Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Champagne Charlie (1989) - An Interesting Film to Watch

As I mentioned in my entry about characters, I've been watching what is listed as a 'miniseries' from the eighties. In fact it is a two-part made-for-tv film. It is somewhat biographical and based on a book with the same name as the miniseries - Champagne Charlie (1989). Although there are productions from 1936 and 1944 with the same name, this is a totally different story and not to be confused with these earlier versions.

Charles Heidsieck is a Frenchman, and the son of Charles Heidsieck Sr, who owns vineyards and produces a very delicious brand of champagne. The story starts in the 19th century, with the elder Charles, his young son by his side, presenting the champagne to the Russian ruler and introducing it to Russia. Unfortunately Heidsieck Sr died only a while later, leaving a widow and a son too young to take over the business. And whilst I say business, I mean that both Charles and his son care also about the process of making the delicious champagne, taking care to produce grapes in the best of conditions, allowing them to ripen enough, and to ferment at the best temperature.

However with the demise of Charles senior, his brother Pierre-Henri, a proper businessman and one with a grudge, takes over the running of the estate, turning the Heinsieck estate into a business over anything else, reducing on the quality of the champagne for the sake of cutting costs and increasing production. Pierre-Henri is as ruthless as Charles Sr was a gentleman, and soon comes the time for the young Charles to grow up enough to face his uncle and clash with him, even over the treatment of the workers. For despite being still somewhat immature especially when it comes to girls, Charles fast becomes a proper man with values.

What follows is the story of the entrepreneur Charles, as he faces life, love, rejection, loyalty and traitors, sometimes bad choices and at others just plain bad luck, all the while with the villainous uncle on his tail. This is the story of a businessman who is also humane, of a man determined beyond measure, and an inspiration with his words, "We'll start again," and the way he follows this phrase all the time as he faces what others in his place would have deemed the end. This is a three-hour historical drama and a journey full of surprises. In fact I have to admit, If I had the time I'd be watching this over and over again.

Needless to say, this DVD made it into my collection for being listed in Hugh Grant's filmography. (In case you're wondering I got the Dutch version - English audio with Dutch subtitles - hence the weird writing in the pic.) It is a title I had never heard of outside the context of the filmography and it is a big pity that it seems to be little-known, especially in view that it has to be Hugh's best performance from the days of his late twenties. Given the main role in a three-hour presentation, Hugh here is as competent in the role as he is with his more funny persona of later years and way better than in his previous attempts at roles like that of Allan in The Bengali Night (1988) and the good highwayman from The Lady and the Highwayman (1989). In addition to praise for a good performance, I must also comment on his accent. For the man who is known for his unique posh British accent here makes an effort at changing it somewhat for a more-apt French intonation which if I must say, is even sexier.

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