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Feb 11


Posted on Friday, February 11, 2011 in Classics, Historic, Reviews, TV series

I’ve always liked historic series/movies/books and whenever there’s something like that on tv, I want to watch it. Cranford was no exception. The series was on a few years ago, and after it ended I read that there would be a ‘Christmas special’. I was hoping we’d get to see that too, but the Christmas of 2009 came and went and there was nothing like that. Fortunately, I had more luck last Christmas (2010). At least I assume it was the ‘Christmas special’ we got to watch.

At first I thought the tv adaption was focusing a little too much on (unintentional?) humour. Despite that, I found it interesting though rather sad. Some of the characters were really likeable, others less so, but still interesting and/or funny and definitely real and believable. Undoubtedly this was partly due to the cast. I’d especially like to mention Judi Dench, Julia McKenzie and Imelda Staunton, but the others too, famous or not so famous, did a great job.

Cranford is a little town in mid-nineteenth century England. It struggles with the changes their country is going through, not convinced that all change is for the better. For instance, railways are considered a threat. In the end, though, the people of Cranford find that nothing can stand in the way of ‘progress’ and perhaps they were wrong to try. The town is populated by a number of memorable people. Especially the women are described in detail.

At the beginning of the series, two elderly sisters, Misses Deborah and Matty Jenkyns, invite a young woman, Mary Smith, daughter of a friend of theirs, to come and live with them. You get to see Cranford and its inhabitants through her eyes. I suspect she’s the author’s alter ego. (I understand that Cranford is based on a series of books by a woman named Elizabeth Gaskell. I haven’t read them, but I think I might like to.)

Looking back on the series, my strongest impression is that it’s mostly about women who have never married, are widowed or whose prospects of marriage are poor, either because of lack of money or connections. Another theme seems to be the position of women in nineteenth century Britain.

Oct 23

Pride and Prejudice

Posted on Thursday, October 23, 2008 in Classics, Historic, Movies, Reviews

I’ve already seen Pride and Prejudice, at least once in some version or other, but that doesn’t matter. I love Jane Austen’s books (most of them anyway), but now I’m talking about the movie. One version was a tv series, but like I mentioned before, in whatever form, I love them. I’m not sure about a comics version, but who knows? Some Japanese comics can be really good and so are the French/Belgian ones.

In any case, the actors (Donald Sutherland, Keira Knightley, Matthew MacFadyen) did a great job. The funny thing is, I’d already seen McFadyen in a tv series, and I didn’t like him there at all. In the movie, he was a lot better.

The plot can be summed up in a few words, even if there is much more underneath, so it’s not the basic plot that is so fantastic, it has to be the way it’s done. Jane Austen was brilliant in her deceptive simplicity.

You might want to consider how people lived in those days. For families in this social class (not nearly as wealthy as you might think) finding suitable husbands for their daughters was vital. At the same time, a woman’s life was sadly limited.

Jane Austen herself, who was a published writer, lived more or less on sufferance. When some domestic chore perceived as more important, was to be done, poor Jane had to pack up her writer’s stuff and move.

That reminds me of our own Selma Lagerlof. Once, right after she won the Nobel Prize in Literature, she was invited to some house in her home province. She assumed she was the guest of honor, because of winning that prize. When it was time to sit down at the table, she entered the room first. Her hostess was quick to reprimand her. “Wives first, Selma, dear.” Apparently, we hadn’t progressed any further in the hundred years or so that had had passed since Jane Austen’s time. Just a little food for thought.

One interesting detail about the movie is that there were two different endings shot. One for the America audience and the other for Europe.

In the American version there was something sentimental and the one we got to see here, in Europe, was quite fun. Watch the movie if you like historic chic lit. If not, don’t.

Oct 23

Bleak House

Posted on Thursday, October 23, 2008 in Historic, Reviews

This time I’d like to mention Bleak House, based on a Charles Dickens novel. Very nice series. Personally, I love historic series as much as cop series – some of them anyway. For those of you not familiar with the series, Gillian Anderson from the X files stars as Lady Dedlock. There are other famous (and excellent) actors, too, mainly British ones.

This is a sad story about three orphans with a mysterious past, a court case that has been dragging on for generations and unrequited love, to name a few ingredients. It might sound like an ordinary soap, and in a way, that might be what Dickens intended, but I think it’s much better done.

There’s a lot of misery and injustice, but I suppose that’s how Dickens’ time was. Another thing which might surprise modern viewers is the excessive affection between many of the girls in the series. Perhaps people were more demonstrative back then or Dickens simply didn’t know much about young women.

Another thing that might not always come across for modern viewers is the way Dickens humourously named some of the characters. Dedlock – deadlock, Flite – flight (for a woman who keeps a great number of birds). Nemo – an alias for a man with a secret past. The list goes on. Some names might simply have been chosen to sound absurd, others have a meaning behind them.

In any case, if you like historic series, you can’t miss this one. Of course, if you love the classics, even more reason to see Bleak House. Go on, you know you want to.

Sep 18


Posted on Thursday, September 18, 2008 in Historic, Movies, Reviews

On Christmas Day, 1960 Zac is born, as the fourth son in a family that eventually has five sons. Just when he’s been born, he dies, but the doctors manage to bring him back. Then one of the older brothers drops him to the floor. During the following twenty years, Zac almost dies twice more.

From an early age, Zac turns out to be different from his brothers. For instance, he has a white lock of hair. His religious mother soon has the impression that he can heal the sick. What he can do, without a doubt, is making his youngest brother stop crying and go to sleep quietly.

Zac has trouble getting along with at least one of his older brothers, but other than that, everyone loves him. He loves his parents, but soon he realizes he has character traits which make his father regard him with doubts and concern. Is Zac not a ‘real’ man? Even before Zac is grown up, he has to struggle with his personality. He doesn’t want his father to stop loving him.

Before long, Zac finds out that he isn’t like others. He’s attracted to other boys, for instance his cousin’s sexy boyfriend. The two of them smoke marijuana together in a rather intimate way.

In the end, Zac can’t hide his true preferences anymore, and there’s an explosive confrontation with his father, who tells Zac to get lost. Zac leaves the country (Canada) and goes to Israel to complete the pilgrimage his mother has always dreamed of making.

At the same time, the family is hit by a disaster, right when Zac has almost managed to make friends with his older brother.

In this movie, you get to see twenty years of youth subculture. There’s a lot of music and the fashion of the 1970’s. Something I really appreciated was that the movie was in French.

I really liked this movie, even though it was quite sad. Despite that, there’s a bit of hope at the end. If you’re interested in modern history and music, you might like this movie.


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