Like The Queen
Whatever happens to strike my fancy, but surely some sort of fiber content.


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Saturday, November 12, 2005  

Oh - Perfect, E! That’s exactly the feeling I have - that if I am not going to get any mail today, I ought not to have to work! I’m still chuckling at that observation.

So. It is Saturday at last and for the first time in a month I have both weekend days at home - and since the Mb+$Sheryl has cleaned my house I need only do laundry, my favorite household task, and play with my toys. These toys include the N(ew)B(eginnings)P(roject) henceforward called the NBP sweater till she has a real name. I’m not yet finished with sleeve #1 but I’m getting mighty close. Then there’s HeyBaby who has a stash of merino/tencel AND the brown and mohair blend rovings waiting, with kind patience, for me to spin them up. There is Knitting in the Old Way that I want to read again and the book for our library book club, Quilter’s Apprentice, which will be discussed on Friday. I feel a little like it’s just before dawn on Christmas Day and I am 8 years old.

I am also going to canvas the stash yet again to see what I might be able to knit up for the young darlings for Christmas. I know, I know, I swear every year I shan’t get sucked into the KnitEverybodyAGift vortex, but alas, I have never resisted it yet. And I’m on a tight budget this year so I’m looking around for Gifts to Give Without Spending Money. There are some tiny little gems hidden deep in the recesses of my stash containers. It’s just a matter of rooting them out.

There are a number of things I might write about today, but there is only one thing that truly engages my mind - and that is my prejudices about my favorite book: Pride and Prejudice. More specifically, my prejudices about how it ought to be translated onto film. This is a book I’ve read more than 25 times. I always find satisfying pleasure in it and even still sometimes discover little reflections of human nature I had missed in previous readings. I have enjoyed, to a greater or lesser extent, the knockoffs, the film adaptations, the projected sequels of this jewel of a novel but I always come back to the original. After purchasing the video of the 1992 BBC mini series for the library I knew I had to own my own set. It showed up as a most welcome Christmas gift from S the following year and I watch it frequently, though judiciously. There is always the chance that, even with a beloved favorite like P&P, I might grow jaded or cavalier and so I try to space out my viewing pleasure to at least every so many months.

The BBC production is one of the most faithful adaptations of a novel I’ve ever seen and the casting, acting, stage settings, direction, and music is about as perfect a film production as could be made. Even that most difficult of characters, Mrs. Bennet, was pulled off with veracity and though I found it difficult to see with what joy Colin Firth’s face was diffused upon hearing the true sentiments of his Elizabeth, that is a small complaint to make when one can look at the rest of CF throughout the 6+ hours of film. The dialogue was so skillfully lifted from the novel it satisfied even so prickly a stickler for accuracy as TheLibrarianQueen. One line alone, was left on the cutting room floor - I am sure for the purpose of time - when, at the end of the drama, Mr. Bennet chortles with glee after Elizabeth tells him it was Mr. Darcy who funded Lydia’s restoration to propriety. “...I shall offer to pay him to-morrow; he will rant and storm about his love for you, and there will be an end of the matter.”

That line has always seemed the perfect reflection of Mr. Bennet’s character and I was sorry it had to be left out. But I am willing to let a single line go in return for hours of viewing accuracy.

But now there is a New Version of P&P and I am staggered by the casting! The thought of Donald Sutherland uttering the above quoted words in his slurry, gravely voice leaves me reeling. Donald Sutherland?!? The Dirty Dozen guy? Klute? as a complacent, procrastinating dilettante? A man who spends his time reading books and laughing at his neighbors? And that flat voiced, flat faced, fashion model cum soccer player, Keira Knightly as the witty Elizabeth? Yes yes, she’s very pretty. She’s just what you’d expect to see flashing across the pages of Vogue or InStyle magazine. She’s exactly the type to play a Hip Chick with Issues, but convincing me she is more than a modern, hard edged beauty, that she is a woman of wit, humor and a clever tongue, no matter who is writing the dialogue, will be a mighty, if not impossible, task.

It’s difficult for any film actor to convince me he’s doing more than playing to type. If I’m in the mood for that type, pleasure will be mine, no matter what the story line is. There are, perhaps, less than a dozen actors who have ever convinced me they are doing more than being the class clown, or class drama queen, or whatever - with the camera rolling. Think about it - have you ever seen Robin Williams be anything more than a 9 year old with ADHD? Alright. A 40 year old. Jodie Foster? Uptight, pinched-lipped “troubled” girl with Daddy Issues. How about Jack Nicolson? Greasy leering mad man. Sometimes that’s funny. Sometimes it’s scary. Never is it acting. It is acting out.

When I cast my mind back for film actors who really swept me off my feet, right away I can think of two - both men - both of whom really made me believe they were someone else. Neither was a flashy star. They were familiar faces, but not marquis lights types. There is Tom Conti in Saving Grace - where he plays a (the?) pope who has lost his faith - and escapes the Vatican to go out among his flock. There comes a moment in the film when Conti sighs and suddenly he is the pope - not a short Englishman pretending to be one. I am transported.

The other was Ralph Waite in 5 Easy Pieces. This movie was made in 1970, but I didn’t see it till ‘73 or ‘74, long after Mr. Waite had settled into television’s Papa Walton, with his unshaven cheeks and overhalls. The movie was almost over before I realized it was the same actor I watched every Thursday night! Wow. Every movement of his body was different - from his duck waddle walk to his delicate hand movements. That is acting and when you see it you know you have been in the presence of something great.

The other actors in this film are obscure enough for me to have no opinions and thus no prejudices, though I am probably going to go into the theater wrapped in a cloak of cynical skepticism. Mind now, I shall see it as soon as it’s in our local theater. I will even go to the City if I need to, since I do so love the story and besides - I really must see how such a long novel is compressed into 128 minutes. And I will love looking at the costumes, the settings, the stately homes. And I will, I believe, be willing to have my mind completely changed. I mean - this is the girl who bought an Ashford spinning wheel after firmly deciding that the Ashford was the one wheel she didn’t want. I don’t mind being wrong - in fact - if another really fine version of MyFavoriteNovel (OrAtLeastOneOfThem) is out there on the shelves, I will be delighted.

And happily, since I know there is already the Close Enough to Perfect edition of P&P and I own it, if this is a disappointment I can shrug my shoulders and be really snippy in my criticism. It’s always easy to be critical. You ought to hear me go on about The DaVinci Code or the Ya-Ya Sisters. It is that security blanket knowledge that Someone has already done a bang up super duper job of adapting P&P to film that gives me the confidence to go see what I suspect will be a Thoroughly Modern Version - a consumeristic Hollywood version with Real British Actors with Real British Accents, shot in Gen-U-Ine English Mansions. Were this the first, or only, effort I might skip it, like I skipped oh, say, the film, Schindler’s List. Thank you, but the text version was a perfect artistic experience for me and I don’t want it sullied by someone else’s visual concept.

So there you have it. That’s what I am thinking about today. How timely that the NYT movie reviewer covered this movie today. How interesting that I was just sharing my own BBC version with GD last night. How luxurious that I am home alone right now, with hot oatmeal and raisins waiting for me, and a NBP sleeve, and cassette 4 just asking to be popped into the machine.

Guess what I’m going to do right now!

posted by Bess | 9:29 AM