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During Jane Austen Season on Masterpiece Theater this winter I decided to skip hassling my parents to record on the week when the biopic Miss Austen Regrets was on.  If it was like any other biography, it would be very dull.  If it was like the other movies, it would be very silly.  If it was like Becoming Jane, it would be annoying.  Unfortunately, as soon as my chances of viewing it were past, all the Austen fan sites came alive with gentle praise for the movie, and I regretted missing it. 
 
Finally the copy of Sense and Sensibility came from the library, its featured chapter being the hour and a half long Miss Austen Regrets, a wonderful film (immodest women, if that bothers you, which it does me – no brothers allowed) about Jane Austen’s views on love and marriage, mostly centering on her advice to Fanny, her niece.  It made me think.  I watched it on my anniversary, actually, and at first I thought it was rather the wrong choice for that, but then it was such a message of trusting God to do with your life what He wills, even if it isn’t marriage – but retaining a high value of marriage that I am reconciled to the decision. 
 
Not being a scholar of Jane Austen’s life, I am without criticism of the movie’s portrayal of her timeline, words, and actions.  I never thought of her as being so flirtatious, but that is because I prefer, like Elizabeth Bennett, to imagine that the people I admire share my values and convictions and that their faults, which all people must be admitted to have, are never those which expose a good understanding to ridicule.  I enjoyed the movie very much, especially the parts where Jane was writing Persuasion.  The makers of this movie, at least, understood that story. 
 
Cassandra’s relationship with her beloved witty sister the author is a fascination to me, and I am always willing to know more of it.  One thing brought up by the movie, however, was her brothers.  Jane Austen (and Cassandra, of course) had six brothers who played important roles in their lives.  Yet the only book Jane wrote where there was any substantial brother role was Mansfield Park, and though his character moves the story when it appears, and though he is dear and inspiring to his sister Fanny, he is really not all that central to the plot.  So I wondered why Jane Austen so rarely wrote about what she knew so well: the relationship of brothers and sisters. 
 
Do you ever wonder if Jane wrote Pride and Prejudice about herself and Cassandra – and her namesake was really the better representation?  Oh, I suppose outspoken and satirical Jane could never be the quiet and tender Miss Bennett.  Perhaps she really would have preferred marriage to Mr. Bingley for herself, though.  I agree with Miss Austen Regrets, that Mr. Darcy would not have done for Jane Austen (just as I imagine he would not have done for me, though like all good fans, I adore him). 
 
So now I’m back to reading the Annotated Pride and Prejudice, reveling actually in the comparative necessary openness of the written story as opposed to the famed 1995 Pride and Prejudice that got to so subtly show the change in the hero and heroine.  It is so relaxing to ponder what one reads, if it is a good piece of literature.  And who that has read Pride and Prejudice could argue that point? 
 
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn
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PBS has slowly been airing the new series of Jane Austen movies. (They have made other movies in the past. Make sure you don’t get the old Mansfield Park, Sense and Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, or very old Pride and Prejudice).

The new movies of the “Jane Austen Season” are:

Persuasion (labeled 2007 or 2008 – since BBC England released some of these earlier than USA, starring Sally Hawkins; see my review) buy individually at PBS Shop Persuasion $20 (as of now it is backordered 2-4 weeks) or Amazon.com $17

Northanger Abbey (2007 or 2008; written by Andrew Davies, starring Felicity Jones; I liked it with one exception – see my review) buy at PBS Shop Northanger Abbey $25 (as of now it is backordered 2-4 weeks) or Amazon.com $17

Mansfield Park (2007 or 2008, starring Billie Piper; not extremely faithful to the book or the period, but not a bad movie – my biggest complaint is that they seemed to make Fanny give in on her morals, which the literary Fanny Price would never do) buy at PBS Shop Mansfield Park $25 or Amazon.com $20

Pride and Prejudice (Andrew Davies’ classic, the best, 1995 Colin Firth & Jennifer Ehle) buy at ebay, your local bookstore, (you might try Target, Walmart, Costco, Sam’s, etc.) or Amazon.com $20 or the Collector’s Set for $33 or PBS Shop Pride and Prejudice $40

and still to come is:

Emma on March 23 (1997, Kate Beckinsale; I watched this movie once a long time ago, and since it was not the movie for which I was looking – the bright, witty Gwyneth Paltrow version – I hated it. But I’m ready to repent a little.) buy at Amazon.com $13 or PBS Shop Emma $20

NEW!! Masterpiece Emma (2009/2010) starring Romula Garai; I LOVE this movie – see my review.  $35 on the PBS Shop on February 9, 2009. Or on Amazon for about $25.

The 2008 Sense and Sensibility also done by Andrew Davies starting March 30. Starring Hattie Morahan and Charity Wakefield, for about $35 you can buy the movie with Miss Austen Regrets at PBS Shop Sense and Sensibility or spend $25 at Amazon.com

The Sense and Sensibility Collector’s Set is $50 on the PBS shop, and includes the new Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion, and what I understand was a remarkably entertaining dramatized bio, Miss Austen Regrets.

The Sense and Sensibility DVD’s are not available until April 8, 2008.

All prices are estimates, not including shipping or tax.

