French and Saunders Reunited
August 22, 2020 10:47 AM   Subscribe

The trailer for Death on the Nile is out now, starring Kenneth Branagh, Tom Bateman, Annette Bening, Russell Brand, Ali Fazal, Dawn French, Gal Gadot, Armie Hammer, Rose Leslie, Emma Mackey, Sophie Okonedo, Jennifer Saunders and Letitia Wright.

The movie is opening on October 23rd 2020, and is a follow-up to the 2017 film Murder on the Orient Express, also starring Branagh.
posted by adrianhon (48 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I missed the 2017 Murder but I am intruiged by this for the cast if nothing else.
posted by rmd1023 at 11:40 AM on August 22 [1 favorite]

And once again we are left to wonder at murderers who go ahead with their murdering after they see Hercule Poirot on the passenger list.

I've made peace with Branagh's facial hair choices and it makes sense for a ham to play a ham. I wouldn't mind seeing a new version of my fave Poirots, Sad Cypress and Five Little Pigs, but they don't fit with the characters actors/glam transportation theme.
posted by betweenthebars at 11:40 AM on August 22 [5 favorites]

I enjoyed the previous one and this looks very similar but the biggest attraction of the first one for me was seeing the 70mm cinematography on a big screen and I'm probably not going to be comfortable sitting in a theater by October.
posted by octothorpe at 11:51 AM on August 22 [2 favorites]

Why though? I liked the last version in the 1980s.
posted by infini at 12:09 PM on August 22 [6 favorites]

off topic but I always thought Dawn French would have made a lovely Dolores Umbridge (and indeed she is who I pictured while reading the book), so I was dismayed when the Harry Potter Jobs Program for Stately English Actors wasted her on the "Fat Lady" role...
posted by turbowombat at 12:14 PM on August 22 [3 favorites]

F&S at 1:12 in the trailer.
posted by the Real Dan at 12:18 PM on August 22

Can we have a cameo of Joanna Lumley...perhaps at the Hotel with a 45° magnum of bubbly.
posted by clavdivs at 12:18 PM on August 22 [5 favorites]

Death on the Nile (1978) with Bette Davis, Angela Lansbury, David Niven, Maggie Smith, Mia Farrow, George Kennedy, Peter Ustinov & more!
posted by chavenet at 12:25 PM on August 22 [13 favorites]

I'm excited and think the world is a better place with more Poirot in it. I thoroughly enjoyed Murder even if it didn't really do much to reinvent the source material. I have such a fondness for the books, the TV show & films, the era, the setting and this cast that just the trailer alone feels like a balm in 2020.
posted by slimepuppy at 12:36 PM on August 22 [3 favorites]

The British TV version with David Suchet is up on YouTube right now. It looks much higher quality than I expected from a UK TV show.
posted by octothorpe at 12:52 PM on August 22 [8 favorites]

The Suchet one's good (and it saved his life, apparently: a doctor saw the show, noticed that Suchet had a distinctive eye pattern that is a pretty good indicator of serious heart disease, got in touch with the actor and treatments/good outcome ensued) but Ustinov is the only Poirot for me.
posted by scruss at 2:02 PM on August 22 [14 favorites]

Branagh has been wasting his significant talents for a while now, and while this film sort of looks ‘high class’, I suspect it’s more of a grab for old people’s eyeballs. Think “Best Exotic Marigold Murder Mystery Hotel (on a Boat)”. Death on the Nile has such tremendous brand recognition after the Suchet and Ustinov versions that I’m sure this will do... ok. What it won’t do is redefine murder mysteries, Poirot, or DotN.
posted by The River Ivel at 2:32 PM on August 22 [3 favorites]

Over the Christmas holiday, we always go to the movies with my in-laws and it's always a struggle to find something appropriate and Murder on the Orient Express was perfect for that. I'd guess that a lot of people like having a movie that they can see with their parents and/or kids.
posted by octothorpe at 2:39 PM on August 22 [8 favorites]

The last one reminded me a lot of Seasons 4 & 5 of Arrested Development, when they couldn't get the whole cast together at one time so there are lots of weird groupings followed by cuts where an actor is talking to an obvious stand-in. Hopefully they fixed that for the sequel.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 2:41 PM on August 22 [1 favorite]

