16 March 2011

Jane Eyre, costume dramas and Romans

While I wait impatiently for the new Jane Eyre adaptation to make an appearance in Iowa (I've been stalking the Focus Features website for updated listings - as it currently stands I'll have to drive 100+ miles on April 8 to get to the nearest screen), the Blu-ray player and Netflix Instant are getting a workout (costume dramas are my favorite).  In-between re-watching the 2006 Jane Eyre and You've Got Mail I recently saw:

Jane Eyre: The 1943 adaptation with Joan Fontaine and Orson Welles.  I haven't seen this in years so I was pleased to see it pop up on the Instant offerings considering I was salivating over a new adaptation.  I'd forgotten Elizabeth Taylor makes an appearance as Helen Burns and Agnes Moorhead (aahhh! Endora!) is Mrs. Reed.  Novel-butchering aside, Joan Fontaine is quite good as Jane Eyre but Orson Welles as always bothered me as Rochester.  It's like he's not "English" enough, if you get what I mean.  There's a bit too much swagger and not enough "toff" in his accent.

The Crown Prince: 2006 Austrian mini-series about Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria and the utter mess his life turned into.  Surprisingly, this is shot in English, not German and dubbed in English as I had expected, with a European cast (Klaus Maria Brandauer is Emperor Franz-Joseph and it suits him well).  I have a thing for the history of European royal families and the Hapsburgs are a particularly interesting set.  This was a very good mini-series, well worth watching, with great location shots (I've been to Schonbrunn), fantastic costumes, and good acting.  Rather than rely on the possibility of mental instability being inherent to Rudolf's character, the film builds on Rudolph's frustration as being balked at every opportunity and his subsequent descent into drug use and illness.

A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy:  Woody Allen and Shakespeare.  Good combo or bad combo?  I'm leaning toward "meh" combo.  It's got funny lines and neurotic characters but I just wasn't that interested in the movie.  Woody Allen might have made the fantastic Annie Hall but all his movies seem to have similar scripts and jokes.

The Young Victoria: I had wanted to watch this in the theatre last year but it only made an appearance the weekend I was out of town (you got it, one weekend).  So I had to wait until the DVD came out and then it was so far down the Netflix queue that I was able to watch it on Instant (Starz play, or something like that).  I really like this movie - good cinematography, good casting, great costumes (although I do think I saw at least one zipper on the back of a dress).  Emily Blunt is wonderful and Rupert Friend (who I didn't like much as Wickham in Pride and Prejudice) does a very good job bringing Victoria's "plus one" to life.  Loved Jim Broadbent and Harriet Walter as King William IV and Queen Adelaide.  I would have given this five stars in my Netflix review except for the very glaring historical error about Albert getting shot while protecting Victoria from an assassin; he was never shot and if you're going for serious historical accuracy it's hard to ignore.  So it got a four.  But I think I might buy this one anyway, I liked the rest of it that much.

Bright Star: I was pretty irritated that this never came near Iowa last year.  I love Keats's poetry and I really wanted to see what Jane Campion would do with the love story between Keats and Fanny Brawne (cut short by Keats dying of tuberculosis at the age of 25; he thought he was a failure as a poet...little did he know).  This is a pretty movie, very vivid with all the colors of Fanny's dresses and bonnets and the outdoor shots of what is supposed to be the Hampstead Heath in London.  I found it interesting that there wasn't much of an orchestral score - something I expect in a "romantic" movie - and what music there is are pieces from the time period.  I thought Ben Wishaw was good as Keats but I wasn't entirely sold on Abbie Cornish as Fanny; she didn't do a bad job but I wasn't all that impressed either.  The movie did drag somewhat in the middle but I didn't lose interest. 

Centurion:  Let me introduce you to my favorite new hottie-pants, Michael Fassbender.  He has gorgeous eyes (Irish and German ancestry *melts*).  He can kick some serious butt, as evidenced by this movie and his role as Stelios in 300 (which I found to be a distracting movie because of Gerard Butler and not in a good way).  He is the new Magneto in the X-Men reboot and Carl Jung to Viggo Mortensen's Freud in A Dangerous Method, the Excalibur remake, and in the adaptation of At Swim-Two-Birds, a Flann O'Brien novel I've had in the TBR for a long while).  I have Hunger at home in the Blu-ray...where was I?  Oh, yeah, Centurion.  It's pretty good, particularly if you like bloody hand-to-hand combat and Olga Kurylenko as a blood-lust crazed Pict.  Not too much in the way of plot, but good for an evening's entertainment of drooling over watching Fassbender while I wait to see his Rochester.


  1. I liked The Young Victoria and Bright Star too. I'm dying to see the new Jane Eyre, but it's not out in Indiana yet either.

  2. I, too, am DYING for this to come to town, but the closest place it's playing is Chicago. Thanks for the link to Focus Features! I'm now going to obsessively check their website for updates! ;)

    I love, love, love both the Young Victoria and Bright Star. I've actually liked Young Victoria more with each watching, so I'm just waiting for a good price so I can have it for my very own!

    If you're looking for more quality costume drama, you should definitely indulge in some North and South (the one with Richard Armitage, not Patrick Swayze).

  3. @Avid Reader - the Focus Features sites has a listing for INdy (not sure where you are in IN)

    @Read the Book - you're welcome! And I have N&S miniseries on DVD just so I can drool over Richard Armitage :)