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Archive for February, 2009

The 1991 TV production of George Eliot’s Adam Bede,  a tale set in the late 18th century, is one of many costume dramas only available on region 1 DVDs.  Fortunately for me, though, it was shown over here in the UK on satellite TV station TCM, so I was able to record it from there rather than forking out for it on import.

adambede11The film has a fine cast, headed by Iain Glen in the title role as Adam and Patsy Kensit as Hetty Sorrel. Glen was  then young and handsome with a lot of wavy hair, and would surely look almost unrecognisable to anyone who only knows him from his recent starring role in a very different costume drama, Channel 4’s City of Vice. Kensit, a well-known film and TV actress in Britain,  had long dark hair rather than her familiar blonde locks, and to me looked somehow a little as I imagine Hardy’s Tess, especially in a glimpse of her eating strawberries seductively. (more…)

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One costume drama due to be released this year which I hadn’t heard much about up to now is Bright Star, focusing on the relationship between poet John Keats and Fanny Brawne. This movie is written and directed by Jane Campion, the acclaimed New Zealand director whose previous films include The Piano and The Portrait of a Lady. Ben Whishaw plays Keats, with Abbie Cornish as Fanny and Thomas Sangster, who played the little boy in Love Actually, as Samuel Brawne.

I’ve seen brief mentions in news reports that it’s expected this film will be shown at Cannes this year and possibly released in the UK around June, although there is no firm date as yet. Now I’ve just noticed that there is an official production scrapbook site, which features Jane Campion’s own photographs and brief handwritten notes from her production diary, as well as a video of her giving an acting workshop to children trying out for the part of Toots, which eventually went to Edie Martin. I especially like the love letters and Valentines reproduced on this site.

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I’ve been thinking maybe I should add a few shorter postings on this blog about costume dramas which I saw a while ago – just getting down a few impressions before they fade too much in my memory. These won’t be full-length reviews, and I may still return to write longer pieces on the productions in question if I watch them again in the future.

One massively long series (I can hardly call it a mini-series) which I re-watched a year or so before starting this blog was the BBC production of War and Peace, starring Anthony Hopkins as Pierre. This was one of the first costume dramas I ever saw, aged  12 when it was first shown, and it made a deep impression on me at the time – I remember being absolutely mesmerised by it and obsessed with the character of Natasha, although Hopkins as Pierre was the performance which stuck in my mind, maybe because he went on to become so famous later.

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I first became interested in Hardy when I had to study Far from the Madding Crowd for O-level back in the 1970s. It’s a book  I’ve reread many times over the years since then (and studied for other exams), and I still love it . His world view here is sunnier than in late masterpieces like Tess of the d’Urbervilles or Jude the Obscure, but starting to darken, and the title, quoted from Gray’s Elegy in a Country Churchyard, is definitely ironic. The madding crowd is never very far away from woman farmer Bathsheba Everdene and the three men who court her.

Although the 1967  John Schlesinger movie starring Julie Christie, Terence Stamp and Alan Bates is the most famous adaptation of this novel (I have now reviewed that version too), I think the 1998 ITV mini-series is also a  fine production, and it sticks much more closely to the book. It was directed by Nicholas Renton, who also made the excellent BBC mini-series of Elizabeth Gaskell’s Wives and Daughters a year later, and, like that production, has a rich, multi-layered feeling to it, with achingly beautiful landscapes and at times an underlying flavour of melancholy.  It’s interesting to see how similar the sleeve of the  British DVD of this production is to the sleeve of the Schlesinger version!

The sleeve of the British DVD of the ITV production

The sleeve of the DVD of the Schlesinger movie

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Passing on another link – this time to the BBC’s press release about a new drama series coming up this year on BBC2, Desperate Romantics, which traces the lives and loves of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. I’ve seen a couple of good exhibitions of Pre-Raphaelite paintings in the last couple of years and will look forward to the series.  Sounds like a good cast, including Rafe Spall and Tom Hollander.

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Thought I’d pass on a link to a long article about forthcoming movie The Young Victoria, starring Emily Blunt and Rupert Friend, in The Daily Telegraph. I’ve got to say that my hopes for this film are getting higher all the time – I can’t wait to see it!

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