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Archive for the ‘Book Adaptation’ Category

Recommended: ☆☆☆☆

Run Time: 190 minutes, Genre:  Period Drama

This film is shot mostly in France because big time director, Roman Polanski, fled to France when he was charged for raping a 13 year-old girl in 1978. To add insult to injury, the first movie he directed as a fugitive was ‘Tess’, the story of a young girl seduced by an older man. Polanski cast 17 year-old Nastassja Kinski (one of his collection of Lolitas) to play Tess Durberfield. They met when she was 15-years old and he started a relationship with her. How ironic or sad that the actress is also being taken advantage of — just like her character! He tells everyone the movie is dedicated to his dead wife Sharon Tate, who was murdered in 1969 by the Manson Clan. Aww.

Tess 1979 Alec d'Urberville

Leigh Lawson’s performance as Alec d’Urbervilles is right-on. He’s the creep I’ve imagined when I read Hardy’s novel, complete with Victorian mustache and fancy suits. Hardy never reveals the specific details that would enable us to decide for ourselves whether Tess is a willing participant or a victim of rape. This version doesn’t make Tess an out-right victim because she stays to live with Alec for a little while as his mistress. Tess realizes she feels no love for him and decides to flee from the d’Urberville mansion. The death of Prince is completely left out, which is what made Tess agree with her parents’ plan that she claim kin. Her guilt over the loss of the family horse is crucial foreshadowing in the plot! The part when con artist Alec becomes a preacher is left out as well. Kinski is exotic looking and supermodel gorgeous–no wonder Polanski couldn’t keep his hands off her! Her portrayal of Tess is a shy and gentle creature, never raising her voice and never complaining. Some of her lines are spoken so softly you have to hit the volume button just to make sure you can hear her dialogue! She has very little dialogue for a film that runs three hours. But she is lovely to watch; she has a way of showing her pain and emotions being restrained. Compared to the other versions, this Tess is the best dressed. 

Peter Firth as Angel Clare is a bit disappointing for me, though his performance is a strong one. He just didn’t come off as charming as the character in the book. I think Oliver Milburne (1998 version) is much more attractive as Angel! 🙂 

The film’s cinematography is pure art! Pretty much each frame in the movie oozes sadness and beauty and is set up so naturally mesmerizing, without using any fancy tricks. The details are astonishing: the lush costumes, the sprawling countryside, fox hunt emerging from the mist, the languid dripping of milk, and even the elf-like man appearing on the road–all came gloriously to life as if leaping off the pages of the book.

As beautiful as this movie is, mundane scenes seem to drag on, while some major scenes move too quickly. I think it is weird how quiet it is throughout the film when they have this amazing music score. If you haven’t read the novel, the movie may be a bit confusing and awkward because it jumps ahead in time without much explanation. I personally love this adaptation.

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Recommended: ☆☆☆☆☆

Running time: 127 min, Genre: Period Romance

This is by far the handsomest Pride & Prejudice adaptation! Yes it is definitely not as detailed as the wonderful 1995 mini-series, and strays a bit from the text. But I don’t care, I enjoyed it immensely. The feel of this film is more youthful and less polite than the previous versions. It successfully captures the characters, their transformations, their strengths, their vulnerabilities and their passions. The whole cast is great; Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen are perfect as Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. I think Keira sparkles as Elizabeth because her portrayal is young, confident, vocal, playful and vivacious. And I love it when she giggles. She is too stunningly beautiful to be the girl dismissed by Darcy as ‘only tolerable.’ I’m a big fan of Jennifer Ehle’s graceful (ahem…mature) portrayal of Elizabeth in the 1995 version; however, Keira’s portrayal is less polished but equally charming.

I really liked how they introduced Mr. Bingley at the Meryton ball, when Darcy, Bingley and Caroline walk in, everything stops. The music, the dancing, all conversation and the crowd parts to offer them a path as if Mr. Bingley is royalty.

Elizabeth Bennet: “So which of the painted peacocks is our Mr Bingley?”
Charlotte Lucas: He is on the right, and on the left is his sister.
Elizabeth Bennet: “And the person with the quizzical brow?”
Charlotte Lucas: “That is his good friend Mr. Darcy.”
Elizabeth Bennet: “He looks miserabIe, poor soul.”
Charlotte Lucas: “MiserabIe he may be, but poor he most certainly is not.”