I prefer the Ciaran Hinds and Amanda Root Persuasion, even though I don’t really like it.

(NEW December 2009: I discovered I like the old version of Persuasion, from the 70’s!) Emma Thompson’s Sense and Sensibility (also starring Kate Winslet and Hugh Grant) is excellent, and I don’t expect it to be supplanted even by Andrew Davies. None of the Mansfield Park adaptations are worth seeing. Gwyneth Paltrow’s Emma is the best; even guys like this Jane Austen movie! See Amazon.com’s list to purchase these DVD’s.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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This isn’t very well-written, but then I was very uninspired. However, I hope you can get a feel for the recent movie, and my opinion of it.

If BBC/Masterpiece wanted to just to photograph illustrations for each chapter of the book, they should have done that. A movie is supposed to present dialogue, motives, characters, emotion… I did spend some moments enjoying the visual manifestation of Jane Austen’s sentimental classic. I said, “Awwhh!”: appreciation for seeing the tender and uncertain love come alive. Anne Elliot was well-cast, and Captain Wentworth was sufficiently handsome to be a hero in this adaptation. Captain Wentworth’s early snubs were a great set-up for the rest of the story, but then, well…

At the beginning of this new version I was disappointed by the made-for-tv staleness quite unlike P&P. But I reconciled quickly, acknowledging they were setting a somber tone for the beginning.

They said everything only once except for how unmarriageable Anne was, and then inexplicably every man is after her. So we had to remember the Mrs. Russell relationship to everything, and that Anne was responsible (demonstrated by nursing and inventory skills).

What did I like? Anne. I think that except for the end, she was perfect. I liked Capt. Wentworth ok. Mr. Musgrove was nice (felt sorry for his old depiction of Edmund Bertram). Mr. Elliot was well-cast. And I really liked the widowed friend (despite her miraculous and unexplained recovery sufficient for running across Bath herself to warn her friend).

I so wish they’d had Andrew Davies do this one instead of Sense and Sensibility. We already had a really good version of Sense and Sensibility. That is to say, the writing for Persuasion was horrible.

Knowing the book was the only key to what was going on. They left out or destroyed all the conversations (isn’t that most of what makes Jane Austen so great – her wit?).

However, in the book I was made to believe Anne might settle for Capt. Benwick or Mr. Elliot. At least she cared about Capt. Benwick, and had scruples about how to deal with Mr. Elliot, which the movie entirely omits. In the movie I was never convinced that Capt. Wentworth loved Louisa, or that Anne was truly despairing and desperate expecting her beloved’s constancy to Louisa no matter what. Louisa got better too quickly. Capt. Wentworth’s reluctant “entanglement” with Louisa wasn’t even addressed. Everything happened too quickly, with no suspense. They seemed set on telling the end of everything from the beginning. At the end they told almost nothing.

The title represents the theme of the story, and the movie seems to have forgotten to bring it to resolution. The end was incredibly choppy and ridiculous. What was wrong with Anne? She’s supposed to be this quiet, thoughtful, patient woman, and she takes off running, alone, all over the city pursuing a man whom she has every reason to believe will effect an opportunity to see her soon anyway? She doesn’t even read the whole letter in the horrible revision of the letter scene. And then they don’t finish the story. In all fairness, Jane Austen did write an alternate ending, and they rather mixed the two and added parts of their own. I much prefer the standard, “letter” ending.

My family came in just as it was getting ridiculous, and made excessive fun of the kiss.

There was no depth in this movie, rarely was there subtlety, and yes, they rushed through an outline of a beautiful story. But I like some parts still better than the 1995 version. Mary was a little more believable, I think. The dowager was less disturbingly ugly.

The best thing about this movie? It inspired me to read the book again. And I did enjoy the book very much.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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In lieu of Jane Austen Season (PBS decided to interrupt it in order to raise funds), I watched an episode of Masterpiece’s Kidnapped last night.  Kidnapped is the classic by Robert Louis Stevenson, author of the more popular Treasure Island.  Set in Scotland, the movie features some nice music and wonderful scenery.  Acting is touch and go, but the dialogue, which I assume is mostly taken straight from Stevenson, is excellent. 

 

I caught a touch of an exploration of pacifism in the story.  I don’t know about you, but if you’re like me (I should preface all of my opinions like that; I’m so constantly being told that not everyone is like me) you think better in the context of a story.  So if you are interested, see the DVD, or tune in for subsequent episodes in future weeks. 

 

By the way, the movie stars at least one recurring actors from other Masterpiece (BBC) movies, the actor who played Mr. Preston in Wives and Daughters, Iain Glen.  His role in Kidnapped as the bold Alan Beck sets him in a stronger, more favorable light than the “terrible flirt” Mr. Preston.  The beard helps too. 

 

My only other exposure to Kidnapped is the black and white 1960 version with James MacArthur.  I was delighted to hear the actor from Swiss Family Robinson and Hawaii 5-0 (Book ‘im, Danno) use a Scottish accent.  The book, however, is on my list of must-reads, being set in a romantic Scottish period.  With any luck Robert Louis Stevenson will have written in the Scottish pronunciation like JM Barrie did in The Little Minister. 

To God be all glory, 

Lisa of Longbourn 

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