Monday, May 21, 2007

The Fountain & Miss Potter

The Fountain

I thought I read that The Fountain was a wonderful movie, something about true love and reincarnation; but when I was watching this I realized this was more (or less) than those. At least I could watch Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz, who both gave excellent performance. I believe the initial script should be very worthwhile, but the finished product has become an art movie, but unfortunately something I can't enjoy; and I also think the editing is very bad. The same images were used a couple of times and that was quite boring. Hugh Jackman played 3 characters: a 16th century conquistador who searches The Tree of Life for his Queen, a modern scientist in search for the cure of tumor to save his wife's life, and - I didn't get the 3rd character at all - but the synopsis suggests 'an astronaut from the 26th century'. The 1st and 2nd characters worked out, but I found difficulty to understand the 3rd and thought it was strangely odd that 'the astronaut' appeared in the Mayan temple scene.

Miss Potter tells the story of Beatrix Potter, the famous children books author, such as Peter Rabbit. In the beginning, none believed that she could ever get her books published, until she met Norman Warne. Warne believed in her and took her to the printing house, so she could tell how exactly she wanted her illustrations to be reproduced. Potter later formed a romantic relationship with Norman Warne and a friendship with his sister Emilia. Success and fame finally came to Potter and she bought several farms so she could preserve them. This movie is full of beautiful sceneries and of course beautiful illustrations. Famous characters from Potter books, such as Peter Rabbit and Jemima the Puddle-duck, are animated, make this movie very enjoyable and entertaining. With Renee Zellweger, Ewan McGregor, Emily Watson, Phyllida Law, Barbara Flynn. Directed by Chris Noonan. Also love the soundtrack.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Done Because We Are Too Menny

Yesterday I watched 'Jude The Obscure' - 1971 version.

I have watched the version with Christopher Eccleston and Kate Winslet some years ago and was shocked to see the end. Thomas Hardy was very cruel to his characters. I once discussed Hardy's writings with a friend, and she agreed that his was gloomy.

The 1971 version was longer, being a mini-series for TV. Robert Powell starred as Jude Fawley and Fiona Walker as his cousin Sue Brideshead, whose thoughts were much modern than women those days. I haven't read the book, but from what I understood, this version is faithful to it. Little Jude was poor and orphaned, lived with an aunt, very keen to study. When he was enough of age, he became a stonemason, while looking his way to university. Unfortunately, he met Bella, the local pig-farmer's daughter and married her; despite his aunt's protests that Fawleys should not be married. However, things were not always bad for Jude, as Bella and his family moved to Australia; so Jude could go to Christminster, where he could perhaps meet his old school-master and go into a university. Here he met cousin Sue and fell in love with each other. Sue saw marriages as a kind of clumsy contract, that there was no need to make it official - like to go to the church or civil office - to register it. If 2 people were in love, that made the marriage. However the society was not that modern. It was the time when people who called themselves Christians could be offended when they saw a pregnant woman with 3 children didn't have a wedding ring on her finger, while they themselves spent most of the time peeping out the windows watching what their neighbours were doing.

Jude The Obscure is the most tragic story I have known. Perhaps their life would have been better if Sue believed Jude was truly hers so they could go and live in London, same city with Bella; than wandered around in the country from one little town to another, where the inhabitants cared so much about what their neighbours' doings.
Compared with the Kate Winslet version, the 1971 version seemed very stagey - but I don't mind, as the story itself is very strong and included many powerful lines from the novel, which was Hardy's last and also regarded as his best. Hardy was so disappointed with the negative reviews (The Anglican Bishop of Wakefield ordered a public burning of the book) that he resolved never to write another novel.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Beautiful Illustrations

This week 2 more books were added to my collections. 'Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs' illustrated by Nancy E. Burkert and 'Perrault's Fairy Tales' illustrated by Gustave Dore.

The Snow White book is very thin and in the end the evil step-mother had a terrible end, different from the Disney version. Burkert's illustrations are very beautiful. The picture above is from the scene when Snow White runs into the woods after the hunter agreed to let her go.

I found Gustave Dore did many illustrations for Bible stories. I had 2 books which I thought the illustrations were done by Dore, but I can't make sure as the books had been lost - perhaps during the time when my family moved house. This picture are from The Little Red Riding Hood. The details are amazing.

I have been trying to collect books with beautiful illustrations. It's not easy to find such books in Indonesia. When I was young, it was easier, we had more variety of nice books; but of course I didn't have any money then.