First of all, I just want to say that Colin Firth’s portrayal of Mr. Darcy (1995 mini-series) never did stir anything for me. I know Mr. Darcy is proud and snobby, but Colin Firth’s too mean looking, overly disgruntled, and encased rigidly in a shell so impenetrable that even when he’s trying to woe Elizabeth, he lacked emotions! He’s just (sorry), “not handsome enough to tempt me.”  Macfadyen’s Darcy is more accessible; he is proud, standoffish, conflicted, honorable, but also shows vulnerability and almost desperation as his love for her grows. There’s no need for him to speak loudly or rudely (Colin Firth), Macfadyen does it ever so subtly – just a twitch of his lips, a blink of his eyes. I thought his portrayal was very true to the book because it’s his silence and awkwardness what makes him come off as conceited and egotistical. In reality, Darcy is just uncomfortable around new people; he tells Lizzy: “I, do not have the talent of conversing easily with people I have never met before.”  

Macfadyen’s voice is way too beautiful, but what give me the goosebumps are his blue eyes. They are incredibly expressive, especially when he steals glances at Elizabeth. Though he doesn’t say much his eyes tell it all! 🙂 The proposal in the rain scene is so gorgeous; it’s the perfect spot for a girl to be proposed to (take notes guys)! Their attraction is undeniable! I wanted them to stop fighting and kiss already!The dancing scene between Lizzie and Mr. Darcy is a personal favorite – the two are so absorbed with each other that rest of the dancing crowd fades out. That kind of “magic” has happened to me (several times with the same guy), my dears! 🙂 Sighhhh…

Mr. Collins (Tom Hollander) and Mr. Bingley (Simon Woods) certainly provided much comic relief in this film and both of them are a bit goofy in the book also. Bingley is charmingly nervous, adorably shy and sweet-tempered. I think Jane was perfectly portrayed by Rosamund Pike. She’s beautiful, modest, and sweet. I love how Miss Caroline Bingley (Kelly Reilly) is always in the latest fashion and with perfectly styled hair compared to the rest of the country folks.

I think the film is so superbly filmed it makes other movies pale in comparison. I had such a difficult time selecting clips for this post because I love the entire movie–from the gigantic chandelier, rural English countryside, the grandeur of the estates, to the soft and misty scenery. The cinematography is ridiculously good and the costumes are pretty. 

And just when you think it couldn’t get any better! OH!!! The ending is quite satisfying (I couldn’t breath!!) 🙂 You have to watch it!

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Recommended: ☆☆☆☆    

Running time: 105 min, Genre: Gothic film

Some people say this is a horrible movie and some people say this is an excellent movie. For me, the more I watched it, the more I liked it. This Wuthering Heights film is what I consider the ‘classic’ version (to me the melodrama 1939 version doesn’t count but is impressive for it’s time.) It is a fantastic adaptation and is possibly my favorite because I love the atmosphere and feel of this version most. But it’s not perfect, there’s a lot of things I would change.  This film begins with an interesting cameo of Sinead O’Connor as Emily Bronte, who narrates the story to the audiences, very cool. (Maybe she should have played Catherine instead, she looks pretty with hair! 🙂 )

Juliette Binoche’s performance as Catherine is lovely and she has natural beauty (I think she looks a lot like Julia Roberts). Her portrayal of Cathy is playful and vivacious. However they seem to left out her bad display of temper, being a haughty spoiled brat that she is in the text. She looks too mature for the part, all that giggling did not help her look any younger! Suffice, she gave us some great scenes. I love when Cathy finally tells of her love of Heathcliff, her facial expression as she says it breaks your heart. The scene before her death when she hallucinates at the window looking at Wuthering Heights, is very nicely done. She is believable as her own daughter, though her playing double role is a bad move. Cathy Jr isn’t suppose to look anything like her mother!

