18 January 2011


"They are calling it a national disaster."
Framed was aired on Masterpiece earlier this year and is one of the most enjoyable times I've spent in front of the television in a very long time (and no, that's not just because David Tennant introduces it). 
I had no idea of the premise of this story, but watched it because art from the National Gallery (London) was involved. I've been to the National Gallery many times and can just spend hours there. 
Synopsis (some minor spoiler points included): London's National Gallery houses some of the world's finest masterpieces, and its curator, Quentin Lester, wants nothing more than to live among them, distraction-free, in a pure and simple life of the mind. When the Gallery's Victorian-era plumbing fails and floods the museum, its paintings are brought to safety in an abandoned slate mine in Manod, North Wales — the very mine to which the collection was evacuated to during World War II. Quentin accompanies his beloved Raphaels, Titians, and Velasquez to safety, relishing a chance to tend to them in isolation.
That isolation, in the grey mist and dramatic slopes of Manod, brings with it sheep; a vaguely frightening butcher; a charming and spirited, if slightly nosey, local schoolteacher, Angharad; and a 10-year-old boy, Dylan Hughes, with whom Quentin develops an unlikely friendship. For Dylan, whose father has just left the family in the face of devastating financial woes, the privileged outsider and his convoy of trucks from London represent a chance to save the Snowdonia Oasis Auto Marvel garage, his family's business. For Quentin, who mistakes the boy for an art connoisseur when a chicken-wrangling incident goes awry, Dylan presents an opportunity for the human connection that this urbane aesthete craves.
The masterpieces, stored in yellow crates — to the consternation of the ever-challenging teacher Angharad — inspire not intellectual contemplation but action of all sorts throughout the sleepy village. When, out of desperation, Dylan and Minnie, his aspiring criminal mastermind little sister, perpetrate the art heist of the century, it's the renowned curator who gets a lesson in art appreciation and the power of art to transform lives.

Trevor Eve as Quentin Lester
Comments: The initial scene is so descriptive of the character of Quentin Lester (Trevor Eve). He's walking in London and about to step on a very elaborate three dimensional chalk drawing on the sidewalk. He doesn't see the art in the chalk drawing that he's about to step on (and in), oblivious to the image and he doesn't get the joke either - someone definitely needs to lighten up. And further illustrations of Lester's character are presented when he has to tour "middle" school students around. He's informed by his skinny macchiato decaf providing assistant that the students are studying the Middle Ages and would like to see "anything with knights or dragons, failing that, death, failing that, sex." Lester droans on the the kids who text on their phones and basically ignore him. In describing St. Jerome, Lester notes "just the life of the monk .... pure, simple..." It's pretty obvious what he wants, and sadly, what kind of world he'd like to inhabit.
I really enjoyed the history of the National Gallery during World War II. The concept that the government would bring a picture out of hiding for a month -- and it's the only picture in the place - and people would line up to see it - during the period of time when
Germany was bombing them into the ground. You have to give it to the Brits for that one!
So as mentioned above, due to a water leak, the paintings are moved to a slate cave in Wales - it's so depressing, (but I still continue my efforts to learn Welsh - it's a lovely language - I just wish I had someone to practice with).

Eve Myles as Angharad Stannard
Framed is one of the funniest things I've seen in a while. It is sly humor and the vast majority of the time, Lester is the butt of the joke and just as likely is the fact that he might not realize it at the moment. That's not to say that he's stupid - he is not. He's just isolated himself so much, it's almost like he doesn't know how to react or relate to people -- paintings yes, people, um, no, not so much.
Angharad Stannard (Eve Myles) is the charming school teacher of the village below the slate mine, Manod. She is charming, curious and certainly not in the least afraid to speak her mind. I like her, and best of all her students like her too and she stands up for them. In one of her "conversations," if you can call it that, between Lester and Angharad takes place after she brought all the children to the mine to see the paintings and Lester won't take them out of their boxes. "Art is for looking at, not for keeping in boxes," she says. Lester replies, "Art is for people who appreciate it." Not exactly the way to make friends - and he doesn't even seem to realize he's a snob.

Samuel Davies as Dylan Hughes
While Dylan Hughes (Samuel Davies) is the boy that Lester believes is interested in "great" art, it's his sister Minnie (Mari Ann Bull) that I find so much fun. She's a red-headed spit fire who figures she might as well case the joint while in the cave - never know when that might come in handy. She's great. Dylan and Minnie's mom is the woman that holds the family together when the husband/father can't seem to function. I swear men wouldn't stand a snowball's chance in hell w/out a women to sort things out for them.

Mari Ann Bull as Minnie Hughes
This is everything a movie should be - funny, interesting, characters that you believe and who seem to exist in the world (we all know someone like Lester), and the transformation of a character into someone who, in the end, you will like. 
There are a few more days to watch online, but I'm hoping PBS will show this again. Worth setting up the TiVo for.... 

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