Danish writer-director Gabriel Axel is perhaps best recalled for his biggest international success, the Academy Award-winning drama "Babette's Feast" (1987), but he had a long career as an actor, dire...
Danish filmmaker Gabriel Axel has died at the age of 95. The Royal Deceit director passed away on Sunday (09Feb14), according to his daughter, Karin Moerch.
Axel became the first Danish director to win an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 1987 for Babette's Feast.
He also acted in several TV series and movies, including The Reluctant Sadist in 1967, Dagmar Is Where It's At in 1972 and Going for Broke in 1977.
David Mitchell's novel Cloud Atlas consists of six stories set in various periods between 1850 and a time far into Earth's post-apocalyptic future. Each segment lives on its own the previous first person account picked up and read by a character in its successor creating connective tissue between each moment in time. The various stories remain intact for Tom Tykwer's (Run Lola Run) Lana Wachowski's and Andy Wachowski's (The Matrix) film adaptation which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival. The massive change comes from the interweaving of the book's parts into one three-hour saga — a move that elevates the material and transforms Cloud Atlas in to a work of epic proportions.
Don't be turned off by the runtime — Cloud Atlas moves at lightning pace as it cuts back and forth between its various threads: an American notary sailing the Pacific; a budding musician tasked with transcribing the hummings of an accomplished 1930's composer; a '70s-era investigatory journalist who uncovers a nefarious plot tied to the local nuclear power plant; a book publisher in 2012 who goes on the run from gangsters only to be incarcerated in a nursing home; Sonmi~451 a clone in Neo Seoul who takes on the oppressive government that enslaves her; and a primitive human from the future who teams with one of the few remaining technologically-advanced Earthlings in order to survive. Dense but so was the unfamiliar world of The Matrix. Cloud Atlas has more moving parts than the Wachowskis' seminal sci-fi flick but with additional ambition to boot. Every second is a sight to behold.
The members of the directing trio are known for their visual prowess but Cloud Atlas is a movie about juxtaposition. The art of editing is normally a seamless one — unless someone is really into the craft the cutting of a film is rarely a post-viewing talking point — but Cloud Atlas turns the editor into one of the cast members an obvious player who ties the film together with brilliant cross-cutting and overlapping dialogue. Timothy Cavendish the elderly publisher could be musing on his need to escape and the film will wander to the events of Sonmi~451 or the tortured music apprentice Robert Frobisher also feeling the impulse to run. The details of each world seep into one another but the real joy comes from watching each carefully selected scene fall into place. You never feel lost in Cloud Atlas even when Tykwer and the Wachowskis have infused three action sequences — a gritty car chase in the '70s a kinetic chase through Neo Seoul and a foot race through the forests of future millennia — into one extended set piece. This is a unified film with distinct parts echoing the themes of human interconnectivity.
The biggest treat is watching Cloud Atlas' ensemble tackle the diverse array of characters sprinkled into the stories. No film in recent memory has afforded a cast this type of opportunity yet another form of juxtaposition that wows. Within a few seconds Tom Hanks will go from near-neanderthal to British gangster to wily 19th century doctor. Halle Berry Hugh Grant Jim Sturgess Jim Broadbent Ben Whishaw Hugo Weaving and Susan Sarandon play the same game taking on roles of different sexes races and the like. (Weaving as an evil nurse returning to his Priscilla Queen of the Desert cross-dressing roots is mind-blowing.) The cast's dedication to inhabiting their roles on every level helps us quickly understand the worlds. We know it's Halle Berry behind the fair skinned wife of the lunatic composer but she's never playing Halle Berry. Even when the actors are playing variations on themselves they're glowing with the film's overall epic feel. Jim Broadbent's wickedly funny modern segment a Tykwer creation that packs a particularly German sense of humor is on a smaller scale than the rest of the film but the actor never dials it down. Every story character and scene in Cloud Atlas commits to a style. That diversity keeps the swirling maelstrom of a movie in check.
