Masterpiece’s Framed: Where Art Thou?

In Recaps on December 27, 2010 at 11:55 pm

Angharad Stannard (Eve Myles) in “Framed,” last night’s “Masterpiece” presentation. (Photographer unknown; courtesy PBS)

As a sop to rerun-weary viewers like me, PBS last night unveiled Framed, a fresh Masterpiece presentation about a down-on-its-luck Welsh village that becomes the temporary home of the National Gallery’s art collection.

The 90-minute production – which PBS is streaming through January 26 – opened with Quentin Lester (Trevor Eve), the gallery’s urbane curator, lecturing schoolchildren on Domenichino’s painting of Saint Jerome. “Here we see him about his work,” Quentin said, “living the kind of life we all dream of….”

Buzz. Buzz.

Quentin turned and saw the children fiddling with handheld devices; he resumed his talk anyway: “…no distractions, no annoying phones, no television, no noise – just the light of the mind.”

When a girl pointed out a ceiling leak, Quentin tried to calm the children, telling them it was “just a drop of water … not a national disaster.”

Cut to a TV newswoman reporting outside the gallery: “They’re calling it a national disaster,” she declared, explaining how “ancient plumbing” in Trafalgar Square had flooded the National Gallery.

When the gallery’s leaders met to determine their next steps, Quentin suggested they follow the example of Churchill, who hid the gallery’s paintings in a mine in the Welsh village of Manod during the Blitz.

Quentin’s boss also agreed to follow that era’s tradition of sending one of the hidden paintings back to London for display each month.

As the paintings were boxed for their journey to Manod, Quentin’s assistant Marnie (Nina Sosanya, Hugh Grant’s aide in Love Actually) reminded him that “there is literally no one in this town. It would be just you up a mountain with some sheep.”

Quentin replied: “And the entire National Gallery collection!”

In Manod, as gallery workers moved the boxes into the mine, Quentin met Angharad Stannard (Eve Myles), the village’s beautiful schoolteacher, telling her he represented a slate-mining company that was considering re-opening the now-closed-quarry.

“If I need any slate, I’ll give you a call,” she said flirtatiously.

Quentin also met one of Angharad’s students: 10-year-old Dylan Hughes (Samuel Davis), whose mom was trying to keep the family’s struggling garage business afloat in the wake of her husband’s disappearance.

When Quentin heard Dylan call his new pet chicken “Donatello,” he assumed the boy was an Italian art enthusiast; viewers knew the actual namesake was a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.

Neither Quentin nor Dylan realized their misunderstanding:

QUENTIN: Donatello is a particular favorite of mine.

DYLAN: Oh yeah, definitely the best.

QUENTIN: Yeah, but I mean how did you.… Why?

DYLAN: Well, Raphael is an idiot, isn’t he?

QUENTIN: I couldn’t agree more. Raphael – grotesquely overestimated. Always has been – ever since Vasari.

DYLAN: And Leonardo….

QUENTIN: A gifted dilettante.

DYLAN: Don’t like him.

QUENTIN: No more could I.

Quentin confessed the truth about his arrival in Manod to Angharad and invited her to bring Dylan to the mine.

She arrived with the entire school, including Dylan’s younger sister/criminal-mastermind-in-training Minnie (Mari Ann Bull), who used her cell phone camera to snap lots of photos – “casing the joint,” she explained, so she and Dylan could rob it later and rescue their family from debt.

When Angharad asked Quentin to unbox a painting so her students could see it, he declined.

“Art is for looking at, not keeping in boxes,” Angharad declared, storming away with her students.

More villagers learned of the hidden paintings and came to see them – and grey Manod gradually become more colorful.

Dylan’s family converted part of the garage into a café, while gruff butcher Davis (Robert Pugh) was inspired by a Monet to tear down a wall that blocked the locals’ view of a riverfront park.

Other villagers also became interested in art: slow-witted young Tom (Matthew Aubrey) used biscuit boxes to create a display in the café’s front window; Dylan’s older sister Marie (Gwyneth Keyworth) recorded their infant brother Max’s growth through Polaroids; and spinster Sellwood sisters Edna (Gwyneth Petty) and Edith (Margaret John, a Donald Rumsfeld lookalike) decided to sell a portrait their father painted of Edna when Edna was a girl.

Quentin reconciled with Angharad, arranging dinner for them in the mine, which he decorated with candlelight and famous masterpieces.

During another romantic evening at his cottage, he traced her silhouette on the wall, comparing the process to ancient drawings.

“That’s how it all began – someone wanting someone not to go away,” Quentin whispered.

“That’s what it comes down to: snatching a moment to keep forever out of the river of time.”

Then things wet downhill for Quentin.

Dylan and Minnie snuck into the mine and swapped Edith’s painting for Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, which they planned to sell to pay off their family’s debts.

Edith’s painting was then mixed up with Marie’s Polaroids, which were sent to the National Gallery in London.

Frantic Quentin found Van Gogh’s masterpiece at a community sale, where the oblivious Sellwoods were peddling it for 40 pounds.

Dylan and Minnie showed up with Edith’s painting – which turned out not to be a painting by their father but another masterpiece, stolen from the gallery in 1945 and now worth several hundred thousand pounds.

“This is exactly the kind of mess,” Quentin sighed, “that makes me prefer paintings to people.”

All ended happily: Dylan’s missing dad saw Marie’s Polaroid display at the National Gallery and returned to Manod, where he reunited with his family; Quentin promised Angharad he wouldn’t tell anyone that the Sellwoods’ father had stolen a masterpiece from the gallery and passed it off as his own; and the gallery was repaired, allowing the paintings to move from Manod back to London.

Quentin returned to the village and announced that the gallery will demonstrate its gratitude to the community by sending one painting for display in Manod each month, beginning with an exhibition of Van Gogh’s Sunflowers at the Hughes’ café.

The project will “seal the relationship … a kind of marriage,” Quentin said, gazing at Angharad.

The final scenes showed villagers admiring paintings – including the now-married Quentin and Angharad – who was very pregnant!


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