misssylviadrake (misssylviadrake) wrote,
misssylviadrake
misssylviadrake

The Elusiveness of Movies; Austen filmography by type

Dear friends,

The days go by and I don't start writing the text of my book. I just can't seem to get into my head all at once what I need to to write. There is just so much in each movie. Right now I've read through all my old blogs on S&S, and am slowing making my way through my outlines of the five movies and notes on top of the outlines. I've read through two sets and have three to go. 

On top of this I find that continually something I think is true about a movie is not. I decided that I would watch the 5 movies once again, back to back so to speak, one hour of one against the same one hour of the other, and so on through all five.  I would have sworn the pace of the 5 movies of S&S was so different, and to be sure many of the incidents and nuances and feel of the 5 are different and this is testified to by my careful notes where I write down what i literally see and hear, plus my sten transcriptions of the screenplays and capturing of stills.  Now though careful watching and timing (ignoring the artificial divisions set up by TV program slots), and I discovered that one hour in on all 5 (whether a faithful, commentary or free type adaption) and I was at the same climax of the story considered as romance: Marianne has become deeply smitten love with Willoughby, Brandon is heart-broken, and we are just before or just after he has abandoned her. Now this is not Austen's climax at all; while it's a powerful incident in the middle of volume 1 of Austen's S&S, the climax of volume 1 is Elinor being told by Lucy that Lucy and Edward have been engaged for 4 years.  I assume they must diverge now but who knows? Perhaps a watching back-to-back of the second hour of all 5 in a row will show me that they all 5 are at a second high point in some archetypal romance drawn from Austen's novel.

Again and again in my study of movies I have found that my first impression of what I saw is wrong or wholly inadequate to what was put in front of me.  I've reread all my blogs on S&S and my original proposal and the paper I attempted to write for the 19th century editor (what started me on this project in the first place) and sometimes I think I have parts of my book all done: they need finding, rearranging and rewriting and expanding.   Now though I realize that what each is is on an isolated aspect of the movie I was able to observe, and may in its emphasis mislead the reader about what the experience of the movie taken as a whole or gone along temporally is like.  How can one get hold of a moving target so filled with different elements all at once.

I did make a www.jimandellen.org/austen/Filmography.htmlfirst filmography and put it on my website:  all the Austen movies available on DVD or videocassette organized by type. In a couple of days I'll put up a second filmography of them organized according to their eponymous book or major source.

In the meantime I do silly but cheering things. After l cleaned out, paid someone to rebuild the porch and paint the floors and walls and turn it into a room one can sit in at night (I felt profoundly ashamed of its state as a rotting filthy shed for years), I've fixed the pictures on my walls of my study so they are now more things I love today.  

I've put Jim's picture from his office (felucas framed in a lovely soft blue) in the front room which is turning (one-third of it) into his work and play room.  In my own I've taken down all Pre-Raphaelite pictures which I've come to see as unhealthy, and put up lovely impressionist pictures of snow (by Pissarro and Monet), landscapes by favorite women painters, 18th century rococo pictures, Constable, Gainsborough and Hubert Robert landscapes, photos of friends up and down and around my windows, some local pictures of Alexandria, one wall for favorite movie stills (several of Ronald Colman and from Talk of the Town, beloved moments from plays we've seen), the postcards of the Landmark places we've been (up and down alongside the wall by my Trollope books), memorabilia from times at the Trollope Society and with John Letts (a photo of a house Trollope rented in 1880 which I visited due to him), and 5 stills from the Austen films, all of favorite moments with heroines at the center. 

Do you want to see these last?  Well, one is one I've often put up; Felicity Jones as Catherine Morland looking up at her gothic room, so I'll skp that but show the other 4 even one should be no surprize::

Facing me on the wall near by, higher up and enlarged:



Catherine Walker as Eleanor Tilney talking deeply supportively to Catherine Morland just after she tells Catherine that Isabella Thorpe was "in" way over her head with Eleanor's mean low brother.  I went to a lot of trouble to get this half of a still and have decided to make it my userpic for a while.  I do love this character and Walker's performance as her.



Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet revelling yet contemplative in the beauty of the natural world. Who would not love this?

And over on another wall enlarged:



Sophie Thomson as Miss Bates looking up to the sunlight as she is treated with unexpected kindness and deep courtesy by Mr Knightley.  Thomson plays the role in a way that makes me remember lines by Wordsworth important to me:

There is a comfort in the strength of love;
'Twill make a thing endurable, which else
Would break the heart ...



and Juliet Stevenson as the ironic wry Mrs Elton (see Diana, and you thought I'd appreciate Mrs Elton, I do  --in Stevenson's incarnation)

Jim and I together worked at this workroom to remove wires from the floor; it's still not catproofed but is closer to that.  Since we will no longer use a server, he's changing our ISP to telephone cable and now we'll have more bandwidth and Isobel will be able to watch far more sports and dance and TV than she has been able to. We too.

I've kept busy on lists in the early morning, 1 to 3 postings, brief to each of the 3. For reasons I don't understand (as most of the time I'm the only one writing and have no idea if anyone at all reads what I write and can't get rid of the moritifying conviction that at least a few people laugh at me about which I can't prevent myself from caring), for reasons I say I don't understand, writing this way cheers me in the morning, though it sometimes takes an hour and a half.  I need companionship, even imaginary.

