Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

The English Patient


In the days near the end of the Italian campaign in 1944, a Canadian nurse (Juliette Binoche) is caring for a dying man who has been burned beyond recognition. He claims he can’t even remember his own name. This story is told interspersed with flashbacks to just before the start of WWII. Ralph Fiennes is an archaeologist, cartographer, and major sourpuss in the Egyptian Sahara. But he falls hard for the wife (Kristin Scott Thomas) of his best friend and they have a torrid affair. But we have already seen the two of them crash in an old De Havilland Tiger Moth. We know who he is, but where is she? We shuttle back and forth between the two times as the patient remembers things.

It’s a good story, nicely filmed, well acted, though I found it hard to have much sympathy for anyone but the nurse. But the idea that this was the Best Picture of 1996 is crazy. That was the year of Fargo, a movie that will be remembered long after this rather minor thing is forgotten. It was nominated for no less than twelve Oscars and won nine, which is also crazy. Juliette Binoche deserved her win for Best Supporting Actress. As for the others, I don’t know, but this was clearly a case of piling on. When some movies are critically acclaimed, the Academy members heap on the nominations and the sheer weight of them overpowers any more obscure movies that might have, for instance, better film editing or sound.