May 8th, 2010

Harriet Vane

S&S/Austen films; Pallisers/ Victorian films; & TomJones,Clary/18thc films

Dear all,

I've returned to my movie project and over the last week or so have been rewatching the 5 Sense and Sensibility that are my terrain for one of my chapters of a book on Austen films -- or a narrower subset of Austen films.

I'm aware my 69 page typescript might seem obsessively going over the same ground, and have been thinking I need a thesis -- yes, a thesis, or some perspective beyond what I have.

The admiral suggested one:  have as the central motivation of the book a movie which gave birth to others from the same source or author, and made us ever after see the book differently:  this is true of the 1995 Miramax S&S by Ang Lee and Emma Thompson. It is probably true of the 1995 A&E/WBGH P&P by Andrew Davies, Simon Langton and Sue Birtwisle and Conklin. Jim seemed taken by the idea of moving into a study of a film-maker like Davies. I''m not sure; it would mean tearing what I have apart, and I'm not sure if all his Austen films have this effect.  He works with consistently superb producers (often women, like Anne Pivcevic) and his directors count too.

List of films where Davies wrote the screenplay:

Signalman 1976
To Serve Them All My Days, 1980
A Very Peculiar Practice 1986
Middlemarch 1994
Pride and Prejudice 1995
Moll Flanders 1996
Emma 1996
Vanity Fair 1998
Wives and Daughters 1999
Bridget Jones's Diary 2001
The Way We Live Now 2001
Tipping the Velvet 2002
D Zhivago 2002
Daniel Deronda 2002
He Knew He Was Right 2004
Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason 2004
Bleak House 2005
Falling 2005
The Line of Beauty 2006
Northanger Abbey 2007
A room with a View 2007
Fanny Hill 2007
Sense and Sensibility 2008
Little Dorrit 2008

Anne Pivcevic list:

Script editor for The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, 3 episodes:  1996
Script editor for one (of four?) parts of Tom Jones 1997

Produced (all but one with Davies)

Othello 2001
Dr Zhivago 2002
Sense and Sensibility 2008
Little Dorrit 2008
Miss Austen Regrets 2008

Against this one finds from the very beginning irrespective of the book and the "great movie" a motif which turns up in a movie and is not in the book and simply repeated over and over -- this would seem to stem from the idea that these forms are based on archetypal folklore or fairy tale archetypes.  So in each of the S&S movies, Brandon is at the crisis of the ball Except the 1995 movie where however he is made such a central figure that he ends the movie.



1995 - phase 1

1995 - phase 2


I was trying for an arch on themes as well as specific movies. Rather like his idea that we misunderstand great literature when we seek to fetishicize great authors; rather we should look to see what is a great text irrespective of all around it. Hard to do especially given the propensity of most people to care more about other people and authors than their texts.  I still have this idea of Chapter 1 (or the last) arguing for Austen movies as a subspecies and maybe I can achieve that by finding some movie theme which unites them. Then I could use a few other films from each book and that could lead to a rewriting of my 69 pages in way that might be of interest to other readers and movie-goers.

I've been playing with ideas about the Palliser films too, and Trollope, especially the notion that films made from Victorian texts are also a distinct subspecies from films made from 18th century texts: the former (Victorian) about the pathologies of family and social life; the latter (18th century) about sexuality and some radical breaking away of cant notions of life's ultimate meanings -- which I see across the few 18th century films of greatness I watched for my Rape of Clarissa paper and have now been looking at while listening to Tom Jones read by David Case and reading Isak Dinesen's Ayn Rand fantasies.