Letters are for me not substitutes for friendship, but the experience of friendship itself.  I've been reading Nicola Beauman's The Other Elizabeth Taylor, about the novelist who wrote The Soul of Kindness (deeply bitter bleak book), In a Summer Season, Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont (from which a film was adapted). I'm loving it mostly because of the inner life of this woman which I recognize parts of my own in: for Taylor letters provided the finest truest friendships as they allowed people to learn about one another, share things, support one another in a kind of intimacy of the private self not readily possible face-to-face.  She stayed home to write, to delve into her mind and imagination and live with other fine spirits through books and art.  No wonder I love her novels; this is my comfort book just now. 

Beauman also reveals ET was a communist, for many years the lover of Ray Russell, a thwarted gifted man (shunted aside by the strong class hierarchies and coteries of the UK), her husband also had more casual affairs; Taylor has two abortions rather than give birth to Russell's sons.  She was an overt atheist, mostly kept away from all that hurts in the world; it's often said Virginia Woolf (her The Years got me through one summer) and E. M. Forster (note to self, must read & see Howards End as sister book and film to S&S) influenced her, closer influences: Ivy Compton-Burnett's depictions of the realities of private and family life and Elizabeth Bowen's books ( especially The Death of the Heart (which I've read and love and know is one of the great women's novels of the 20th century).  In A Wreath of Roses Taylor discusses the difference between women's novels and men's and why and how men get away with keeping recognition and respect from women's novels.

Am I off-topic?  I think not.  Jane Austen helped invent the woman's novel and she wrote honestly and never ridiculed the kind or what is good, is fundamentally an austerely ethical writer.  My other comfort book and new friend in a book is a near contemporary or hers, Sara Coleridge (born 1802, STC's daughter), about whom I'll put a foremother posting on "Ellen and Jim have a blog, Two" in a week or so.  Here I'll just end on a poem from her Collected Poems (published for the first time more than 150 years after her death):  it's in rhyme royal:

"To My Son"

Love to admire - avoid depreciation
­Base is that alchemy which turns pure gold
To copper in the servile estimation
Of men who but with others' eyes behold, ­
Who seek the brightest things to dull and tarnish,
Dull stuff of their own mint to brighten up and varnish.

Love to admire - the sun at noon-day blazing
Blasts the beholder's eye with light intense:
But sun-bright excellence rewards our gazing,
Imparts new vigour to the inward sense.
Wish to admire, to love, to hope, believe,
All that thou hopest, lov'st, thou shalt in time receiye.

Th'admirer all that he admires possesses ­
Unnumbered treasures for his treasury hath:
Is owner of a thousand gifts and graces,
Which are but thorns in Envy's painful path:
Resides in an Elysian summer calm
While round his happy head blow countless gales of balm

Some men there are, who deal in moderation
Only to gratify immoderate spite:
Make a man's obvious virtues a firm station,
Whence they take aim to fetch him from his height;
They grant a little to deprive of much,
And numb the gen'rous heat with their torpedo touch.

Dread not an argument, but bravely say
'Tis victory by truth to be subdued;
But, if thy tongue and not thy mind gives way,
Then bear the victor's scoff with fortitude:
View it as martyrdom for truth's dear sake,
A mild refining fire and temper's easy stake.

Dread not a laugh - contemn th' unmeaning sneer
Of men who with no finer sword can fence. -
A laugh, the last thing we learn not to fear,
Is oft the dullard's substitute for sense.
Laugh thou when Pride and feeble Mimicry
Seize Mirth's gay mask and wear it all awry.

True irony is but a form of reason,
An argument in gala clothing drest, -
But they who breathe March winds in sunmler season,
­And vent mere rancour in the form of jest,
Deserve no credit in their serious vein.
Their earnest is a jest which merits but disdain.

How oft we grieve that a friend's inward wealth
Of small account by loveless crowds is made!
Yet who seek glory from their strength and health,
Or pine to have their heavy coffers weighed?
They that possess, the inward jewel, worth
Have present heav'n within and gain thereto th' earth.

For me not beneath the light of common day,
And not to eyes by common beams enlightened,
That jewel doth its brilliant hues display:
'Tis by an inward luminary brightened;
And they who those pure beams participate .
None can see that fair which they illuminate.

Goodness is never perfect in one mind,
But widely o'er the earth in parcels spread:
As gold, in fragments to the streams consigned,
Was ne'er discovered in its mountain bed,
So hope not thou, ere from this earth ascended,
To find all virtues in one mortal mansion blended.

Yet some all moral good and evil find in masses
Which no opposing quality doth leaven:
Mankind at large they place in two large classes
The heavenly - and the sort devoid ofheav'n --
Sure they see double in their partial kindness
For Virtue on one side have nought but total blindness.

Learn to be true, for 'tis consummate art
From all untruth our thoughts, words, acts to clear:
­Detect the falsehoods of the cunning heart,
Which least of all is with itself sincere:
Small need hast thou with others to eschew
The base deceiver's way while thou to self art true.

Dare to be good; dare to admire; know the jeerers and despisers and sarky, those who ridicule, mock, and dismiss (the way Elizabeth Taylor's books for example were by many reviewers) are small and mean, sort of Blifils (Henry Fielding's term) who hate what is fine because they are not that but living by sordid bullying ways themselves.

E.M.












Tags: jane austen novels, literary biography, women's memoirs, women's novels, women's poetry
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