Gosford Park

(Robert Altman, 2001) We praise Gosford Park for its magnificent cast, its ironic, overlapping conversations, its production design and its social commentary, which braids the ruling and servant classes into a traditional murder mystery. But after several viewings over the years, I tend more and more to praise the film for its use of the color black. What Altman does with the crisp ebonies of gentlemen’s tuxes and servants’ waistcoats is worth a mention. That the sumptuary differences between master’s suit and footman’s attire are nearly indistinguishable to our modern eyes is, of course, part of the ruse.  Servants’ identities are subsumed into those of their employers’, but Altman is more interested in collapsing rank in a series of tiny moments than sustaining the hierarchy established by story, place, people and age. The black costume, precisely blocked, is as important a device in his strategy as dialogue or frame. The blacks are also aesthetically notable. Our gaze is repeatedly drawn to the spot or spots onscreen where light’s been swallowed by a tailored shoulder and waist; the glow of candle or gaslight, the deep reds of British affluence, and the shimmer of ladies’ evening silks both highlight and recoil from the inky punch of the men’s costuming. Few period dramas use their props so well. — Ranylt Richildis

(Originally published as part of In Review Online’s The 100 Best Films of the Decade feature, in February 2010.)

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One thought on “Gosford Park

  1. A nice and witty ensemble film, that should have focused more on the murder mystery than put it as the sub-plot and focus more on the points about social classes.

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