This review of the 2013 documentary "Lord Montagu," which is a recent addition to VOD selections, follows a recent post on an interview with "Montagu" writer/director Luke Korem. The notable aspects of this film about a man who assumes his noble title when he is 2.5 years old and becomes a gay rights pioneer in his 20s during a period in which he also creates the "stately homes" tourist industry include that any of those elements of that extraordinary life provide ample material for one film. Korem achieves a trifecta in nicely incorporating all three of those stories in one production.
"Montagu" additionally is one of several recent documentaries or docudramas to find their way to Unreal TV. The notable aspect of this is that the seemingly increased flow of quality films from these genres support an observation and a related theory of (recently reviewed) "Woman in Gold" director Simon Curtis that very few modern non-fiction films are very good and that historic events provide wonderful material for movies. His cited examples of "Argo" and "The Imitation Game" terrifically illustrate his point.
The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the "Montagu" trailer additionally confirms that Curtis knows of which he speaks.
Using brief readings from the autobiography of Lord Edward Montagu is a good narrative technique that sets the stage for the following segment of the film. The well-chosen piano music that accompanies the interviews of relatives and other individuals in the life of Montagu, the archival photos and news items, and the wonderfully cheesy commercials featuring Montagu enhances those narrative techniques.
As indicated above, the life of Montagu (like the rest of us) becomes interesting in his mid-20s. His facing the same economic crisis that requires many other nobles to burn or otherwise demolish the stately home in which their family has resided for 200 years or more prompts the practical Montagu to set the trend of opening his home to the unwashed masses. The documented necessary evil of a combination schlock and crass commercialism is fascinatingly depressing. Seeing a box that sells a recorded statement by Montagu is particularly cringe-worthy.
The aforementioned gay scandal receiving far less screen time than the aforementioned opening the family estate to the public illustrates the relative importance of those incidents in the life of Montagu from his perspective. The former largely concerns his allowing a gay friend use said estate for a romantic encounter with another man; the latter concerns both allowing current and future members of the Montagu clan to avoid finding themselves out on the street and feeds the seemingly insatiable appetite of Montagu for the spotlight. His statement that selling the estate and spending the rest of his life lying on a beach was an option but that he felt obliged to keep the property in the family nicely illustrates the primary theme of the film.
Every aspect of the lifestyle of Montagu combines regarding his immediate family. The interviews with that group show that the prosecution and the enjoyment related to increasingly operating the family home as a carnival (complete with merry-go-round) made their seemingly charmed lives not so enjoyable.
The excellent instincts of Korem regarding his subject make all of the above a royal treat. You will learn everything that you ever wanted to know about Montagu but did not know to ask.
Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Montagu" is encouraged to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.