Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Scarlet Pimpernel, 1999

Scarlet Pimpernel, 1999
Starring Richard E. Grant as Sir Percy Blakeney, Elizabeth McGovern as Marguerite Blakeney, Martin Shaw as Chauvelin, Christopher Fairbank as Fumier, Ronan Vibert as Robespierre, etc.

This was my first experience with The Scarlet Pimpernel. I'd never seen the other movie adaptations. I'd never read the novel. I didn't have high expectations nor low ones. I didn't know what to expect. I was hoping to be entertained. I wasn't particularly looking for a new obsession. But I was so thoroughly enchanted by Grant's performance as Sir Percy that I fell...and fast...for Sir Percy.

These three episodes which are available on DVD don't follow the book all that closely. Of course, I didn't know that for sure until I read the book for myself. But I had an inkling this one was taking liberties and doing whatever it wanted. Did I mind? No! Not then, and if I'm confessing, not now either. The story it was telling may not have come from the book, but it was exciting and fun and compelling.

I loved the atmosphere of this one. I loved the music especially. Even that is not doing it justice, I loved, loved, loved the movie. I loved Sir Percy. Head over heels loved Sir Percy.


I especially, especially loved the song at 3:40. And this next clip shows the French dance that goes with it. Though it's at the very end.

Under the Greenwood Tree, 2005

Under the Greenwood Tree, 2005
Starring Keeley Hawes as Fancy Day, James Murray as Dick Dewy, Ben Miles as Parson Maybold, Steve Pemberton as Mr. Shiner

Despite the romantic elements of this one, I think this one was *supposed* to be about a group of displaced church musicians. These musicians, some more elderly than others, are replaced by an organ playing school mistress, Fancy Day, under the direction of Parson Maybold. Fancy Day has returned to take care of her father and to teach school. She finds herself pursued by three different men. Her father wants her to marry Mr. Shiner, the wealthiest of the bunch. But Dick Dewy is (supposedly) the cutest. More importantly, he makes her heart all fluttery.

The movie is based on a novel by Thomas Hardy. I'm going to make a guess that it is not all that faithful to the book. Why? Because I actually enjoyed this movie. And I typically hate Thomas Hardy.

From what I've read on Wikipedia, the movie changed some big things about this one to keep the mood lighter and more romantic.

The description I read of this one made it seem like it was all about a country romance. A school teacher being courted and wooed. That's why I thought I'd throw out a warning that that is only a part of this one. It's about the place as a whole, the community, I mean.

Here's a fan video:

I suppose I should confess how very, very much I heart Ben Miles. I fell for him as Patrick from Coupling. The will they/won't they romance between Patrick and Sally just made me giddy. So this one wasn't so much about me loving Thomas Hardy and wanting to see one of his books dramatized...

Sally/Patrick fan video:

She Stoops to Conquer

She Stoops To Conquer, 2008
Based on the comedy by Oliver Goldsmith
Starring Susannah Fielding as Kate Hardcastle, Mark Dexter as Charles Marlow, Holly Gilbert as Constance Neville, Joseph Thompson as George Hastings, Miles Jupp as Tony Lumpkin, Ian Redford as Mr. Hardcastle, Polly Hemingway as Mrs. Hardcastle.

According to Wikipedia, this is "one of the few plays from the 18th century to have an enduring appeal." Are you a skeptic? Don't think it's possible for a play written in the 1770s to be laugh-out-loud funny? Give it a try! You don't have to be an English major, or a theatre major to think this one is worth viewing. I promise! Though you *might* want to read a plot summary somewhere so you have an idea of what to expect. It depends entirely on what kind of person you are, how 'in control' you need to be. You can watch the first fifteen minutes here.

What's the story of this one? Well, Mr. Hardcastle is expecting a visitor. The son of his good friend is coming to visit him. If Mr. Marlow (the son) likes Mr. Hardcastle's daughter, Kate, then the two will be married with good blessings all around. He has been told that Mr. Marlow is modest and good-tempered. Kate isn't quite sure what to think. She wouldn't mind settling down...if the guy suits her. But life isn't that simple. There's a good reason why this one was initially titled "Mistakes of a Night."

