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Monday, July 04, 2005 AD
I'm working my way (well, "working" probably isn't the most accurate term..."playing," more like) through the DVDs I ordered in May. Here are a few random thoughts so far:
  • "The Jewel in the Crown" -- Addictive, yet very difficult to watch. The second episode, in particular, included just about every disturbing emotional element that could be crammed into an hour. I dreamt about that episode all night (I woke up once or twice and was dreaming about it each time, and then again in the morning). I rarely dream about things I've been watching, so it must have touched quite a nerve somewhere. One of the oldest dreams I can remember was a recurring one I had when I was very small -- 5 years old -- about being falsely imprisoned. (Yes, I was an odd child...the child part, at least, has changed.) So stories of injustice and persecution have always been very difficult for me to watch or read. I take them personally. And I tend to avoid them if I know what's coming. I've never, for instance, seen "Schindler's List," because I've learned simply to stay away from Holocaust stories altogether if I can.

    While I watched the rest of the miniseries with far too few breaks (at the expense of much needed housework), so it clearly engaged me, Hari and Daphne's story was the best part. The rest of the drama had more to do with petty wickedness -- Mrs. Layton and the spoons, for instance -- than Merrick's more overt and egregious abuse of power.

    Susan's bewailing, near the end, that all the building violence between the Hindus and Muslims was the legacy of British presence in India was a little too white-man's-burden melodramatic for my tastes. I am by no means a fan of imperialism (well, except for the Emperor of emperor's sort of imperialism, for which I pray often), and am aware that anytime anybody shows up anywhere they're likely to bring troubles, simply by virtue of being sinful (now there's an odd phrase: "by virtue of being sinful"), but to pretend that the Brits in India were somehow solely responsible for unredeemed human nature taking its course is yet another instance of racial arrogance.

    And why did Ahmed Kasim suddenly have to fill Merrick's shoes at the end? Mysterious marks and thrown stones were always the wicked Merrick's, then suddenly they were the innocent Kasim's.

  • "Luther" -- While I was less critical on this viewing, it still irritates me that they got such a pretty fellow to play the rather potato-faced reformer. And the scene where the singing Katie sashays up to him is still preposterously Broadway-musicalish. I was still annoyed by the preaching-in-the-aisle thing, but less so than I was the first time. But aside from anachronistic silliness and pandering to 21st-century American sensibilities, it was a glorious movie. Tell me the Gospel, and I'll find it difficult to hold too much else against you.

    This may be odd, but it struck me that Andreas was rather a Jesse Jacksonish character, riding on the coattails of a man he with whom he claimed a closer intimacy than he actually had, and opportunistically perverting that man's ideals to his own ends.

  • "Wives and Daughters" -- I think I gulped this down too quickly and will have to watch it again before I can say anything intelligent about it. Except this: Skip the documentary on Mrs. Gaskell's life. I think my effort to block out that heaping dose of feminism has dulled my memory of the film itself.

  • "Mansfield Park" -- While it was certainly a far more faithful production than that horrid 1999 travesty (shut up, The Dane), I still don't think they got Fanny right, and if you don't get Fanny right, you haven't really got "Mansfield Park" right, now have you? Still, I wouldn't cringe at the thought of watching it again.

  • Sense and Sensibility -- Since the 1995 Emma Thompson version is my favorite movie, I didn't really expect to be bowled over by this production. And I wasn't. It seemed as though, with more time to cover more details with more accuracy, they still managed to tell less of the story. There were a couple great differences in plot that I will want to check against the novel, because I cannot remember how things really (well, as "really" as fiction can be) were.

  • "Northanger Abbey" -- The person responsible for the soundtrack of this thing ought to be granted an appointment at dawn with a firing squad. Kenny G-esque saxophone nonsense in a Jane Austen film? Unforgivably gagificacious. But other than that, it wasn't a bad show. Some small irritations, but I'm afraid I just can't get terribly bent out of shape about imperfections in a Northanger Abbey adaptation -- it just isn't as near and dear to my heart as the others.
So there you have it. Fewer thoughts than feelings, I suppose, but I always freely admit that the writing of film reviews is not among my talents.

Just a few six-degrees-of-separation notes (I love IMDB!):
  • There was one dancing scene in "Wives and Daughters" in which the gentleman of the lead couple was, I am sure, the same uncredited fellow who led a dance scene in one of the '90s Austen films. I'm just not sure which one.
  • I'm always happy to see Robert Hardy in things, so his General Tilney was one of the redeeming points in Northanger Abbey.
  • Nicholas Farrell was both Edmund Bertram in "Mansfield Park" and Teddy Bingham in "The Jewel and the Crown"...as well as young Aubrey Montague in "Chariots of Fire."
  • A Lady Catherine de Bourghish Lady Cumnor must have come easily to Barbara Leigh-Hunt, who played the waspish Lady Catherine in 1995's "Pride and Prejudice."
  • "Mansfield Park" presented a somewhat amusing juxtaposition: Sir Thomas Bertram was played by Bernard Hepton, whom I know as Thomas Cranmer in "The Six Wives of Henry VIII" in which Angela Pleasance, MP's Lady Bertram, had played Catherine Howard.
Posted by Valerie (Kyriosity) at 7/04/2005 01:43:00 PM • Permalink

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