If you were wondering, as I was, whether it was French or Saunders who was stepping into the Angela Lansbury role of Salome Otterbourne, self absorbed romance novelist, the answer is neither one. Jennifer Saunders is playing Marie Van Schyler (Bette Davis in the '78 version), Dawn French is playing Mrs. Bowers (Maggie Smith as Miss Bowers in '78) and Salome Otterbourne is played by Sophie Okonedo. So the comic actors are playing the serious parts and the serious actors are playing the comic parts, just so we are clear. (Not that any of these women couldn't play any of these parts, but have them play to their strengths, Ken.)
posted by dannyboybell at 2:48 PM on August 22 [4 favorites]

The best and most unlikely Poirot of recent years was John Malkovich, in the BBC's version of The ABC Murders in late 2018. Older, darker, less fond of the bon mots and all the better for it.
posted by Hogshead at 3:08 PM on August 22 [1 favorite]

Re-watching the '78 version, I now see why Branaugh cast the way he did, so that Saunders and French could play off each other as employer and companion. At the same time, it still doesn't sit right with me, (Possibly because there was no pre-existing comedy team of Davis and Smith.)
posted by dannyboybell at 3:27 PM on August 22

If you liked 2015's Mr. Holmes (Ian McKellen as an aged and in decline Sherlock), you'll enjoy the Malkovich ABC Murders, for the same reasons, as Hogshead says. Poirot when no one finds his shtick amusing anymore.

Nile never did it for me, so I'll wait for this one. But I might be interested to see the cast for Evil Under the Sun, if we're doing all the Ustinovs.
posted by bartleby at 3:28 PM on August 22

Poirot doesn't sound like any of the Belgians I work with. Perhaps he is from the south?
posted by biffa at 3:41 PM on August 22 [2 favorites]

He speaks French so, yes he's from the south
posted by mbo at 4:19 PM on August 22 [6 favorites]

Bette Davis, Angela Lansbury, David Niven, Maggie Smith, Mia Farrow, George Kennedy, Peter Ustinov & more

Can’t help but notice what all the performers who are still with us 44 years on all have in common. Even when you add Olivia Hussey, Jon Finch, Simon MacCorkindale, Lois Chiles, Jack Warden and Jane Birkin from the “more” list, it still holds true. Bette Davis, of course, is the one flaw in the pattern, but she’d have turned 112 in April, so that’s a a while bunch of standard deviations.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:22 PM on August 22

Nobody has mentioned Albert Finney? I love the ‘74 version of Orient Express but it has its issues.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 6:29 PM on August 22

Is it just me but this looks just absolutely ridiculous from the perspective of a very serious 2020. I can't even accept it as escape. This is going to look in 2040 the way we look at Fantasy Island and Love Boat.
posted by engelgrafik at 6:54 PM on August 22 [3 favorites]

Sheesh, in this day and age are we not ready for the character Hercule Poirot to be played by a francophone Belgian actor!?! I have nothing against the talented Kenneth Branagh (or Peter Ustinov or the rest), but listening to his voice-over on this trailer I feel we are really not very far here from a Charlie Chan or Mysterious Mr. Moto movie.
posted by bertran at 6:58 PM on August 22 [1 favorite]

Analogies between historical overt racism and a thing that is kind of like racism if you squint at it pretty much never feel like a good idea. I can't fuckin' stand Branagh's treatement of Poirot and have nothing nice to say about it, and I'd be curious to hear opinions about Belgian representation in Poirot productions from someone (presumably Belgian) with skin in the game, but a comparison to the long ugly history of racist yellowface casting seems really wildly off the mark.
posted by cortex at 7:22 PM on August 22 [14 favorites]

And here is the point where we point out Peter Ustinov played CHARLIE CHAN . . .in 1981( !!!) so him not being Belgian, not so important.
posted by dannyboybell at 8:04 PM on August 22 [1 favorite]

I had heard the Branagh Orient Express was... not so good? So I'll sit this one out, and if it's worth seeing I'm sure one of y'all will say so in Fanfare. Recently rewatched the 1978 DotN though and man that was a lot of fun. Few moments in classic mystery cinema as charmingly ridiculous as Salome's dramatic doorway scene. I get the impression Angela Lansbury thoroughly enjoyed her time on that set. She left no part of it unchewed, at least. You can't help but love her Salome.
posted by Two unicycles and some duct tape at 8:12 PM on August 22

I don't want to derail the thread, so just briefly and I'm out:

There is a long tradition of English bigotry against the French.

For comparison on the main question, there seems to be a consensus that Peter Seller's portrayal of the destructive idiot Indian character in The Party is not really acceptable; I don't see a principled reason to exclude his portrayal of the destructive idiot French character in the Pink Panther from similar criticism. In both, anlgosphere perceptions of foreign characteristics are used as the basis of a performance ruthlessly satirical of an ethnicity.