What did I love about this one? The acting, the costumes, the humor. I don't know what I love most about it. I think the fact that it was so surprising. It was funny, very, very funny. And it just worked really really well.

The Three Musketeers, 1948

The Three Musketeers, 1948
Starring Gene Kelly as D'artagnan, Lana Turner as Lady de Winter, Van Heflin as Athos, Gig Young as Porthos, Robert Coote as Aramis, June Allyson as Constance, Vincent Price as Richelieu, Angela Lansbury as Queen Anne, Frank Morgan as King Louis XIII, etc.
125 minutes

I didn't know quite what to expect from this one. I wanted to really love it. But I was afraid that it would disappoint. You see, many film versions of The Three Musketeers end up disappointing or frustrating me. Maybe that's not the case for every viewer. Maybe I just love the book a little too much.

What did I think of this one? I loved it! I really, really loved it! I think it was great at capturing the tone of the book. And it was almost always faithful to the book. I'm not saying it was 100% faithful. (If memory serves, in the book Constance was the wife of the landlord and not the daughter of the landlord. But. For the most part, it follows the book.) It's silly. It's adventurous. It's got its serious moments, true, but at the heart this one is all spirited fun. Boys being boys, if you will.

Completely off topic, but don't you find the floating heads in the movie poster a bit disturbing???

Here's the trailer

Meeting Constance

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934)

The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934)
Starring Leslie Howard as Sir Percy Blakeney and Merle Oberon as Lady Blakeney
Directed by Harold Young

Based on Baroness Emmuska Orczy's novel, The Scarlet Pimpernel, this one is an adventurous romance set during the French Revolution. It showcases the Frenchies--M. Chauvelin in particular--seeking the elusive Scarlet Pimpernel.

They seek him here, they seek him there,
Those Frenchies seek him everywhere...
Is he in heaven, or is he in hell...
That demmed elusive Pimpernel

Knowing that he can't do it alone--and that his own life is at stake--Chauvelin seeks to use Marguerite Blakeney (nee St. Just) as a spy. Her brother, Armand, has been found out--that is his ties to the Scarlet Pimpernel have been uncovered. A letter has fallen into Chauvelin's hands. If Marguerite wants to save her brother from the guillotine, then she must help him discover the identity of The Scarlet Pimpernel.

Lady Blakeney is a reluctant spy especially as portrayed in this movie adaptation. She's a tender woman, an emotional one as well. The developing romance between husband-and-wife is wonderful to see. How this 'estranged' couple comes to believe in one another once again and their romance is rekindled.

My absolute favorite scene is where Lady Blakeney confesses to her husband about her betrayal. It's giddy-making watching Sir Percy accuse his wife of being in love with The Scarlet Pimpernel.

Is it faithful to the book? No. Not exactly. I think it's true enough to the book's spirit. But does it follow it point by point by point...of course not.

I thought this movie had a slow start and a rushed ending. But overall, I liked it.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Pride and Prejudice: Video Thoughts, part three: P&P (1980, BBC)

The third video I watched for the Everything Austen challenge is the BBC production (1980) of Pride and Prejudice. I admit I was a bit prejudiced heading into this one. And the opening credits didn't help me out any. I thought that it couldn't possibly satisfy as well as other adaptations. This one stars Elizabeth Garvie and David Rintoul as Elizabeth and Darcy.

What I liked about this one:

*It's length. I *really* loved how long it was. This might not be a 'plus' for every viewer. But for me it was.

*It's faithfulness. I *really* loved how the dialogue was done. It felt very Austen-y. Not that I had a copy of the book open to compare. But if I had to take a guess, I'd say it followed the book very closely and Austen is given a chance to shine.

*Developing relationships. I thought that this production was the absolute best for showing character development and developing relationships between characters. In particular, I thought the time spent building up the friendship with Charlotte Lucas was great. (Some productions just focus on the romance of Elizabeth and Darcy and neglect the other relationships in the book--Elizabeth's relationship with her father and mother, her relationship with her sisters, her relationship with Charlotte, etc.)

*Darcy as played by David Rintoul. No one is more surprised that I am at how charmed I was by his portrayal of Darcy.

What I didn't like as much...

