In her room she had a fancy to put on her “freak” dress. It was of gold tissue with little trousers of the same, tightly drawn in at the ankles, a page’s cape slung from the shoulders, little gold shoes, and a gold-winged Mercury helmet; and all over her were tiny gold bells, especially on the helmet; so that if she shook her head she pealed. When she was dressed she felt quite sick because Jon could not see her; it even seemed a pity that the sprightly young man Michael Mont would not have a view. But the gong had sounded, and she went down.
She made a sensation in the drawing-room. Winifred thought it “Most amusing.” Imogen was enraptured. Jack Cardigan called it “stunning,” “ripping,” “topping,” and “corking.”
Monsieur Profond, smiling with his eyes, said: “That’s a nice small dress!” Her mother, very handsome in black, sat looking at her, and said nothing. It remained for her father to apply the test of common sense. “What did you put on that thing for? You’re not going to dance.”
Fleur spun round, and the bells pealed.
Soames stared at her, and, turning away, gave his arm to Winifred. Jack Cardigan took her mother. Prosper Profond took Imogen. Fleur went in by herself, with her bells jingling….
—John Galsworthy, To Let [The Forsyte Saga]
This reminds me of another show-stopping entrance…
Alas there hasn’t been much notable movie watching lately at the Classical Bookworm home theatre (to use the term extremely loosely). A couple of weeks ago I did see a very good film about Polish pianist Wladislaw Szpilman. The Pianist is set in Warsaw around the time of World War II and chronicles his familys experiences as Jews under Nazi rule and his struggle to survive during the occupation, bombing, and levelling of Warsaw. It is not an adventure story nor a sentimental hero’s tale; it is an extremely well-played character study and real human story. It’s a beautifully made film.
Did anyone else watch the new “Masterpiece Classic” version of Wuthering Heights? I confess that I still have not read the book, though I have the general idea. I can’t say whether the production was true to the book, but I thought Tom Hardy (any relation?) did a fantastic job of playing Heathcliff as a man beaten down by life and slave to an powerful and eternal passion for Cathy Earnshaw. He looked the part, and the slightest flicker of his eyes spoke volumes. I must see what else he has done because he is an extraordinary actor. You could see the tenderness underneath the violence. His primal scream when he learned of Cathy’s death was astounding. I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s worth watching just to see that.
So, seen any good movies lately?
I have a suspicion that people who love good books also tend to love good movies, so I thought it might be fun to start talking about the stories we watch. I know some of you subscribe to Netflix (in Canada it’s Zip), but movies don’t seem to appear on book blogs very often. Perhaps you all have secret movie blogs on the side…?
It may not surprise you to hear that my movie tastes tend towards the obscure. It’s not often that I watch a film without subtitles, or at least an accent. Whatever puts most people to sleep will probably fascinate me. The last movie I went to a theatre to see was a nearly 3-hour, nearly silent documentary about a monastery in France. The parts that weren’t silent had subtitles, of course. I loved every minute of it.
This weekend I saw a delightful low-budget film from Germany, Enlightenment Guaranteed. It’s about two brothers having mid-life crises who run off to a Zen monastery in Japan and, well, find enlightenment. It’s shot in video, not film, but if you can ignore that it’s really a very fun and zen-like movie. I can’t remember who recommended it, but if it was you, thanks!
I was also recently blown away by Heaven, with Giovanni Ribisi and Cate Blanchett. It was the last film co-written by the late Krzysztof Kieslowsi, of Trois Couleurs fame, a favourite director of mine. It's a gripping story of unexpected love, tragedy, and loyalty. It is visually arresting also—I think it does Kieslowski justice.
So, seen any good movies lately? My Zip list is full to overflowing but I’m always interested in hearing about other good films.
I got this meme from Wil at Moyen Âge (who still hasn’t answered my question about whether he has six fingers on his right hand). The instructions are simple: List 5 favourite movies and 5 “guilty pleasures,” with explanations.
- Love and Pain and the Whole Damn Thing: A little known film about an awkward young America man who travels to Spain and meets and awkward older English woman and, well, let’s just say they bring out the best in each other. Love, love, love it.
- Maurice: A brilliant adaptation of the novel by E.M. Forster about a young English man discovering his sexuality and seeking happiness in an intolerant world. Again, love love love it.
- Lost in Translation: A quirky but thoughtful little movie that I just can’t get enough of.
- Crossing Delancey: Another quirky but thoughtful romance that I can’t get enough of. It just came out on DVD, much to my delight.