I'm not certain I'd call Inspector Poirot as presented by Christie in her novels a racist character. But he is, I think, presented as somewhat ridiculous, and his foreign cultural frenchness - which modern Walloons do share with Frenchmen - is definitely wrapped up in and part of that ridiculousness for Christie. I assume the reason British actors were invariably cast to play Poirot in movies is that no one saw anything wrong with poking fun at Frenchness in this way and good actors enjoyed flexing their skills doing so. The comparison with Charlie Chan movies does not seem so far fetched -- no one saw anything amiss in the character and the casting at the time; Chan is likewise after all the hero of those movies. Chinese culture was -- and remains -- a greater unknown for the anglosphere than French culture, and therefore the opportunity for bogus markers of that culture greater. But this seems to me a relative thing.

And, though I am not a native francophone myself, I do admire French culture and have access to it through the French language and I, at least, came from watching the Branagh trailer offended by his phony French accent / phony Gallic seriousness. For whatever that's worth.
posted by bertran at 8:15 PM on August 22 [3 favorites]

Is it just me but this looks just absolutely ridiculous from the perspective of a very serious 2020.

It was just as ridiculous in 1937. If it makes you feel better, here's Edmund Wilson complaining about detective stories in The New Yorker.
posted by betweenthebars at 8:24 PM on August 22 [1 favorite]

posted by Horace Rumpole at 8:31 PM on August 22 [2 favorites]

Note: Just like Poirot is Belgian not French, Charlie Chan is technically only Chinese by birth; he's actually a citizen/subject of the Kingdom of Hawaii. Based on real life Honolulu detective and badass Chang Apana.

Also, everyone complaining about Brannagh's interpretation now knows what if feels like when nerds don't like X's version of Y superhero or other genre character. Bear with it, and go rewatch the ones you like. Or wait a while - maybe you'll really like Emilia Clarke's Mrs. Marple in 2047.
posted by bartleby at 9:06 PM on August 22 [8 favorites]

I didn't much care for the Kenneth Branagh Orient Express but this kind of thing is like crack to me so I will definitely be seeing it. Great cast.

I'm another one for whom Suchet is 'my' Poirot. I strongly recommend the Suchet series for anyone who hasn't seen it; here in the UK you can watch them on ITV Hub and Amazon Prime. There are 12 seasons and the earlier ones are very true to the novels while the later ones change the plots a little, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. Five Little Pigs (Season 9) is very true to the novel, and absolutely wonderful. Makes me cry every time. I think he is a brilliant Poirot and also a very kind and empathetic one. It's also good for a game of 'spot the British actor' otherwise known as 'Oh it's that person who was in that thing'.
posted by unicorn chaser at 2:18 AM on August 23 [5 favorites]

Comparing Branagh’s accent in the trailer to Wallonians speaking English on YouTube , from random teenagers to Belgian PM Elio Di Rupo... Branagh’s accent seems pretty good, even understated, to me
posted by Bwithh at 3:39 AM on August 23

Why can't they cast a Belgian actor in this role? The Belgian accents from the British actors always seem slathered on with a trowel.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 5:38 AM on August 23

Branagh is proud of being a hammy actor. :
“I’ve got a three picture deal,” says [Ray] Stevenson, who was excited for the chance to be larger-than-life for director Kenneth Branagh. “My agent said, people won’t recognize you. And I said, I don’t give a damn! Who else is gonna give me a chance to put a big fatsuit on and ham it up? And I said to Ken Branagh, I was nervous, and he said, you can’t be too loud! So I said fine, I’ll dip my toe into the river of ham. And he said, trust me, I’ve swam in that river many times. You enjoy that!”
posted by octothorpe at 5:42 AM on August 23 [1 favorite]

It's hard for me to watch these since for me David Suchet absolutely is Poirot (in the same way for me Jeremy Brett's is the only Sherlock Holmes). Though maybe it's just through repetition of watching so many? And Branagh's is almost an opposite characterization.

But I do appreciate that in these movies they are trying for a bit deeper drama between the characters. (And also as a throwback to all-star-studded celebrity cast movies of the 40s and 50s and the previous throwback period of the 70s)

By the way anyone searching for the Suchet shows on YouTube there are a bunch with Spanish titles but they are just subtitled in Spanish, not dubbed.
posted by thefool at 6:30 AM on August 23 [1 favorite]

Also what's with the trend of 80s synth/new wave songs (and especially New order??) showing up all the time in movies now?
posted by thefool at 6:36 AM on August 23 [1 favorite]

I had heard the Branagh Orient Express was... not so good?