*There were some blank Elizabeth scenes. Scenes that highlighted her internal thought process, that showed her observing life, that showed her reacting to reading letters, etc. On the one hand, what was being communicated to the audience was important and necessary to the story. It made for a deeper, more substantive adaptation. But on the other hand, she was staring out into space and trying really hard to look intelligent...and this wasn't always successful. This Elizabeth shined best when she was interacting with others.

*With the exception of Lydia, I didn't care for the portrayal of the other sisters. This was not my favorite Jane, Mary, or Kitty, in other words. Though I did find it interesting that this movie chose to portray Kitty and Mary as ogling Mr. Bingley when he came to call towards the end. I don't remember that in the book. Though I wouldn't put it past Kitty since she's more like Lydia.

*I hated Peter Settelen's portrayal of Mr. Wickham. Call me prejudiced. But I just couldn't fathom a blond Mr. Wickham. And his pants were definitely too tight.

Overall, I thought watching this production was *almost* as good as reading the book itself. Dare I say it...I think you could pass almost any test on this book just by watching this one?!

I found this one VERY SATISFYING. I really enjoyed this one. Much more than I ever thought I would!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Pride and Prejudice: Video Thoughts, part two: Pride and Prejudice (1940)

The second Austen-related movie I've watched for the challenge is the 1940 version of P&P.

This adaptation takes a lot of liberties with the story. Things aren't just rushed up either. There are some significant plot changes going on.

What I liked in this one?

Mary. I really thought Marsha Hunt did a great job with her character. This may just be my favorite Mary of all. This is the scene where Mrs. Bennet is telling Mary to sparkle, but "just a little." I think that was one of my favorite moments of the film.

Part of me liked the twist about Lady Catherine actually liking Elizabeth. Her contrariness being a mask she wears. Her visit to Elizabeth being reverse psychology--something she does as a favor, by request, for her nephew Mr. Darcy.

This one did feel rushed. Especially the ending. (I don't know how they could have compacted it anymore than they already did.) A few of things missing from this adaptation are the visit to Pemberley, Elizabeth meeting with Georgiana, and the letter from Darcy to Elizabeth confessing all.

This version doesn't spend much time (if any) on the other couples, on Jane and Charles Bingley and Lydia and Mr. Wickham. It's all Darcy and Elizabeth.

So I liked some things about this one. But it's not my favorite adaptation.

I would recommend it to others simply because I think it has its fun moments.

I think I would like it a LOT more if the costumes were accurate. Or as mom said, "I wonder if they used the cast offs from Gone With The Wind???"

Pride and Prejudice: Video Thoughts, part one: Lost in Austen

I've watched two movies this past week or two.

The first one I watched was Lost in Austen. In this one, Pride and Prejudice gets the fractured fairy tale treatment. We see Amanda Price, a modern woman slightly obsessed with Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice--the book and the movie starring Colin Firth. After a disappointing proposal from her drunk boyfriend, she is startled to find Elizabeth Bennet--yes, the Elizabeth Bennet--in her bathroom. There's a doorway in her flat leading directly into the Bennet attic. Since Elizabeth has paid her a visit, she thinks to do the same. Take a few minutes and see for herself if this is really real. The problem--and not unforseeable at that--is that once she's made it through, the door won't open again. She's "stuck" in the Bennet household. The good news is that the story is just getting started. Mr. Bingley has just moved into the neighborhood. They're just getting ready for the assembly ball. You know, the one where Miss Elizabeth meets the cranky Mr. Darcy.

What I liked about this one--and I did like it quite a bit--is that we see what a difference Elizabeth makes to the story. What would Pride and Prejudice be without her? We also see how big the gap is culturally and socially between centuries. Amanda has always fantasized about the prim-and-proper-and-courteous gentlemen of the past...but can she become a genteel lady? Can a modern woman come to terms with life in Regency England? I liked many of the twists and turns of this series.

This is a fan video with one of my favorite songs...I think it fits well with the show.

What I liked about this Mr. Darcy, Mr. Bingley, and Mr. Wickham.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

One reason why I love my mom...

I asked her where did the phrase "hurt like the dickens" came from...she said it was because reading Great Expectations hurts.