Elizabeth: A Portrait in Part(s). M, 89 mins. Three stars
In 1983, the royal tour of the newly married Prince Charles and Princess Diana was to pass through my home town of Coolum Beach, Queensland. Not only pass through, but drive right outside the front gates of my primary school. The royal couple were stopping to meet the crowds and take flowers from our lucky school captains, and boy was I jealous of those captains, getting to meet the beautiful Princess Diana.
But schedules are funny things and the royal motorcade slowed down only a few kph, enough for us to get a fleeting glimpse, but did not stop.
There were many many tears cried that day by hundreds of broken-hearted schoolchildren letting that disappointment out, so I'm very familiar with the kind of fervour the royal family leaves in its wake, and the spell the royal dream casts over people.
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II turned 96 this week, in the year of her Platinum Jubilee, and marking the occasion is this documentary from (recently deceased) Notting Hill director Roger Michell.
It's not documentary in fact, so much as a well-curated edit of archival footage. There isn't particularly a documentarian's opinion driving the story, a series of chapters with titles like In the Saddle and Horribilis.
If you've watched The Crown, you know the story here - young girl gets promoted quite young into the family business. This business, of course, is the British Empire founded through blood, violence and intrigue hundreds of years earlier.
There is grainy early footage of the young Princess Elizabeth, official filmed portraiture of the princess as a driver in World War II and posing for the cameras with her daddy, King George VI.
There's the official and home movie footage of her coronation, of many royal duties, of family moments, family marriages.
The best of the footage is the private, informal woman, an extended scene at the races when one of her own horses is running and Her Majesty, away from the eyes of the punters below, darts back and forth between the TV screen that lets her see the horse's place in the field, and the view from the balcony where her mother is also cheering along. "How much did I win?" she asks one of the staff. "Sixteen pounds, Ma'am," is his reply.
In another, the Queen and her daughter Anne are in full regalia about to meet a procession of guests but before the curtain pulls back, they're engaging in a bit of household gossip.
I love this stuff, and so did the other punters at the session I saw, giggles aplenty.
Apart from the Queen herself, what is on show here is a handful of usually unsung behind-the-scenes crew - the rights clearance staff, the researchers and the archival producers.
A few someones watched thousands of hours of footage to bring these threads together into a narrative and then a few more someones wrote hundreds of letters and emails and visited rights-holders to have cups of tea and beg for permission to use a few seconds of their footage, their news clips, their family home movies.
Michell doesn't mind throwing a bit of social commentary in, with a clip of toe-sucking and a clip of a sweating Prince Andrew talking about how sweating is something he doesn't do.
There's a flicker of horror in Her Majesty's eyes as she visits Dresden in 1992. Her smile never falters but the momentary drop in her countenance betrays an idea the visit might not be well received considering the city's many thousands dead at the hands of British bombers.
Some of the film's more fun moments counter the iconography and imagery that goes into Her Majesty's image, and that of other princesses - Elizabeth Taylor in crown and satin at a film premiere, Audrey Hepburn being dressed by Edith Head for the film Roman Holiday, both glamorous takes on the GOAT princess and her star power.
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