arts 11.7.06

House of Cards

You think all that stuff hurled at Harold Ford, Jr. was nasty? Amateur night in Dixie compared to what the (fictional) Chief Whip of the Conservative Government in the U.K. will do to crush anyone blocking his way in what, for our tainted money, is the best political mini-series ever: "House of Cards" from 1990.

Francis Urquhart (and do consider his initials) is the sublimely evil creation of Michael Dobbs, a Conservative Party leader under John Major. But the part belongs to that superb actor Ian Richardson, who makes Urquhart's every sulfuric move a guilty pleasure to watch, transforming base motives into high art, and whose frequent asides directly to the camera is a gambit to make you, gentle viewer, thoroughly complicit.

And seduce you he will — we can't think of another character this toxic who is as much fun to watch. One of Urquhart's favorite phrases when he wants to confirm something unofficially to a reporter is "You might say that; I couldn't possibly comment." Richardson is able to load a sentence like that with Shakespearean layers of meaning (the actor has said he based his performance on Richard III) by the slightest tilt of the head or twitch of the eyebrow. Don't be surprised if you find yourself laughing at the creative audacity of his lies, manipulations, and poisonous darts.

This is the DVD we'd get from the video store tonight to watch while waiting for the polls to close and the returns to come in. Are we hoping that the title of this mini-series brings a note of prophecy into tonight's results? You might say that; we couldn't possibly comment.
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