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Anthony Minghella

Anthony Minghella, film and television director whose works included the Oscar-winning The English Patient, The Talented Mr Ripley and Truly, Madly, Deeply, died on 18 March 2008 aged 54.

The Independent goes into considerable depth about his (precocious) childhood, spent growing up in his parents’ cafeteria next door to a cinema:

As a child, he had “free and unfettered access to the projection room”, from where he could watch movies, enjoying his own “mini Cinema Paradiso experience”. He hoarded film posters for his bedroom and also sold ice-cream in the cinema during the intermission.

Ronald Bergan, writing in The Guardian, pays him this glowing tribute:

Minghella, whose ample figure and cheery countenance exuded a love of life, seemed to be Harold Pinter, Orson Welles, David Lean and Richard Attenborough all rolled into one.

He also mentions Minghella’s literary influences, including his PhD thesis on Samuel Beckett (which he didn’t complete) at the University of Hull:

“There was a time, for five years, when I read Beckett almost on a daily basis. The sense of language and poetry in his writing has been the single biggest influence on me as a writer,” he declared – which may come as a surprise to those who know only his blockbusters. During the 1980s, after lecturing in drama at his alma mater, he worked in television, mainly writing scripts for Grange Hill, Jim Henson’s puppet series The Storyteller: Greek Myths, and Inspector Morse.

Most of the national dailies mention the 2005 party election broadcast Minghella directed for Labour, the Daily Telegraph commenting:

Amazingly, it was the first film of its kind to incorporate all the cinematic tricks of the trade learnt (and often forgotten) in the 1920s. Though it came in for criticism for its “insincerity” (Tony Blair and Gordon Brown were shown gazing adoringly at one another), Labour won the election.

The Times is rather lukewarm in its tribute; much of its obituary consists of synopses of Minghella’s work rather than a comment on his style or philosophy, and where it does comment on him it’s rather more negative than the other nationals:

Minghella prompted considerable debate on the direction and nature of British cinema. His detractors saw films such as The English Patient and the American Civil War drama Cold Mountain (2003) as old-fashioned, as throwbacks to the cinema of David Lean, and they were sceptical about his association with Hollywood and his taste for big budgets.

(Anthony Minghella CBE, born 6 January 1954 in Ryde, Isle of Wight, died 18 March 2008 in London.)

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