Sunday, December 24, 2006

Mansfield Park (1999)

This film combines Mansfield Park, Jane Austen’s letters and juvenilia and contemporary readings of Austen’s novel to present an adaptation of Mansfield Park. The overall tone is a little surreal as it tries to capture complex issues in Regency politics (slavery, class etc) in a contemporary way, which is often contrived. The use of Austen’s letters and early work in the voice of Fanny Price though an interesting and often humorous treat only serves to show up how deadening the rest of the script is. That being said Mansfield Park is the most difficult of Austen’s books to like – I admit to a bias here as MP is one of the few books I have studied that I detested and I was forced to do it at A-Level and twice in my degree! – the heroine lacks the sparkle of Austen’s other creations and her characters are all anti-heroes while the two ‘villains’ are easily the most attractive people in the novel. Yes, I know that could be said to be the point . . .

But back to Patricia Rozema’s film and let’s dwell on the good bits. I personally like the references to the slave trade, its abolition and the wealth that the Bertrams have due to the exploitation of the Caribbean. Edward Said’s Culture and Imperialism drew attention to the slavery narrative in Mansfield Park and numerous post-colonial theorists have opined about this since. This film draws on that narrative with singing on a slave ship heard at the beginning of the film, discussion about slavery within the family dialogues and the notebooks showing Sir Thomas Bertram sexually exploiting his female slaves. The film also vividly illustrates the dirt and poverty of Fanny Price’s family and the differences in class between Fanny and the Bertrams.

Lindsay Duncan’s portrayal of Lady Bertram as a drug-addled bored lady of leisure is great and Harold Pinter is a malevolent and brooding Sir Thomas, whose sinister presence is felt in Mansfield Park. Henry and Mary Crawford are attractive and lively and absolutely breathe sex appeal. I have never seen such tight breeches as those on Henry Crawford and Mary Crawford seduces every one! There is obviously an attempt to make Fanny a more lively and engaging character by giving her Jane Austen’s own voice, as well as making her more get up and go. And the concluding sum up end is fun.

However, the dialogue is wooden and the script is slow with strange discussions amongst the whole family in a manner more reminiscent of Friends than Regency England. The direction is stagey and it is clear the film is on a small budget – in one of the last scenes there is clearly a plug socket in the wall behind Lady Bertram. The scene where Edmund walks in on Henry Crawford having sex with Maria Bertram is so ridiculous as to be laughable.

After watching this, even I appreciated the book of Mansfield Park and its subtleties.

Directed - Patricia Rozema
Writing credits - Jane Austen (novel), Patricia Rozema
Pictures - Miramax
Lindsay Duncan - Mrs. Price/Lady Bertram
Harold Pinter - Sir Thomas Bertram
Frances O'Connor - Fanny Price
Jonny Lee Miller - Edmund Bertram
Embeth Davidtz - Mary Crawford
Alessandro Nivola - Henry Crawford

Buy in US

Buy in UK

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Costume Drama: Christmas Viewing in the UK

There are scant pickings in literary costume drama this year but below is a list of what is on that will help keep you sane admidst too much drink, too much family and too much food. I have not listed Christmas Carol as frankly most are dire and who really fancies Scrooge? Actually the only one I like is the Muppets’ Christmas Carol with Michael Caine but that’s partly because I have a thing about Gonzo who plays Dickens.

I have also only listed those you can get on freeview channels.

Sunday 24 December Dangerous Liaisons (1988) 21.05 ITV3

Ok – not 19th century but John Malkovich makes a sinister Valmont.

Monday 25 December Nicholas Nickleby (2002) 20.00 BBC2

Did not get great reviews but contains almost every British actor and worth a watch.

Thursday 28 December
Dracula: New TV adaptation
BBC1 21.00

The only exciting new costume drama on - not convinced by the idea of Marc Warren as Dracula, though this brooding picture is persuading me otherwise. I suddenly have an urge to play Bela Legosi's Dead.

Friday 29 December The Railway Children 12.35 ITV1

Yes the 1970 classic – again!

Saturday 30 December Sense and Sensibility (1995) 20.00 C4

By far the best costume drama film on over Christmas – we just love Alan Rickman as Colonel Brandon and Emma Thompson’s script is superb.

Monday 1 January Oliver Twist (1948) 16.00 More4

Is Alec Guinness’ Fagin Anti-Semitic? You decide. David Lean’s portrayal of grubby London has no equal.

Cold Comfort Farm (1995) 22.00 BBC4

Ok, again not 19th century but this adaptation is fantastic and Stephen Fry is great in it.

Tuesday 2 January Great Expectations (1946) 12.50 BBC2

The David Lean classic – absolutely atmospheric.

Wednesday 3 January The Importance of Being Earnest (2002) 19.30 BBC2

Rupert Everett and Colin Firth star – so good and the plot is like Frasier (actually that should be the other way round).

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Happy Birthday Jane!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Pride and Prejudice (1995): Part Two

Those Darcy Moments

A minute-to-second guide to when Darcy appears on screen – taken from the US 2-disc Special Edition. In bold are my best moments.

