Elizabeth: the Golden Age (12A)
Interview (15)

Faerie Queene falls to earth

Talk about transcending your limitations. Queen Elizabeth I was born illegitimate, Protestant and ginger-haired, yet she behaved like she was God's gift – literally. At one dramatic juncture in Elizabeth: The Golden Age, an assassin bursts in to the church where the Queen is at prayer, but as he aims his pistol, the light emanating from her seems of such divine intensity that the man is too dazzled to plug her. Like those statuettes of the Virgin Mary you can buy at Lourdes, this lady glows in the dark.

By her own admission, Cate Blanchett was initially reluctant to reprise her breakthrough role from nine years ago, yet there seems nothing remotely half-hearted about her performance. Her skin is perhaps a little too luminously perfect for a woman of 52 – the age of Elizabeth in 1585 when this film begins – and her beauty would have to be another miracle from God, considering her father was Henry VIII. But what's good about Blanchett's performance is her ability to suggest the psychological tug-of-war between regal duty and human need – one moment playing the powdered gorgon, the next mere flesh-and-blood. This Elizabeth, conscious of her virginity and confused with longing, doesn't seem to know if she's a sensual woman or not.

At first, her playfulness with Bess (Abbie Cornish), her favourite lady-in-waiting, carries a whiff of the Sapphic; then, she uses her as a kind of amorous bait in getting close to Walter Raleigh (Clive Owen), just back from the New World bearing potatoes, tobacco and a certain smouldering sexuality. She enjoys the pertness of this courtier, who appears to understand her fear of not being loved for herself; he enjoys the attentiveness of an all-powerful woman, though her perverse scheming flirts with danger. Owen has somehow overcome the disadvantage of that monotonous voice and turned himself into a plausible charmer – he even gets to do the legendary cloak-across-the-puddle trick I first read about in my Ladybird history of the Tudors.

At this level, the film plays out an enjoyable pas de deux, or rather folie à trois, as the Queen toys with her subjects' affections before realising that she has sabotaged her own. It's on the larger scale that it begins to look sketchy, switching the spotlight from Catholic plotters to the imprisoned Mary, Queen of Scots (Samantha Morton) to the drumbeats of war sounding from the court of Philip II of Spain, or as the press notes have it, "the destructive wind of fundamentalist Catholicism". Do you suppose that a contemporary resonance is being flagged?

The director, Shekhar Kapur, sets his camera at a stealthy, prowling pace, and shoots persistently through screens and veils, or from behind pillars: it's like being in a theatre where every seat is restricted-view. The technique certainly conjures the right atmosphere of intrigue, though the pay-offs turn out to be rather underwhelming.

The film also misjudges its belated leap towards the epic; first, in a wildly self-indulgent execution scene, and then as the Queen prepares her army to repel the Spanish Armada. Throughout, the Spaniards have been portrayed as little more than swarthy, spiteful popinjays (Philip calls Elizabeth "a godless, childless bastard"), while almost nothing of their military capability is suggested. Elizabeth's Agincourt-style speech to her men, delivered with a strained haughtiness reminiscent of Margaret Thatcher, seems to have little bearing on anything, given that all the action is happening at sea.

Blanchett does her considerable best, but in place of those scenes where the monarch tends to a dying lieutenant on the battlefield, she must make do with a low-key farewell to her trusty enforcer Walsingham (Geoffrey Rush). The pathos of the story – what Elizabeth has sacrificed in cleaving to her royal duty – is rather muffled by this shift from private sphere to public. But see it anyway for Blanchett's soulful modulation between queenly command and womanly anguish.

A lively antagonism between a man and a woman is also at the centre of Interview, albeit without the doublet and hose. A remake of a 2003 film by Dutch film-maker Theo Van Gogh (who was murdered the following year by a fundamentalist nutter), it concerns a failing political reporter (Steve Buscemi) sent to interview a B-movie actress (Sienna Miller) who is better known for her celebrity than for her work. The initial hostility of their exchanges and a certain malicious wit establish a rhythm and pique the interest. Having told her that he'd never seen any of her movies, the journalist later admits he did catch one during an in-flight programme: "I wanted the plane to go down."

An hour in, and it begins to lose its zing. Buscemi, loveably crumpled and seedy, is always good value, and Miller is very persuasive as the spoilt monster of caprice and egomania: she can act, even if the part is hardly a stretch for her. The fault is in the writing. Buscemi, who also directs, can't do much with a two-hander that's obviously better suited to the stage. Even with a droll bit of slapstick to pep up proceedings, the situation feels increasingly implausible, both as professional enquiry and personal encounter.

It pretends to be about the games of deceit that go on between men and women, but it's really just a squib on the culture of celebrity, and the cynical conclusion that's meant to pull us up short is feeble and silly beyond patience. The most cursory understanding of how the celebrity interview works will tell you that this pair would not have given each other the time of day, let alone a glimpse into their soul, and the best acting in the world won't convince you otherwise.

Arts and Entertainment
Kathy (Sally Lindsay) in Ordinary Lies
tvReview: The seemingly dull Kathy proves her life is anything but a snoozefest
Arts and Entertainment

Listen to his collaboration with Naughty Boy

music
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig in a scene from ‘Spectre’, released in the UK on 23 October

film
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap

film
Arts and Entertainment

Poldark review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Katie Brayben is nominated for Best Actress in a Musical for her role as Carole King in Beautiful

film
Arts and Entertainment
Israeli-born actress Gal Gadot has been cast to play Wonder Woman
film
News
Top Gear presenter James May appears to be struggling with his new-found free time
people
Arts and Entertainment
Kendrick Lamar at the Made in America Festival in Los Angeles last summer
music
Arts and Entertainment
'Marley & Me' with Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Hamm (right) and John Slattery in the final series of Mad Men
tv
Arts and Entertainment
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
art
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

    The masterminds behind the election

    How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
    Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

    Machine Gun America

    The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
    The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

    The ethics of pet food

    Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
    How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
    11 best bedside tables

    11 best bedside tables

    It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
    Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

    Italy vs England player ratings

    Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
    Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
    Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

    Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

    Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat