Quartet isn’t Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, not by a mile. But Dustin Hoffman’s directing debut is nevertheless a bittersweet, quirky, eversobritish, golden years tale where the great and good of Anglo thespery show their chops and impress upon us what a magnificent generation of performers they are.
Quartet is set in a raucous, seraphic retirement home for musical theatre folk. It tells of the painful reunion of Reg (Tom Courtenay) with the self-centred Jean Horton (Maggie Smith), the wife who betrayed him years (and years) ago, as they work towards a benefit concert for the survival of the home. (the perilous fiscal status of Blighty’s old-age care being a current cinematic meme) It’s very well-meaning, but not particularly mindblowing. Billy Connolly is great – and looks rather dashing without the curls.
Quartet filmed at the exquisite Hedsor House in Buckinghamshire. Completed in Italianate style in 1868, it’s part of an 85 acre park that overlooks the Thames and is available for weddings and stuff, should that be your wont. Incidentally, there actually IS such a place for retired musos, but it’s in Italy. Casa Verdi. So now you know.
And while we’re still on the oldies, we’ve also been working our way through an Agatha Christie box set, which has been rather marvellous. Although I’ve never quite seen the glamour factor of the tween-War years (wet wool, no deodorant, the rise of fascism, hanging) the movies are all great little period pieces, all cocktails and devils-on-horseback and changing for dinner and the kinds of slappable, plummy public school accents that give me nightmares of childhood.
Evil Under the Sun, I think, is one of the better ones. Filmed in 1982, it’s got all the best Agatha elements; the secluded setting, the all-star cast of conniving, bitter upper class twits, the Object of Disaffection (in this case an oddly masculine Diana Rigg) and the various reasons each of the toffs hate her overheard by the oily Belgian Hercule Poirot (Peter Ustinov, surely the gold standard in Poirotism?) Some snappy dialogue, some seething resentments, the beach: lovely.
The book was (rather hopefully for a storyline that involved sunbathing) set in Devon, but the film relocated to the fictional Mediterranean country of Tyrania. In reality, the Spanish island of Majorca and its uninhabited satellite Sa Dragonera, were used for the external stuff. The most detailed info is actually on Wikipedia. In case you may want to visit, Daphne’s Cove and Hotel, at the time a private estate owned by a German, has since been bought by the Majorca Council and demolished to its foundations.