Director Roger Michel’s hilariously realist story unfolds from the theft of altruistic art into a mild critique of a cynical patron government.
A principled man has no friends, at most a handful of allies and a legion of enemies. Set in 1961 in northern England, Kimpton Bunton (Jim Broadbent) was a troubled taxi driver, aspiring screenwriter, and a strong starter who nonetheless (or because of that) was born a loser.
When his boss harasss a fellow Pakistani, he can’t help but defend him – even against the objections of the fellow who would rather live his life unnoticed. Standing proud, Kimton sucks his pipe, looks his boss straight in the eye, shakes some Gandhi out of his sleeve, is instantly fired and the world keeps spinning. You’d think he would have learned his lesson after more than sixty years in life, but Kempton has principles.
Once, officials were at the door, to check if Kempton was paying taxes for TV in his home. Television should be free, says Kenton, at least to the elderly, so he refuses to give the BBC a penny. When he gets caught, he’d rather destroy his TV than admit it. But as befits Kempton, he ends up in prison for two weeks. When he becomes unemployed to make things worse (and through his work), he is tired. TV tax should be abolished. The British people have been under the yoke of government for a very long time.
At the same time, the government decided to pay a huge sum to buy the image of the Duke of Wellington, the commander of the army that defeated Napoleon at Waterloo. No persuasive artistic explanations have been given for the purchase of the humble painting, which appears to have been purchased and exhibited purely out of chauvinism. (At the same time that the Netherlands became richer in times of unprecedented cultural impoverishment by Rembrandt the Beautiful.)
So Kimton steals the photo and hides it in the guest room. He sends to the country a series of exemplary ransom papers, asking the British people all kinds of concessions. Although everything is beyond his capacity.
Perhaps the socialist criticism of the duke To everyday life in England is less intense and gritty than the Ken Loach films, for example, but the film has a surprisingly large heart. With his playful tones and droopy face, Broadbent is the ultimate rascal, outcast, and Helen Mirren is the kind of woman who’s stuck with that her whole life. It slowly becomes clear how the adventures of Kimton, Dorothy and their son Jackie can be traced back to one traumatic experience years ago. Duke highlights how people in precarious situations are one reversal of extreme poverty, and how cats make strange jumps in corners.
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