Monday, January 09, 2006

Random Items from the Junk Drawer of my Mind #4B

1. I'm making this Junk Drawer post #4B instead of #5 because I want to talk more about the new Pride & Prejudice movie, which I DID, in fact, go see Saturday. But I'll put that at the end of the post so anyone who hasn't seen it and doesn't want to hear about it can read other stuff first if they so desire and then stop before reading that part. 2. I've had a several people tell me over the past few weeks (maybe even months) that my Blog Comment Thingy isn't playing nice. People say they try to log on and leave a comment and Comment Thingy cruelly rejects them. They tell it "I just want to tell Deb something, just as a friend"; and it says "NO! You didn't say please, and you'll break her heart, and I don't like your shoes"; and they look at their feet in pained bewilderment and say "but...but...but..."; and it sticks its (virtual) fingers in its (virtual) ears and says "lalalalaaa....I can't HEAR you"; and the nice readers cry and/or cuss and/or slap it across its (virtual) face, depending on their nature, and they go away; and I never know about it until some brave soul goes behind Comment Thingy's back and tattles. I have spoken quite sternly with Comment Thingy, but I have my doubts about that doing any good. And since I haven't changed any settings lately I'm not sure what else I can do to make it behave. I am not amused. I LIKE hearing from people who read RSR. So I'd just like to mention that if you have something you'd like to say in response to a post - a comment, question, naughty limerick, whatever - and you are one of the people to whom Comment Thingy is being insufferably rude (you can TELL I'm on an Austen kick, yes??), you can always foil said overprotective Comment Thingy by shooting me an email. You can find one email address somewhere over there ----> in my sidebar. And you can find yet another email address (the one I use more often, actually) by going to my profile page, the link to which is also over there ----> beneath my photo, and looking for a link that says (big shock!) "email". So take THAT, Comment Thingy! Hmph. 3. Art of the day - yet another photo, but I'm enjoying them so I hope at least some of you are too. Sunday afternoon, after I'd taken my "usual" walk, I didn't feel ready to go back inside yet so I wandered around the woods a bit. I love walking in the woods in the late fall and winter because for one thing you don't have to worry about snakes and spiders and ticks and chiggers! But for another I love how you can see the bones of the place with all the leaves fallen. You can see how the land rises and falls, and the shapes of the trees and rocks, instead of it all just looking like a big green impenetrable mass. And I love the sound and smell of scuffling through dry, crunchy leaves. I took a bunch of photos and most of them turned out to be big stinky piles of crappola that went straight to the recycle bin, but I liked a few and you'll no doubt see some of those over the next few days or weeks. Here's the very last photo I took before leaving the woods and heading back for the house, just before sunset: "Tattered Trees" (clickable if you want to see it larger in a new window) I liked the lines of this cluster of dead and dying trees reaching for the sky, as you can just barely seen the color of the sky starting to change on the horizon. 4. And now we come back to my thoughts on the latest film version of Pride & Prejudice. I liked it. I didn't think it was perfect - not even close. But I liked it. That's the short version. If you want the long version (really! I got wordy! what a shock! Heh.), keep reading. If not, spoiler warnings apply from here on out, so here's your hat, been nice seein' ya, stop by again sometime! Now, for those of you who are still with me, where do I begin? Since I'm a very visual sort of person, let's start there - this film was visually stunning. Really, just gorgeous. If it doesn't get at least nominated for some sort of award for the visuals then someone wasn't paying attention. And it isn't just that it was lovely, although it often was. It's that the director and cinematographer used the visual elements so effectively to convey certain information about the story - I loved that! More than any other version I've seen, this movie made it very clear that Lizzy and Darcy are physically attracted to each other even toward the beginning when they don't like each other. They want each other, whether they WANT to want each other or not. And it's made clear not with exposition or with overt sexuality but with certain carefully framed facial expressions and hand gestures and one very cool presentation of the idea of "being alone in a crowd" in one of the dance scenes. There was no nudity, nothing more overtly physical than a few chaste kisses (those toward the very end), yet there were moments when I'd think "Dayum. That's hot!" Another thing I think this movie did VERY well with the visuals was to show much more clearly than any other version I've seen just how far apart Darcy and Lizzy are in wealth