The English Patient

The English Patient won the Oscar for Best Picture of 1996, and eight others: Best Director (Anthony Minghella), Best Supporting Actress (Juliette Binoche), Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Original Dramatic Score and Best Sound. That year’s Hugo went to the Babylon 5 episode Severed Dreams.

I have not seen any of the other Oscar nominees that year; they were Fargo, Jerry Maguire, Secrets & Lies and Shine. I have seen eight other films made in 1996: the three Hugo finalists, Independence Day, Mars Attacks and Star Trek: First Contact, and five others: Trainspotting, Multiplicity, Brassed Off, Michael Collins and My Fellow Americans. They’re all good, apart from Multiplicity, but The English Patient is the only one that has Juliette Binoche.

So, actors in The English Patient who were in previous Oscar or Hugo winners, or in Doctor Who, do not include Juliette Binoche.

The do include Willem Dafoe, who is Carravaggio here and was Sergeant Elias in Platoon ten years before.

Clive Merrrison is Fenelon-Barnes here, but only one of his scenes was not cut from the film and I could find only one half-decent shot of his face. He is not seen on-screen with Juliette Binoche. He was also in two Doctor Who stories, Tomb of the Cybermen (Second Doctor, 1967) as crewman Jim Callum, and Paradise Towers (Seventh Doctor, 1987) as the unnamed Deputy Chief Caretaker.

There’s another Whovian: Lee Ross is Spalding, the soldier at the booby-trapped statue, here, another scene that for some reason does not have Juliette Binoche in it, and went on to be the Boatswain in The Curse of the Black Spot (Twelfth Doctor, 2011).

And although Juliette Binoche won an Oscar for her performance here, she has not been in any other Oscar-winning or Hugo-winning films, or in Doctor Who. (Did I say that already?)

I’m afraid that I didn’t really get The English Patient, even though it has one of my favourite actors in it. (You’ll never guess who that is.) It scores better than some Oscar winners in that one of the lead characters is Indian, Kip the sapper, played by Naveen Andrews, and he actually has an interracial relationship with Juliette Binoche’s character.

The title character is of course male, but the two women who interact with him get a lot of agency, both Katharine, played by Kristin Scott-Thomas, and Hana played by, who is it again, oh yes that’s right, Juliette Binoche.

There are some lovely landscape scenes, particularly in the desert (though these do lose a bit by not having Juliette Binoche in them).

I liked the intercutting timelines, even though only one of them has Juliette Binoche.

And Ralph Fiennes’ make-up as the horribly burned English Patient is very impressive.

But I confess that the film as a whole didn’t grab me by the feelings as I had expected it might. Maybe I was just too tired. Still, because I particularly like one of the actors – you’ll never guess who, I’m keeping that as my special secret – I’m putting it just under a third of the way down my ranking, below The Sting but above Ben-Hur.

Edited to add: Elaine’s take.

I also of course read the original book. The second paragraph of the third chapter is:

Cats slept in the gun turrets looking south. English and Americans and Indians and Australians and Canadians advanced north, and the shell traces exploded and dissolved in the air. When the armies assembled at Sansepolcro, a town whose symbol is the crossbow, some soldiers acquired them and fired them silently at night over the walls of the untaken city. Field Marshal Kesselring of the retreating German army seriously considered the pouring of hot oil from battlements.

I found it really evocative of the times and places of the settings, and liked the integration of the plotlines as representing the healing of the protagonist. But again I found myself curiously unmoved by it. I am a bit surprised that the book won the Booker and the film the Oscar. But there’s no accounting for taste, and I know mine is sometimes a minority opinion.

Next up: Titanic. I wonder what that’s about?

Winners of the Oscar for Best Picture

1920s: Wings (1927-28) | The Broadway Melody (1928-29)
1930s: All Quiet on the Western Front (1929-30) | Cimarron (1930-31) | Grand Hotel (1931-32) | Cavalcade (1932-33) | It Happened One Night (1934) | Mutiny on the Bounty (1935, and books) | The Great Ziegfeld (1936) | The Life of Emile Zola (1937) | You Can’t Take It with You (1938) | Gone with the Wind (1939, and book)
1940s: Rebecca (1940) | How Green Was My Valley (1941) | Mrs. Miniver (1942) | Casablanca (1943) | Going My Way (1944) | The Lost Weekend (1945) | The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) | Gentleman’s Agreement (1947) | Hamlet (1948) | All the King’s Men (1949)
1950s: All About Eve (1950) | An American in Paris (1951) | The Greatest Show on Earth (1952) | From Here to Eternity (1953) | On The Waterfront (1954, and book) | Marty (1955) | Around the World in 80 Days (1956) | The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) | Gigi (1958) | Ben-Hur (1959)
1960s: The Apartment (1960) | West Side Story (1961) | Lawrence of Arabia (1962) | Tom Jones (1963) | My Fair Lady (1964) | The Sound of Music (1965) | A Man for All Seasons (1966) | In the Heat of the Night (1967) | Oliver! (1968) | Midnight Cowboy (1969)
1970s: Patton (1970) | The French Connection (1971) | The Godfather (1972) | The Sting (1973) | The Godfather, Part II (1974) | One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) | Rocky (1976) | Annie Hall (1977) | The Deer Hunter (1978) | Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)
1980s: Ordinary People (1980) | Chariots of Fire (1981) | Gandhi (1982) | Terms of Endearment (1983) | Amadeus (1984) | Out of Africa (1985) | Platoon (1986) | The Last Emperor (1987) | Rain Man (1988) | Driving Miss Daisy (1989)
1990s: Dances With Wolves (1990) | The Silence of the Lambs (1991) | Unforgiven (1992) | Schindler’s List (1993) | Forrest Gump (1994) | Braveheart (1995) | The English Patient (1996) | Titanic (1997) | Shakespeare in Love (1998) | American Beauty (1999)
21st century: Gladiator (2000) | A Beautiful Mind (2001) | Chicago (2002) | The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) | Million Dollar Baby (2004, and book) | Crash (2005) | The Departed (2006) | No Country for Old Men (2007) | Slumdog Millionaire (2008) | The Hurt Locker (2009)
2010s: The King’s Speech (2010) | The Artist (2011) | Argo (2012) | 12 Years a Slave (2013) | Birdman (2014) | Spotlight (2015) | Moonlight (2016) | The Shape of Water (2017) | Green Book (2018) | Parasite (2019)
2020s: Nomadland (2020) | CODA (2021) | Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022)

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