band which is meant to keep the world at large out of the inner sanctum. Only from Summers do we get any kind of emotional resonance and while that is much appreciated, the film could have used more participation from his bandmates as well.

Grieve, with his background in editing, really weaves the footage from the 70s and 80s nicely in with concert footage from the reunion tour. It’s a nice effect although to be honest the songs don’t really change much in arrangement over time for the most part although once in awhile the band messed about with the arrangements to some of their lesser known tunes. We do get a sense that the divides that split the band up remain intact; they seem to be better friends outside of the band than within it.

There are some nice tidbits here; Summers, for example, was briefly a member of Eric Burden and the Animals prior to joining the Police. He was much older than his mates, who teasingly tried to convince an interviewer that the Summers who played in psychedelic bands like Dantalian’s Chariot and blues bands like Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band was actually the Police guitarist’s father. Another anecdote that was interesting was that the band’s first appearance on the influential British music show The Old Grey Whistle Stop nearly didn’t happen when a can of hairspray exploded in Sting’s face, necessitating a hospital visit to save his eye; he was forced to wear oversized sunglasses for the appearance because of it.

Summers does go into more personal aspects of his life, such as how the marriage to his wife Kate developed and then disintegrated due to his constant touring with the band, how he sunk into reckless behaviors after the divorce and how an interest in photography went from being a hobby into being therapy. Happily, the couple reconciled and remarried and have since given birth to twin boys in addition to the daughter they had during his Police days. These are some of the more compelling moments in the film.

In some ways this is an ego project for Summers but I suspect he’s okay with that characterization; this is more “Andy Summers and the Police” than a fair, balanced portrayal of the band and their music. Summers says, with some pride, “We were allowed (to have egos) because we were really good musicians” without any hint of irony, and deservedly so. This is a band that really never got its critical due during their existence and even less so afterwards. They were more than just a trio of pretty boys that grew out of the punk clubs of England and escaped into pop superstardom; they wrote some amazing songs that still sound good today. I just would have wished for a documentary that was a little less one-sided.

WHY RENT THIS: Nice interweaving of archival concert footage with more recent stuff. Informative.
WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Too Summers-centric in a self-aggrandizing way. Lacks energy.
FAMILY VALUES: Some minor swearing.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The comic book character John Constantine (who appeared in a sadly now-defunct NBC series this past season) was based  visually on Sting.
NOTABLE HOME VIDEO EXTRAS: Some of Summers’ photos appear in a photo gallery; there’s also a Q&A session with Summers from the film’s L.A. premiere, a promo piece on his solo album Mysterious Barricades, an interview with Summers and finally a Summers-made trailer for the film (in addition to the official one).
BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $23,262 on an unknown production budget.
SITES TO SEE: Netflix (DVD Rental Only), Vudu
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Soul Boys of the Western World
FINAL RATING: 5/10
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