and status. In other versions, Longbourn was been less grand than Netherfield or Pemberly, but still large and bright and clean and nicely furnished, with neat, pretty, well-tended lawns and gardens, and the status comes across like "ok, here's a rich person and a super-rich person...what's the big deal?" But in this film, Longbourn is quite clearly the home of a not-particularly successful gentleman farmer. It's still largish, but not fancy. Plaster is peeling and paint is faded and grubby. Some of the woodwork obviously has more than a nodding acquaintance with termites. The floors are plain unpolished wood planks and dogs wander in and out at will. Chickens peck the yard, which turns into a sea of mud when it rains. There are pigs and cows in the barnyard out back. The whole place has the slightly shoddy look of a house that was nice at one time but has seen better days. Then we see Netherfield and everything is polished wood and marble, gleaming crystal, professional servants in uniforms and powdered wigs, beautiful gardens. It all shows that the Bingleys are several steps up the social and financial ladder from the Bennets. And then we see Pemberley and Wowza! It dwarfs even Netherfield. To anyone not born to great wealth, I imagine living at Pemberley would feel a little like living in a museum. (Not that I'd mind trying! Heh.) So with just those images, the filmmaker has shown us that Lizzy marrying Darcy would be, in contemporary US terms, a bit like the daughter of a small-time farmer, who is barely paying his mortgage, marrying a Kennedy or someone similar. On the minus side, by making a 2 hour movie, compared to the 1995 mini-series, which was 6 hours, obviously they had to leave a lot out and compress a lot more. That can be good in a way, I suppose, since there's a limit to how often even a movie junkie and/or Austen junkie will watch a 6 hour version. So it'll be nice when this comes out on DVD to have a version I can watch in just two hours time. But still, I missed some of the details. Some of the minor characters became not much more than walk-ons this time around. It was almost like seeing the Cliff's Notes come to life instead of the actual novel - fine for anyone already familiar with the story but I have to wonder if someone seeing it who hasn't read the book, or seen any of the longer versions, might be a little confused about some of what went on. MacFayden as Darcy was fine. Unfortunately, I think everyone suffers by comparison to Colin Firth's Darcy. He IS Darcy to me. I no longer even remember what I thought Darcy looked like before Colin came along. My first reaction to MacFayden was "blah". I didn't think he was handsome enough or imposing enough. But I have to admit he grew on me and I was much happier with him by the end of the movie. Knightly as Elizabeth...Again I'd say fine. None of the versions I've seen have quite nailed Lizzy as I see her in my head. I didn't think Elizabeth Garvie (from the 1980 mini-series) was pretty enough. Not that she was unattractive at all, but she was more "cute" than "pretty" to my mind, and in the book Elizabeth is portrayed as being second only to her sister, Jane, as the prettiest girl in the county in the eyes of nearly everyone except the Bingley sisters. Jennifer Ehle (from the 1995 mini-series) came closer, but she was 25 or 26 when she played Lizzy and I thought she looked it. She seemed just a touch too matronly to me...too schoomarmish, to be the barely-out-of-her-teens Lizzy. Keira Knightley is exactly the right age and came pretty close in attitude to what I pictured, but physically she's a little too bone-thin and "modern looking" to be the Lizzy I see in my mind. She strides around in these big tomboyish steps, all long skinny arms and legs, and big toothy grins, and I think she looks like a 21st century woman who works out with a personal trainer, instead of like an early 19th century lady who wouldn't have done anything much more strenuous than walk in the countryside and dance at balls. Most of the time I could ignore it and get lost in the character, but now and then the way she'd move would suddenly scream "Keira" to me instead of Lizzy and I'd find it momentarily jarring. But overall I'd say I was happier with her than I thought I'd be when I first heard who was doing the part. (I just have to throw in here that if they redo "Little Women" for the big screen anytime in the next 4 or 5 years, I think Knightley would make a great Jo!) My only other minor quibble is that I thought they all got a little carried away with the sort of "grand romance" of it all a couple of times. I have no objections to Grand Romance. It just isn't very Austenish. When Darcy came striding through the misty moors with his shirt partially undone to find Elizabeth and tell her he still loved her, I half-expected to hear her call him "Heathcliffe". But as I said, minor quibble. All that aside, I DID like it and I'll want to buy it on DVD when it become available and watch it again, no doubt multiple times. I'd give it a B+.

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