It was...serviceable, but there were some really strange directorial decisions. For instance, there's a scene where Poirot and a couple of other characters discover a body in one of the train compartments. It's filmed entirely from above and you can't actually see anything. It's like someone left the camera on the crane and forgot to switch it off.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 6:57 AM on August 23

Or wait a while - maybe you'll really like Emilia Clarke's Mrs. Marple in 2047.

With the significant regional variations in accent in England, is it really culturally sensitive to have an actor raised in Oxfordshire playing a character from St. Mary Mead in the South East? Surely the producers can cast a talented actor from the correct region in the role.
posted by fairmettle at 7:13 AM on August 23 [4 favorites]

It was...serviceable, but there were some really strange directorial decisions.

That was my feeling as well. Like, they get off the train way too much - it's been a while since I saw it, but doesn't he do all his interrogations outside, in a cave near where the train is stuck? Which to me violates the essential claustrophobia and dramatic tension of "we're stuck in the snow on a train car with a dead body and a murderer."
posted by dnash at 8:49 AM on August 23

Also what's with the trend of 80s synth/new wave songs (and especially New order??) showing up all the time in movies now?

With New Order it's like 30% less cringe than the usual 'a pop song but DARKER' thing that's been a trope in movie trailers for way too long now.
posted by StarkRoads at 9:37 AM on August 23 [1 favorite]

For instance, there's a scene where Poirot and a couple of other characters discover a body in one of the train compartments. It's filmed entirely from above and you can't actually see anything.

Huh, I really enjoyed that scene! It was striking how long they held that position, and it felt pleasantly computer-gamey and unusual.
posted by adrianhon at 9:47 AM on August 23 [1 favorite]

I was unimpressed with Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile looks to be very much the same type of overstuffed fluff. BUT ... I will happily go see it because I adore French and Saunders and it's the only incentive I need to put aside my disdain for Kenneth Braggart Branagh. (Also Gal Gadot looks amazing!)
posted by pjsky at 6:48 PM on August 23

Also what's with the trend of 80s synth/new wave songs (and especially New order??) showing up all the time in movies now?

Olds like me picking the music to appeal to olds like me.
posted by kirkaracha at 4:35 PM on August 24

(Troubled by the question of the casting of Poirot raised in a brief exchange above, I took some time to watch a Charlie Chan movie to refresh my memory. Yeah, so I did not get far; the character is just unwatchably appallingly bad. I had forgotten just how appallingly, so, for the record, I understand much more where cortex is coming from in her criticism of my remark comparing Poirot movies to Chan movies. I still think there is something suspect and unwholesome about the tradition of Poirot being played by Brits, and that one doesn't need to be squinting to feel this way, and that the existence of great sins - so to speak - doesn't make small ones acceptable. But, yeah, the movie Chan character is atrocious.

Interestingly, I looked at a Mr, Moto movie, too, filmed around the same time, and it wasn't nearly as bad. Not unwatchably so. I think because Peter Lorre, who plays Moto, doesn't try to imitate or mock any supposed Japanese characteristics, but just acts like ... Peter Lorre in a calm mood. Perhaps people felt that that was 'mysterious' enough for the role.

Maybe worth mentioning, I also, looking into to the Poirot character, discovered that Christie herself had a very low regard for him. Which is at least compatible with the view that cultural Frenchness is not exactly being honored in him as she wrote him. One might compare Christie's Poirot to Simenon's Maigret; the latter earnest to the point sometimes of dourness, but whose alert resignation has nothing of the ridiculous about it. I do admit I haven't seen any of Suchet's Poirot since I was a kid; maybe his interpretation is more redeeming, as the affection for him in the comments above suggests.)
posted by bertran at 12:29 AM on August 25

Why the heck are y'all bringing up new order
posted by the bricabrac man at 2:41 PM on August 25 [1 favorite]

what's with the trend of 80s synth/new wave songs

The wheel of nostalgia has spun and landed on the 1980's.
posted by rmd1023 at 8:26 AM on August 26

I think part of what works really well in Suchet's Poirot is that the character is both quietly but deeply self-regarding in a kind of vain "I know just how good I am" way and also sufficiently worldy and self-aware to realize that he comes off poorly if he lets that show too much. It's a charming little seesaw as Suchet plays it, an odd and stuffy and proud man who knows he is and manages to find some humility in that, and who notably has a few close friends who know him and understand him well enough to support that in a relatively healthy-feeling and reciprocal way.
posted by cortex at 8:40 AM on August 27 [3 favorites]

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