Criterion Prediction #267: Orlando, by Alexander Miller
Director: Sally Potter
Cast: Tilda Swinton, Billy Zane, Lothaire Bluteau
Synopsis: Orlando, a young nobleman in 17th century England is granted land and fortune by Queen Victoria under the stipulation “do not fade, do not wither, do not grow old.” Despite his luxurious status in life, his desire is poetry. However, his life is turned upside down when Orlando wakes up one morning to realize he’s transformed into a woman after being wounded during a diplomatic mission.
Critique: I love movies, I love falling in love with movies, and I can say without hesitation or a second breath that I fell in love with Sally Potter’s Orlando. Potter’s interpretive realization of Virginia Wolf’s original is painterly in its classical beauty; this is the kind of film you can interact with in so many different ways. At times you sink into the dreamy luxuriousness of Potter’s casually rich direction; other junctures transport you to an immersive and almost rapt setting. Throughout, the allegorical punch dials in with subtle distinction, and all the while, you might get lost navigating the living portraiture of Tilda Swinton and her curious and knowing face. This is a textbook case of perfect casting. Not only does Swinton embody the wistful otherness that’s endowed her career with so many stunning roles, really though, where to start? She so naturally exudes the fluidity of the character and has the regal poise typified by the baroque art that defined the 17th century in our minds. Thankfully, Sally Potter took Wolf’s story and, through the creative lens of the mind’s eye, brought it to life. Kudos on a brief but thoroughly enjoyable performance from a young Billy Zane.
Why it Belongs in the Collection: Not only has Criterion led the charge in home video for decades, practically influencing slews of boutique blu-ray distributors, they’ve been champions for representation amid their distinctive catalog of filmmakers. Orlando is a work of filmic art in the best sense of the word, and its availability in North America is limited to region-2 blu-rays. Also, Artificial Eye is one of the labels distributing the film, another “precursor” avenue as it’s preconfigured Criterion releases such as Godard’s Weekend, Double Life of Veronique, Stalker, Let the Sunshine In, and Certified Copy. I would selfishly enter this film solely based on the “I like this movie” hunch, but there’s some legitimacy to this claim.