Carrington (1995) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Scoop's comments in white: 

It was certainly a strange decision to name this film Carrington. It's about the seventeen year relationship of painter Dora Carrington and author Lytton Strachey, but ...

1. Lytton Strachey was famous, Dora Carrington was not.

2. Lytton Strachey was witty and learned. Dora Carrington went from high school to an art school, was unlettered, and a woman of no special appeal.

Well, so be it. Strachey gets all the good lines, as he did in life, but Carrington got the title.

Their relationship was unique. Lytton Strachey was a homosexual, who first noticed Dora when he thought her a lovely young boy. Although they could find nothing to talk about, and she was not a boy, Strachey decided to kiss her on their first walk together. Carrington stayed in love with Strachey for the remainder of their lives. (They met in 1915. Strachey died of stomach cancer in January, 1932, and Carrington committed suicide about two months later, while still in her 30's.)

Carrington's story was certainly provocative. Even before Strachey's fatal illness, her life verged on tragedy in a certain sense, because the soul-mate of her life happened to be a man with whom she could not share a sexual relationship. Despite that, they lived together for many years, sharing their lives as if they were lovers, sometimes sleeping in the same bed. Sometimes they shared the same men. Carrington was married to one of Strachey's lovers, for example. Carrington bedded many men, but loved only Strachey. 


Emma Thompson shows her breasts from the side on two occasions, once while undressing, once while having sex standing up.
Carrington fails the official Scoopy litmus test for a great biography, in that it is really only interesting because it is true. If you thought the film to be about fictional characters, you probably wouldn't have much reason to watch it. That failure notwithstanding, the film has many positives:
  • These people were odd and interesting, so your curiosity will be piqued by their story. Just how did they work all this out in reality?
  • The photographic composition is artistic and beautiful.
  • The dialogue is witty and literate. Strachey was a member of the famed Bloomsbury Group, the English equivalent of the Algonquin Roundtable, a group of wits and raconteurs who assembled frequently to exchange bon mots, intellectual pleasantries and literary gossip. Keynes, the famous economist, and the author Virginia Woolf were also members.
  • It is acted beautifully by Jonathan Pryce and Emma Thompson, who seem to evoke the originals flawlessly. They look exactly like them, as well. When I first saw the picture to the right, I thought it was from the film, but it is the originals!
  • It is educational, providing a painless lesson on the customs and interests of the English intelligensia between the wars
  • Some of the scenes are excellent. The one I liked best was shot from outside a mansion in which the camera followed the pairing off of many lovers, then pulled back to show Carrington sitting alone outside, just a spectator like the rest of us. There was some brilliant camerawork in that scene as well. 

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 1.85:1

  • Making-of featurette

Is it a great movie? No, not in the sense that it will have broad appeal to a wide range of viewers. It is an excellent and straightforward chronological recitation of their interesting lives, so is therefore interesting in that regard. There is, however, no additional cinematic structure imposed upon the script to give the film a life of its own. It is interesting mainly because they were interesting.

It is a slow-paced film; not much happens; it is subtle, and artistic. Those are not necessarily weaknesses, but they are elements that most of you do not enjoy in a film.  If those elements do not scare you off, go for it, because it is done well. I enjoyed it.

There is, in my opinion, one weakness. Dora Carrington, as shown in the film, possesses no great wit or charm. Nor is she quite beautiful, nor overwhelmingly talented. So this biopic fails to answer the one question that I would consider central to her life story, which is "why did one of the world's most renowned literary figures love her so dearly, in a pseudo-erotic way, despite the fact that she was the wrong sex for him?" Frankly, although that seems to be the one interesting question that a biopic should answer, I still didn't know "why" when the movie ended. 

Tuna's comments in yellow:

Carrington (1995) tells the story of a platonic, but all-consuming love affair between artist Carrington (Emma Thompson), and gay writer Lytton Strachey. Throughout the course of the film, they each have many male lovers, often the same men, but they remain bound together. Both were members of the Bloomsbury Group, a gathering of British geniuses during WW I. The film is entirely fixated on the sexual antics of members of the group.

It was beautifully filmed and acted. Nevertheless, I was disappointed. In knew very little about these people before the film started, and I still know little about them. It is essentially a story of sexual exploits counterbalanced by the platonic love, but certainly doesn't have enough erotic content to carry that theme for two hours. I was completely unable to see what all of the men she paraded through her bedroom saw in her. In point of fact, the eye candy only took me so far, and I couldn't wait for it to end.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: three stars or more. Ebert 4/4, Berardinelli 3.5/4, 2.5/5, Maltin 3/4. 

  • was nominated for the Golden Palm at Cannes (Pryce won Best Actor)

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 6.6 
  • With their dollars ... arthouse distribution - grossed $3 million in the USA
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, Scoop says, "This film is a C+. A biopic with integrity, but not much energy, and no cinematic hook. It's just a straightforward chronological recitation of the highlights, but is often interesting because they themselves were interesting. Well done, but with appeal to a very narrow target market." Tuna says, "The proper score is C+, a very well made film that you will enjoy if it is your sort of film."

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