Ralph Fiennes is a very fine actor and is adept at playing brooding characters with a lot of pent up passion brewing under the surface. The part where Heathcliff breaks into the chapel and holds her body was unforgetable. His performance makes you see the hurt without him saying a word, but something just isn’t right. He’s got that leering vampire look happening. Oh how I hated that long, greasy, black wig on his head! Come to think of it, everyone has bad hair in this film. I think he looks a bit stiff in some of the scenes, that even his speech and mannerisms are with an unnatural restraint (honestly he bores me sometimes.) I imagined Heathcliff a lot tougher, angrier, and too emotionally immature to keep his fury under wrap. I think his coldness played out better in his latter years. Like Binoche, he is simply too mature. Though I prefer Tom Hardy’s portrayal better, this Heathcliff (working with the script given) is unsympathetic and more violent, which is closer to the book in that sense. There are scenes of him smacking Cathy Jr around. Heathcliff is a woman beater; he savagely beats his wife Isabella and his son Linton.

Majority of the supporting cast was supperb, especially Janet McTeer as Ellen Dean. Jason Riddington as Hareton didn’t look right, I think he belongs on the set of Tarzan instead. The film feels a bit rushed. Much of their childhood and sibling rivalry are glossed over. I wanted to see more early toxic family life and was rather disappointed that the character Hindley is given so little attention. Like the other versions, the love between the two main characters is established rather briefly. 

I love the atmosphere and gothic ‘feel’ of this movie most. They definitely had the budget to create that old, other-wordly, ethereal, elaborate backdrop. The costumes are beautiful and accurate. The cinematography, music, and scenery are stunning, lush, and haunting. The Heights looks fucking awesome, inside and out! I never imagined it looking like a ‘mini Gothic castle’ but I loved it. The Grange is far too fancy but the interior is what I had imagined it to be, with crimson walls and laced with gold and crystals.

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Recommended: ☆☆☆☆

Running time: 142 min (2 episodes)  Genre: Gothic FilmThis is a personal favorite and will be the one I will watch again and again, over a period of time. This version is something very different from the others; it refuses to be a slave to your Penguin Classic, taking huge liberties with the novel bringing literal events to where once these events were vaguely implied at best, though I didn’t think this was particularly problematic while the innate nature of the novel is still intact. I won’t be pointing out every changes here, I am not some possessive Bronte nerd. Lets put it this way, this is not your grandma’s Wuthering Heights!

This movie keeps your full attention. It begins on a dark, bleak night with throbbing rhythm of guitar music, the camera swung low at ground level creeping along a dirt path, crawling into the house like an animal and up the stairs. Old Heathcliff is laying in Catherine’s bed, half-dreaming, with her ghost haunting him at the window. Then it  jumps to the moment when Linton is delivered by the dying Edgar Linton to Heathcliff at the Heights. While the beginning was done out of sequence, I knew right off the bat what they were doing. But I rather they kept Lockwood as an outsider to witness and unfold the mystery of this remote household of angry, unhappy people. Suffice, the state of this household is enough to grab hold of you and make you want to know more. How on earth can these people be so wretched? Without Lockwood, Nelly Dean (Sarah Lancashire) plays a very minimal role here. This is not a bad thing since she kinda sucks!

The bulk of this movie focuses on Heathcliff and Catherine, played by Tom Hardy and Charlotte Riley. This pair has great chemistry with some authentic accents. Much of the success of this film is spectacularly with Tom Hardy as Heathcliff. Tom portrays Heathcliff in a way that no other actor has been able to capture. He manages to be dangerous, menacing, vulnerable, passionate, and intelligent, making the part very much his own (he’s gorgeous to boot.)  Tom’s interpretation is spot on and is exactly what I like to see. He plays his tranformation from stable boy-weathy gentlemen-madman with ease. Charlotte Riley is from northern England and has a Yorkshire accent. I do like her portayal of a natural tomboyish Catherine, though no actress has completely nailed this role for me. And call me picky if you must, I think she looks too plain for the part. She conveys little emotions and the iconic “I am Heathcliff” scene was a let down (I prefer Juliet Binoche in this scene better.) 

It’s too bad they remove much of the violence from the book to make the two main characters more likeable. In this day and age who wouldn’t be upset to see Heathcliff hangs a pet dog or beats his wife and kid? What makes us more sympathetic towards Heathcliff is how they show Hindley, the rotten brother, destroyed himself and the people around him. He is a major douchebag in this film and was brilliantly played by Burn Gorman. There is an actual shirt off, hit-with-the-lash floggy scene. I think the “love scene” with Heathcliff and Isabella (Rosalind Halstead) is incredibly well done. He’s so gentle with her when they made love for the first time, then when she tries to kiss him but he coldly tells her, “Don’t look at me.” Whoa! It is so obvious that he is making love to Cathy in his mind!

