Landmark Cinemas’ Filmtastic Films series has returned for another season at the Qwanlin Cinema, showing recent independent films and mainstream movies that would not normally be presented locally.

The series kicked off last week with the Martin Sheen film, The Way, about a father and son’s separate voyages along Spain’s famous pilgrimage trail, the Camino del Santiago.

This week’s offering is My Week with Marilyn.

In an Oscar season that seems fixated on nominating films about filming, such as Hugo and The Artist, it falls in line, with a recounting of the on and off-set drama that attended the making of the 1957 Marilyn Monroe film, The Prince and the Showgirl.

My Week with Marilyn has garnered two Oscar nominations, a best actress nod for its star Michelle Williams, who plays Monroe, and another for best supporting actor for Kenneth Branagh, who plays her co-star, Sir Laurence Olivier.

The Prince and the Showgirl represented Monroe’s attempt to prove to the world that she was a serious actress as well as a world-renowned sex symbol. Filming at London’s famed Pinewood Studios in the summer of 1956, her hardest sell was her co-star.

Appalled at Marilyn’s frequent lateness or total absence from the set and her bouts with alcohol, the traditionalist Olivier also had a difficult time coping with her reliance on Lee Strasberg’s Method school of acting, which focused more on feeling than dramatic discipline.

Moreover, he viewed the constant presence on-set of Paula Strasberg, Monroe’s drama coach, as a challenge to his authority in his role as director.

Olivier was reputed to have described Monroe at one point as “the stupidest, most self-indulgent little tart I’ve ever come across.”

Her natural insecurity was compounded by Olivier’s condescension toward her, and their professional relationship swiftly went downhill.

Crushed by the departure back to America of playwright Arthur Miller, whom she had married mere weeks before, she felt very much alone and isolated.

Enter Colin Clark, played by British actor Eddie Redmayne.

In 1956, Colin Clark was 23. The son of historian Kenneth Clark, the creator of the famed 1970 BBC series Civilization, he was able to parlay his parents’ friendship with Olivier and wife Vivien Leigh into a job on the set of The Prince and the Showgirl.

His position was listed as third assistant director, which really amounted to a glorified go-fer. But when Olivier took off in quiet desperation for a week’s holiday and filming stopped, Clark found himself in the enviable role of Monroe’s confidant and companion.

In his diaries, which later formed the basis for his book The Prince, The Showgirl and Me, published in the ’90s, Clark claims that his relationship with the star was a platonic one, consisting of tours around the countryside.

But one skinny-dipping evening with the star serves as a tantalizing question mark as to whether or not there was any sexual encounter.

My Week with Marilyn is a compelling glimpse into the life of the woman who still manages, 50 years after her death in 1962, to weave a spell of wonderment and fascination over so many of us.

Michelle Williams, although certainly not a dead ringer for Monroe, manages to capture well her insecurity, coupled with the sexuality that propelled her to such fame and tragedy.

Kenneth Branagh similarly instills the flavour of Olivier’s mastery of his art, as well as his overwhelming arrogance.

My Week with Marilyn plays at 5 p.m. Sunday, February 26, and at 7 p.m. Monday, February 27 at the Qwanlin Cinema. It’s rated R for nudity, coarse language, drug and alcohol abuse.

Brian Eaton is a cinema buff who reviews current films and writes on other film-related topics on a regular basis.

Brian Eaton is a cinema buff who reviews current films and writes on other film-related topics on a regular basis.