Cloud Atlas poses big questions without losing track of its human element the characters at the heart of each story. A slower moment or two may have helped the Wachowskis' and Tykwer's film to hit a powerful emotional chord but the finished product still proves mainstream movies can ask questions while laying over explosive action scenes. This year there won't be a bigger movie in terms of scope in terms of ideas and in terms of heart than Cloud Atlas.
Co-wrote (with Bettina Howitz) and directed "Laila the Pure/Laila den rene"
Penned the screenplay for "Love Me Darling/Med kaerlig hilsen"; also directed
Directed perhaps his best-known feature, "Babette's Feast", which won Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award; first Danish film to be so honored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
Served as both writer and director on "Danish Blue"
First internationally released feature "Golden Mountains/Guld og gronne skove"
Wrote and directed "The Red Mantle/Den Rode kappe", an adaptation of an Icelandic saga
Directed the three-hour "The Prince of Jutland", a drama about the life of Danish prince Amled, purportedly the model for Shakespeare's "Hamlet"; fell ill during editing and was unable to complete post-production; Miramax acquired the rights and recut the
Had a success with the made-for-French-television movie "La Ronde de nuit/The Night Watch"
After WWII, returned to France where he joined the Paris theater company of Louis Jouvet as a stagehand and actor
Worked as an actor in Copenhagen boulevard theater where he made his directing debut
Returned to Denmark in the early 1950s
Directed series of light comedies
Directorial debut, the Danish TV production "Doden/Death"
In the early 1950s, appeared in several Danish films as an actor
Enjoyed success with TV adaptation of Danish novel "Er kvinde er overflodig/A Woman Is Superfluous", starring Clara Pontoppodian; remade as a feature film with same star the following year
Played leading role in "The Reluctant Sadist"
Helmed "Christian", about a young man who attempts to find meaning in life after his girlfriend leaves him
Danish writer-director Gabriel Axel is perhaps best recalled for his biggest international success, the Academy Award-winning drama "Babette's Feast" (1987), but he had a long career as an actor, director and writer in both film, television and the theater until his retirement following the experimental dialogue-free drama "Leïla" (2001). <p>Born in Århus, Denmark, Axel was raised in France between the wars. After training at the Danish National Conservatory, Axel returned to Paris in the aftermath of World War II and began working as a stagehand and actor with Louis Jouvet's theater company. He then migrated back to Copenhagen and began acting in boulevard comedies on stage and in small role in Danish films. Axel stepped behind the cameras to direct his first feature "Altid ballade" in 1955. With 1958's "Golden Mountains/The Girls Are Willing", he raised his international profile some and over the years, he honed his skills as both actor and director in a series of mostly comic features like "Love and Kisses" (1971) and "The Goldencabbage Family" (1975).<p>With "Babette's Feast", drawn from a story by Isak Dinesen, Axel enjoyed that rare confluence of art and commerce. Hailed as a masterpiece, the sumptuous film was in many ways the distillation of the then-sixtysomething director's life work. Winner of numerous prizes, "Babette's Feast" is now considered a classic of contemporary world cinema. As a follow-up, Axel wrote and directed "Christian" (1989), an adventure film about a young man traveling throughout Europe in part to heal a broken heart. In his mid-70s, the director tackled the story of Amled, a 12th-century Danish prince who feigns madness to avenge the deaths of his father and brother. Working from the same source material that provided Shakespeare with the idea for "Hamlet" eventually proved defeating even for Axel, despite the presence of such fine actors as Christian Bale, Helen Mirren, Gabriel Byrne and Brian Cox. Compounding the production's problems, Axel fell ill during the editing process and was unable to complete post-production work. A screening at the 1994 Berlin Film Festival and an unsuccessful release in France led to bad word-of-mouth, In the USA, Miramax acquired the rights, re-cut the film and eventually released it direct-to-video in 1998 under the title "Royal Deceit."<p>After a six-year absence, and now in his eighties, Axel returned to feature filmmaking as co-writer and director of "Leïla" (2001), a love story about a teenage Moroccan girl and a young Danish tourist. In an unusual step, the filmmaker opted to depict their relationship and her parents' objections without dialogue. It proved to be Axel's final film. Gabriel Axel died in Copenhagen on February 9, 2014, at the age of 95.