- Billy Elliot: Hilarious, uplifting, and heartwarming. It reminds us what beautiful things parents can do for their children.
- G.I. Jane: Somehow, despite being a pacifist, I really enjoy seeing girls kick butt. I’d put Xena on the list too if she wasn’t strictly TV. Lara Croft gets an honourable mention.
- Twister: Not a stellar effort, but as a hurricane survivor I’m pathologically drawn to seeing people get terrorized by high winds. Long story. I don’t actually own this movie but it plays frequently on TV.
- Persuasion(1995): This is a guilty pleasure only because it is pure romance. Bonus: Ciaran Hinds.
- Jane Eyre(1997): Ditto, with more Ciaran.
- Rebecca(1997): Again ditto, with Charles Dance.
I suppose I cheated a bit with those last three but I couldn’t think of any truly cheesy movies that I enjoy. Anyone else want to play?
Following the fine (?) tradition of Gladiator, Troy, and Alexander, Hollywood will now be bringing us the story of the battle of Thermopylae, a suicide mission in which three hundred Spartans held the Persian army off long enough for the rest of the Greeks to get off their duffs and defend their homeland. According to The Guardian, the new movie, 300, is based on a graphic novel (red flag #1) which features monsters and warriors with superpowers (red flag #2) written by a man who didn’t “realise that the hero wasn’t necessarily the guy who won” (flaming radioactive red flag #3). Mark my words: no good can come of this.
How could I resist Imani’s expressive “OooOOoo”? The book is yours, Cinnimani, if you’ll just e-mail me an address I can send it to. (Sorry Wil, your Soldier of Fortune collection will have to march on alone.)
So, what did everyone think of part two of J.E.? Am I just getting to be an old fuddy duddy or was there far too much kissing? I really thought Toby Stephens was going to swallow Ruth Wilson. I nearly gagged when he spoke the line about wishing for a potion to make him more handsome. What were they thinking?!?
They certainly packed a lot of action into two hours but for some reason it wasn’t very compelling. Perhaps there was just not enough time to develop the characters; it takes a special actor to walk on, say a few lines, and give the impression of being a complete human being. The scenes with the dying Mrs. Reed were decent (thanks to Tara Fitzgerald), and St. John wasn’t bad, but the rest did not impress. Was it not absurd for them to film the supposedly dark, dank Ferndean Manor on a bright, sunny day? Or am I just being as grouchy as Mr. Rochester?
As for the book, I am nearly half way through and enjoying every single syllable!
I had an enjoyable evening watching two new productions based on great novels, Jane Eyre and The Robber Bride. Actually, I’m not sure “enjoyable” is the right word for my experience of watching part one of the latest adaptation of Jane Eyre. I should have known something was wrong when the opening scene depicted young Jane wandering among dunes in a great sandy desert. The scene shifted to her reading a book with pictures of steamy, exotic places. Whaaa? So much for Bewick’s History of British Birds and the lonely, storm-tossed northern seabirds.
Things didn’t improve much after that. The gothic imagery, music, and even Rochester’s brooding seem forced and cliché. I’m still not sure about Ruth Wilson as Jane, but Toby Stephens’ muscle-bound, swaggering Rochester, though not as bad as some, is definitely a miss for me. The worst part, though, is the re-writing of the dialogue. The screenwriter actually has Rochester, and then Jane, use the word “youngish,” three times in rapid succession. Youngish?!Oy vey. In the same scene he mentions the duel with Céline Varens’ cavalier: “I shot him—in the shoulder or some insignificant place.” How dull! Compare that with the original: “Next morning I had the pleasure of encountering him; left a bullet in one of his poor etiolated arms, feeble as the wing of a chicken in the pip…” I don’t understand the point of adapting a book and then not using the author’s words, especially when they are so superior.
But pay no attention to me. I seem to be the only person on two continents who dislikes this production so thoroughly. BrontëBlog has collectedover ascore ofglowingreviews from critics on this side of the pond. I will watch the conclusion of this production but as an antidote I am re-reading Jane Eyre, which I thought to do this year anyway. So far it is as wonderful as ever.
The Robber Bride was much better done, I thought. It starred some of my favourite actresses, Mary-Louise Parker, Wendy Crewson, and Amanda Root (who was Anne Elliot in Persuasion), and the whole cast was excellent. I noticed they cast an aboriginal actor as a police officer, which was refreshing because nationality was completely irrelevant to her part. I can’t say much more about the movie since it’s been a while since I read the book, but I definitely recommend watching it if you get the chance.