Video Picks Archive

November 17, 1999
This Week's Video Picks
Back to Archive

This week my picks are Tea with Mussolini (1999 - ) and The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957 - ).

In the first film, director Franco Zeffirelli fictionalizes events from his childhood in Italy. His alter ego, Luca (Charlie Lucas, later Baird Wallace), is cared for by several English and American women after his mother dies. The story follows Italy from 1935, when Benito Mussolini was the gentlemanly savior of the ailing republic, through 1944, when his fascist reign of terror is ended by the Allies. Zeffirelli assembled an all-star cast to depict the strong women who had a tremendous influence on his life as a man, and as an artist. Joining the impressive ensemble are Joan Plowright, Cher, Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, and Lily Tomlin. It's slightly overlong, but the performances in the beautifully photographed locations make up for it.

When the women in Tea with Mussolini are detained during the war, they collectively remided me of Alec Guinness' strong-headed Colonel Nicholson in The Bridge on the River Kwai. David Lean's masterpiece about British troops in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp was the complete opposite of the first film, with a nearly all-male cast. Japanese Colonel Saito (Sessue Hayakawa) orders the Brits to build a large wooden bridge, for use by the Japanese army in Southeast Asia. An escaped American prisoner named Shears (William Holden) is ordered to return to the camp to destroy the bridge before the enemy has a chance to cross it. This was the first of Lean's massive epics, soon to be followed by Lawrence of Arabia and Dr. Zhivago. Even in this impressive collection, this film stands out because of its sheer brilliance. For once, the Academy got it right, and gave Oscars to this film for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Guinness), and four others.

For more information, visit the Internet Movie Database:
Tea with Mussolini (1999)
The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)

Here's some merchandise for sale at
Tea with Mussolini (1999) -- VHS
Tea with Mussolini (1999) -- DVD
Tea with Mussolini: Soundtrack -- Compact Disc
The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) -- VHS
The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) -- VHS Widescreen
Bridge on the River Kwai, a novel by Pierre Boulle -- Hardcover
Bridge on the River Kwai, a novel by Pierre Boulle -- Audio Cassette (reader unknown)
The Bridge On The River Kwai: An Original Soundtrack Recording -- Compact Disc Home
Review Archive
Guide to Star Ratings

Capsule Reviews © 1999 Matt Heffernan