Our queer old dean*

We went to see Dean Spanley this evening and enjoyed it hugely. Implausible plot (about reincarnation) but a lovely, literary script, and great performances by Peter O’Toole (playing a curmudgeonly old bugger not unlike himself), Jeremy Northam as his son (in a truly magnificent hat) and Sam Neill as the Dean. Can’t improve on the IMDB reviewer, Jamie Robert Ward, who wrote:

For all its eccentricities, dry humour and rich sense of character however, it must be noted that the experience of watching Dean Spanley certainly isn’t for everyone. A drama rooted in classic prose, focusing heavily on character, philosophy and small nuances of psychology and life, Toa Fraser here sticks to his guns and delivers an unapologetically intelligent, cultured and insightful character study kept in check by warmth of heart and unique personality. If there is one major selling point for the feature that will allow all audiences to get something from the feature however, it simply lies within the timeless presence of Peter O’Toole who gives a wonderful performance befitting of his stature and the character in which he resides. It can be a touching, humorous and even thought-provoking experience, but like a fine wine, you’re best not to get too involved here; this one’s for sitting back and soaking in one sip at a time, and yes, it might be a little syrupy but it’s enough to get lost in and enjoy all the same.

The big surprise was learning that it was based on a book written by an eccentric Anglo-Irish peer, Edward Plunkett, 18th Baron Dunsany who was, among other things, a friend of Yeats and Lady Gregory and a great dog-lover. This last attribute explains much about the film.

*Footnote: A Spoonerism. The celebrated Warden of New College was proposing a toast to the Queen.