01:10 Darcy storms home post-proposal
03:29 The truth about Wickham
07:30 Heading out with the letter
08:44 Walking the grove for sometime…
10:26 “Insufferable presumption!” Darcy defends his thwarting Jane’s romance
11:25 The letter continues with Lizzie contemplating with flashbacks
19:56 Confiding in Jane
20:55 “You’ll never be able to make them both good.”
28:11 Has Lydia frightened some of Lizzie’s lovers away?
31:10 Telling Wickham Darcy improves on closer acquaintance
33:50 Heading to Derbyshire
35:14 “I shall conquer this!”
38:20 Pemberley
40:18 “Of all this I might have been mistress.”
41:51 Is Darcy good after all?
43:19 I see a small lake
43:48 Lizzie visibly softens as she stares at Darcy’s portrait
43:55 The coat is coming off
44:01 The cravat is coming off
44:06 The green waistcoat is coming off
44:19 The boots must be off because…
44:30 SPLASH!

44:40 Lizzie is oblivious in the garden
44:50 Lovely wet tendrils of dark curls dripping sown onto a shirt transparent with dampness
44:57 Whose pulse is not racing, whose stomach is not in knots?
45:20 I can hardly stand it…
45:22 Oh Lizzie, you have no idea girlfriend
45:30 AWKWARD – ground swallow me now!
45:35 What the…
45:37 Mr Darcy!?
45:40 Miss Bennet!?
45:41 Yes, yes, everone is in good health

46:29 Darcy escapes
46:44 Lizzie is mortified

(To be continued)

Darcy Moments from the official BBC UK DVD

Episode 4
01:05 Darcy in terrible mood back to Rosings
01:40 Darcy writing letter
07:09 Finishes letter
08:46 Waits to give Lizzie the letter
35:14 Darcy fencing
42:40 Darcy riding towards Pemberley
43:55 The diving scene – removal of clothes
44:31 The dive!
44:50 Wet Darcy
45:30 Darcy meets Lizzie
46:58 Runs down stairs to catch Lizzie and Aunt and Uncle before they leave
50:27 Helps her back in the carriage

Episode 5
01:22 Darcy waits on Lizzie in Inn at Lambton
04:34 Lizzie singing
06:55 Lingering glances over the piano
07:38 Miss Bingley being a bitch
09:00 ‘The most handsomest woman of my acquaintance.’
09:39 Darcy can’t sleep and goes and looks at the piano
10:05 Choosing jacket
14:57 Darcy goes to Lizzie and finds her upset (till 19:10)
38:26 Darcy in London
42:15 Darcy finds Wickham and Lydia

Episode 6
10:40 Darcy insisting on sorting out wedding
19:16 Bingley and Darcy call on Bennets
22:00 Darcy gives Bingley his blessing
39:44 Darcy at Bennets and goes on walk
41:13 Second proposal
46:00 The wedding
48:27 The snog

Production Information

Directed by Simon Langton
Writer/Adaptor: Andrew Davies

Colin Firth - Fitzwilliam Darcy
Jennifer Ehle - Elizabeth Bennet
Crispin Bonham-Carter - Charles Bingley
Anna Chancellor - Caroline Bingley
Susannah Harker - Jane Bennet
Adrian Lukis - George Wickham
Julia Sawalha - Lydia Bennet
Alison Steadman - Mrs. Bennet
Benjamin Whitrow - Mr. Bennet

Official Website

Includes character write-ups and photo-gallery as well as clips and behind the scenes and screensavers. Also you can watch that infamous video clip of Darcy diving into the lake again (and again).

Colin Firth Fan site

Bizaare site!
Pictures and music!!


Suggested Book:
The Making of Pride and Prejudice (BBC)
by Susie Conklin and Sue Birtwistle

Buy in UK

Buy in US

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Bride and Prejudice (2005)

As an interlude between the two volumes of those Darcy moments from the classic BBC 1995 adaptation, Boots and Bonnets offers a quick review of and some info about Gurinder Chadha’s updated version of Pride and Prejudice in 2005.

P&P is updated as Bride and Prejudice and set principally in Amritsar in north India, but also travels to Goa, LA and London. Lizzie Bennett is Lalita Bakshi who is one of four daughters in a middle-class Sikh family living in Amritsar, whose mother is desperate to see the elder ones married. Fitzwilliam Darcy is William Darcy a super rich American hotelier who knows the Bingley character (Balraj) from Oxford. Essentially the story is the same as that in Austen’s novel and the main tension is between the different cultural assumptions of both Lalita and William about American and Indian ways of doing things, such as marriage, class, tourism and imperialism.

Johnny Wickham is perfect as a rakish backpacker who pays lip service to liberal PC attitudes to India, but exploits India as much as Darcy’s mother and her hotels. Mr Kohli is also very funny as the Mr Collins character, who lives in LA and adores the American lifestyle yet wants a traditional Indian bride. The use of ritual dances also work as a way of social fraternising and as bringing the music and sequences essential to a Bollywood movie into the film.

My main criticisms are that Lalita is always poised and not flustered (as Lizzie often is), the film loses some of its observation and comedy in the US sequences, the seriousness of Lakhi’s (Lydia) situation is not really dealt with and the end is tied up rather quickly.

However, it is a fun and thought provoking remake of Pride and Prejudice. Personally I just love the dance sequences – particularly the ‘Life is great, let’s celebrate’ on the streets of Amritsar and the gospel choir on the beach in LA. If you want a change of scene from traditional costume drama but still want a laugh at Austen’s comedy of manners and some romance then watch this.

Directed: Gurinder Chadha
Writing: Jane Austen (novel), Paul Mayeda Berges, Gurinder Chadha

Aishwarya Rai - Lalita Bakshi
Martin Henderson - William Darcy
Naveen Andrews - Balraj Bingley
Namrata Shirodkar - Jaya Bakshi
Daniel Gillies - Johnny Wickham

Official Website (And it plays my favorite song)