Sunday, January 13

First Austen film tonight at 9 on PBS

Hey guys, this is just a quick reminder, if you care, that the first of the Austen adaptations airs tonight on PBS at 9. I *think* PBS shows start at the same time regardless of what time zone you're in, but maybe you should check your proverbial local listings.

At 8 is a kick-ass episode of Nature. I'm not sure what it's about, but that show always has, like, lions just totally destroying some prey animal's shit.


Whenever I watch Masterpiece Theater, I always imagine that I've just walked into the study of my friend Diana Rigg (before that Alistair Cooke RIP dawg) and she's happy to see me because she has the most delightful film to show me. We watch the movie together, laughing at each other's clever bon mots and drinking hot tea with "biscuits" (cookies) and also I imagine that she doesn't think I'm a failure.

(I think this is actually a pretty common daydream for Masterpiece Theater's audience.)

So since this is the first night of their Austen marathon, I thought it would be fun to do this up wicked-style. Peep what I did:

I still had some New Year's money left over, so I called an modelling agency and had them send some headshots over. I found a lady who looked like a proper matriarch, so I hired her to come over and watch Persuasion with me.

Then I drew up a script of responses that she could follow (in a British accent, of course). The script is pretty long, but here are a few excerpts:

-"Oh, I say! How deliciously droll!"

-"Devishly clever, that."

-"Fancy another spot of tea? Six cubes, just as you like it."

-(after a character has bent over and I have made a farting noise with my mouth) "Playing for the Groundlings, are we?" (but also laughing)

-"Heavens, no, I do not think you a 'failuire!' Where ever did you get that idea? [listens] Well, they cannot be such good friends if they would say such things to you!"

-"Shh...there, there. Let it all out."

But then I started thinking about it and I realized that, you know, if I'm going to be paying some lady to come over and pretend to be Diana Rigg, it seemed sort of a waste to hire an old one instead of an Avengers one, all wearing a black catsuit right there on my couch.

The first agency refused to do it, and I lost my deposit, so I had to call another one this guy in my cab recommended. I got it all worked out and now this chick is coming over tonight. It's sort of a bummer, actually...turns out a young Diana Rigg is way more expensive.


Johnny said...
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Johnny said...

Whoops...don't worry, you guys, that comment wasn't anything shocking. I just fucked up the formatting and had to delete it.

Anyway, I didn't want to clutter up the site with ANOTHER Austen post, so instead of putting my random thoughts about the Persuasion movie on the front page, I thought I'd post them in here. So:

•Anne, as written, is no Austen hero in the Elizabeth Bennett mode. If anything, she's a little bland. The actress in the movie, Sally Hawkins (great Austen name!) plays Anne as a bit too timid and weepy. Actually, in a lot of the scenes she comes across as a little shell-shocked, all open-mouthed and gasping.
This has an interesting side-effect: in the book, Anne is a hidden treasure, forever ignored and overshadowed by her boorish family. But Hawkins' portrayal in a way almost justifies her family's treatment of her. I'd ignore her, too.

•The movie also starred Alice Krige, the Borg Queen from Star Trek: First Contact. Typecasting strikes again!

•Anthony Stewart Head (Giles from Buffy) was FANTASTIC as an aging fop, striking just the perfect blend of disdain and fawning. One question, though: why did the director make him wear a super-realistic fat suit? Oh, wait.

•Oh my god, all of a sudden they show a huge-ass Masterpiece Theater logo at the corner of the screen every half hour. It takes up like a tenth of the screen, too, with the name of the movie AND a bunch of distracting falling rose petals.
This takes away from one of my favorite Sunday night experiences: flipping the channel and trying to figure out what the hell PBS is showing.

•As I mentioned before, the title Persuasion was a posthumous choice by Austen's sister. The most annoying part of the movie by far was how they tried to justify it by ominously working the word 'persuasion' into every important line. "I shall never again give in to undue...persuasion, Captain Wentworth"; "Admiral Croft, could you be...persuaded to pass the peas?"

•Interestingly, even though the plot of the book is exceedingly simple, the movie seems really crowded. The screenwriter didn't attempt to streamline the book, and the end result is pretty cluttered. I have no idea what the movie would have been like if you hadn't read the book...I guess, like those terrible Harry Potter movies, this was more of a visual reference for the book than a stand-alone film.

•This is weird, but for a BBC adaptation, half the accents seemed totally fake! Especially the guy who played William Elliot (he was also Brutus on HBO's Rome), who sounded like a junior at North Texas playing Laertes.

•The movie had a few Merchant-Ivory moments, most notably lots of scenes of Anne passionately running after someone in slow motion. Actually, there was a great (unintentionally?) comic scene at the end where Anne, having run across Bath in passionate slow-mo to find Captain Wentworth, finds out that he's run after HER, so she has to run BACK across town.

•Also, there are some awkward artsy touches, as well. There are a few scenes of Anne writing in her diary, then slowly looking up into the camera with a haunted look on her face. I understood what they were trying to do, but it came off looking like a commercial for a human rights group.

•I guess I sound overly harsh...I *did* enjoy the movie, I swear. They did a good job of cleaning up the finale and giving it some (small) measure of drama.
Basically, the problems with the film are the problems with the book itself: an exceedingly simple plot buoyed by an inert protagonist. However, I think the movie did a fine job of staying faithful to the spirit of the book, even if it meant a lesser film. It accomplished the one thing all adaptations should strive for: it made me appreciate the book more than I did before I watched it.

BUT WAIT BUT WAIT BUT WAIT...I told you all that to tell you this:

At the very beginning of the show, the ultra-tasteful credits for Masterpiece Theater ran, followed by Gillian Anderson's wooden intro ("What does it mean to be...persuaded?") and then they cut to the corporate sponsors of the show before the movie starts.

The last one was for a local company, River Parish Disposal. In the past I've found their motto--"Our Business Stinks, But It's Picking Up"--to be suitably clever. But this commercial...ho boy.

Imagine a total 1994 computer animated cartoon where a garbage truck pulls up to a dumpster, then MORPHS into a giant alligator. The alligator picks up the dumpster in its jaws and dumps the trash into its mouth. Then, the gator looks into the camera and loudly burps, expelling gassy fumes! The River Parish Disposal logo comes on to the screen and then: boom, straight into Persuasion.

It was seriously the greatest thing about this reading project so far.

Johnny said...
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Johnny said...
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Johnny said...
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Johnny said...

(Okay, I'm just doing it because it looks so mysterious.)