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feeling knightly; the men's page MATT THOMAS COMES TO THE RESCUE OF THE ACTRESS MOST PEOPLE LOVE TO HATE.

Byline: MATT THOMAS

THE thing about history, right, is that there's a jolly awful lot of it about these days. And none of it seems to have been particularly amusing to have lived through.

From what I remember from school most of it seems to be there to remind us just how lucky we are to live in a time where we have things like eyeglasses, Super Noodles in a Pot (which are very different from Pot Noodles in case you're wondering) and Heat magazine.

But recently there seems to have been a move towards pointing out, often through the medium of historical dramas, how similar historical times were to today.

In The Duchess, for example, Keira Knightly plays an 18th century celebrity dogged by scandal and the Georgian equivalent of Now! magazine exposes of the quarrelsome menage a trois conducted with her distant husband and his big-breasted floozy.

I didn't know whether we were supposed to applaud because we've come so far in terms of women's personal and political freedoms, tut because we haven't or nod sagely because we might have done but only time will tell.

I tried to do all three but the person sitting next to me said they were going to call the usher and have me removed from the cinema, so I ended up just sitting quietly and trying not to worry.

This turned out to be a good thing, as the film, once it's got past all the tedious point-making business, seems to feature a lot of Keira Knightly essentially mooning about looking decorous.

It didn't really help me draw any conclusions about the role history plays when it comes to making sense of today. But it did help me decide that if it gives people an excuse to make films featuring Keira Knightly, I'm all in favour of it. Bring on the history, says I.

I've always been drawn to Keira, something which I'm sure she'll be glad to find out when she reads this. Not in a sinister way, a hiding in a deserted rural bus shelter with a cardboard cut-out of her face tied to a head of iceberg lettuce and ventriloquising my twisted desires into her bee-stung pout kind-of-a-way. More in a general appreciation of her as a person kind-of-a-way.

It's not really her acting that I find appealing, I have to say.

She always turns in a decent performance, but in The Duchess, Ralph "Rafe" Fiennes acts her off the screen with one of his eyebrows. It was the left one I think. I can't quite make out the note I took though, as it was so dark in there, so don't take that as definitive.

Keira gives it her all but as her acting mainly stems from the chin area, she can't really compete with the superior eyebrow-based craft of Ralph.

Don't get me wrong, I find her chin to be most elegant. It's a strong chin for sure, but not too forceful. Unlike that woman Jenny off the Apprentice, who has a chin not unlike an upside-down vision of something you could reasonably expect to conceal the treasures of the pharaohs. Monumental.

This is where Keira's appeal stems from for me. She's made up of parts that, taken individually, can look quite shocking and alien but work very nicely indeed as a whole.

The people behind The Duchess certainly seem to have realised this. The whole film is made up of shots of various Keira parts that are then resolved into an entire picture.

It opens with a long tracing shot centred on the nape of her neck. The various undressing scenes are centred around exposing her piecemeal and the whole narrative leaps through the years in a bitty fashion, dipping in and out of the character's life.

But unfortunately this aspect of her nature, one that works on film, seems to lay her open to a lot of real-life criticism. She gets a lot of stick does old Keira. People say she's too thin, too posh and even too thick (in the head, that is). But that's just picking at the bits they don't like.

Taking her as a whole, with her occasional coltish gaucherie, her charming and extradinereh inabiliteh to do anether exsent, and her assured way with eyeliner she's got to be one of the more palatable film stars currently doing the rounds. But people seem to enjoy pulling her to bits.

And I guess that's why I like her, apart from the obvious. Not despite of but because of her flaws. She should be a remarkably vulnerable, easy target, but doesn't let it get to her. Unlike her character in The Duchess she doesn't give in.

And the fact that the worst thing the Daily Mail can find to say about her is that you can see her collar bone, that's got to be worth something, right?

CAPTION(S):

DELICIOUS DUCHESS: Keira's made up of parts that, taken individually, can look quite shocking and alien but work very nicely indeed as a whole
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Sep 16, 2008
Words:841
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