The music in this version is absolutely beautiful and is very unique, with mostly guitars, drums, and flutes. The final scene when the haunted Heathcliff is walking with a peaceful countenance is very touching and bittersweet–one of my favorite scenes. 

The rest of the cast didn’t excite me and I didn’t particularly care for. The setting and asthetics of this film isn’t my favorite, which is probably a budget issue. The dresses are plain looking and seems all wrong! Why is first generation wearing empire style dresses while the second generation wearing 1770’s gowns? We all know Catherine is already dead before 1801 when Lockwood arrives but her tomb says 1805-1830! Why change this? The Heights in this version looks fine, with its deep narrow windows, stone walls, and ornate carvings, but the Grange is not what I’d imagined. The Grange is described in the text as:

“…beautiful– a splendid place, carpeted in crimson, with crimson chairs and tables, and a pure white ceiling bordered by gold, a shower of glass-drops hanging in silver chains in the centre, and shimmering with little soft tapers.” 

I think the Grange in this version is too pale and airy or stale looking, though contrasting The Heights greatly. Overall, this is a fabulous movie! I’ve seen it many, many, many times already! 🙂

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Rating: ☆☆☆1/2

Running time: 114 mins, Genre: Gothic Film

Yes, the age discrepancy irks me big time. Heathcliff (Robert Cavanah) and Catherine (Orla Brady) look a bit silly prancing around the moors like children when they look like 40 year olds! Suffice, their performance is pretty good and there is good chemistry between the two. This Heathcliff isn’t handsome and seems wimpy in size, but he has good stage presence and is emotionally charged. He plays with a fair balance of angst and aggression, though his tranformation from farm boy-to gentlemen-to madman was almost non-existence. I find Ralph Fiennes’s Heathcliff much more mysterious and vulnerable. Oyla Brady has unsual beauty and looks good for her age. She plays a strong and impudent Catherine, but she seems to lack the spirit of the charater; she’s suppose to be more immature, vivacious, and spoiled. And Nelly (Polly Heminway), who suppose to be Hindley’s age, is too old for the part, though I do like her.
Now that the age issue out of the way, the rest of the cast is brilliant and young Catherine is adorable. Overall I think this television adaptation is excellent and follows closely to the novel, even giving us dialogue straight from the text. Yay! The aesthetics of this film is beautiful; I love the costumes & dresses, cinematography, Yorkshire accents, and gothic feel. This film comes very close to what I’d like to see. It begins in normal fashion: Lockwood arriving at the Heights in bad weather and briefly has an altercation with the dogs, stays the night, and sees Catherine’s ghost. The haunting of Catherine throughout the film was rendered nicely, given it’s budget. I especially like the grave scenes. Yes gross, but heartbreaking and that’s one scary-ass corpse.

My favorite part of this film is the love story of the younger generation, which was portrayed very well by Sarah Smart (Cathy Jr) and Matthew Macfadyen (Hareton). My favorite Hareton and Cathy Jr. ever. I love Macfadyen’s portrayal of Hareton – his gentle expressions, deep voice, and careful speech – he didn’t come off dumb at all.  Sarah Smart looks and breathes the part:

 “slender, and apparently scarely past girlhood: an admirable form, and the most exquisite little face that I have ever had the pleasure of beholding: small features, very fair, flaxen ringlets, or rather golden, hanging loose on her delicate neck…”

Most of the great scenes in the book are done well and even a few details from the book that were added that isn’t in the other versions, such as Heathcliff tying up Isabelle’s dog and a rough “love scene” between Heathcliff and Isabella, where he semi-raped her! Poor naive Isabella. What I’d like to see more of is the sibling riveries between Hindley and Heathcliff; Hindley just didn’t seem all that menacing here. In this version, I love the setting at the Grange, it is warm, posh, and practically laced with gold but the Heights is a bit shabby and actually looks like a farmhouse. It lacks the cool architectural features from the text:

“…narrow windows are deeply set in the wall, and the corners defended with large jutting stones…grotesque carving lavished over the front, and especially about the principal door; above which, among a wilderness of crumbling griffins and shameless little boys.”

Oh wuthever, no big deal. The final scene here is much more impressive than other versions, with Heathcliff lying dead and looking at Cathy’s portrait.

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