These are some of my favourite illustrations:

Hilda Boswell - from 'The Snow Child' by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Garth Williams - from 'On The Banks of Plum Creek' by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Warwick Goble - from Charles Kingsley's The Water Babies
The Pandora Box scene

Quentin Blake. I like Blake's works in Roald Dahl books, but this picture is taken from a Christmas card a friend sent me 2 years ago.


Cicely Mary Barker - from 'Fairyopolis'. This book was a gift from a friend.

Marjolein Bastin. This picture is from an Easter card from a friend I received last April.

I hope this year I can add Arthur Rackham's works to my little collection.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Heathcliff's First Introduction

After watching the 1970 version of Wuthering Heights, I was struck by Mrs. Earnshaw's comments which suggested that Heathcliff might be Mr. Earnshaw's illegal child. This is a daring interpretation, in my opinion, which I don't notice in other adaptations - but the 1970 version also hints that Nelly had a crush on Hindley and that Cathy's child might be Heathcliff's.

In the book (chapter 4), Emily Bronte wrote Mrs. Earnshaw's reaction after his husband came home from Liverpool bringing Heathcliff was as follows: " Mrs. Earnshaw was ready to fling it out of doors: she did fly up, asking how he could fashion to bring that gypsy brat into the house, when they had their own bairns to feed and fend for? What he meant to do with it, and whether he were mad?"
Perhaps the 1970 version used this for their reason:
"He took to Heathcliff strangely, believing all he said (for that matter, he said precious little, and generally the truth), and petting him up far above Cathy, who was too mischievous and wayward for a favourite."
How could a father prefer a stranger he met on streets than his own daughter?

Transcript from 1970 version
Mr. Earnshaw: Now, this isn't exactly what you've been expecting, but let's say it's a gift from God.
Mrs. Earnshaw: Looks more like a gift from the devil. I'll not have gypsies in my house.
Mr. Earnshaw: He's not a gypsy.
Mrs. Earnshaw: I don't care what it is. Get shot of it.
Mr. Earnshaw: What? And let him starve?
Mrs. Earnshaw: Why not? Plenty more do. What's so special about him that makes you so fine and tender?
Mr. Earnshaw: Nothing, except I found him in Liverpool without a soul to-
Mrs. Earnshaw: No doubt found more besides. There's no need to drag your doings back here.
Mr. Earnshaw: You're too clever for me by half.
Mrs. Earnshaw: You're not clever enough. What'll you do? Make him work?
Mr. Earnshaw: Aye, but no more than others. We lost a son, didn't we? Thanks be to God, we have another. He can be a brother to them.
Mrs. Earnshaw: I've no doubt he is already.

[Also interesting to note that this version shows how Hindley's new fiddle was ruined by Heathcliff. For a child, this was a strong reason to hate Heathcliff for the rest of his life.]

Compare that with some other versions below:

1939 version
In this version, the introduction was by the gate of Wuthering Heights, where Mr. Earnshaw met the family doctor.
Mr. Earnshaw: A gift from God; though he is dark as if he came from the devil. [...] I find him starving in the streets of Liverpool, kicked and bruised and almost dead.
Dr. Kenneth: So you kidnap him.
Mr. Earnshaw: Not until I try to find out who his owner was, but nobody would lay claim to him. So long as he shown allegiance that he was, I brought him home.

[Hindley got his fiddle. But he had to share his room with Heathcliff. That's a sensible reason to hate Heathcliff, if Hindley had never shared anything before in his life.]

1992 version
Mr. Earnshaw: I found him starving in the streets of Liverpool.
Hindley: He's a filthy gypsy, Father.
Mr. Earnshaw: He's a gift from God. You're to treat him as your new brother.
Cathy : But where's my present?
Nelly: Hasn't he got any family of his own?
Mr. Earnshaw: He's part of our family now.
(To Heathcliff) That's your brother Hindley and this is your new sister Cathy.

[I think in this version Hindley hates Heathcliff only because Heathcliff is dirty and a minority.]

Heathcliff - The Musical
Mr. Earnshaw: Here is your Christmas gift. A gift from God, Cathy, although he 's dark as the devil. Call him Heathcliff. Hindley, he's your brother now.
And from the Gypsy Bundle song:
No history, no owner, no rhyme, no reason.
Nor explanation of his sorry state.

From all these 4 versions, Mrs. Earnshaw only appeared in the 1970 version.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Little Mickey, Christine Falls, and The Physician

These past few days I have been making a new Little Mickey doll. My friend Jackie, who had given the name, died a couple of years ago. Another friend of mine, Margaret in Australia, had taken a couple of pictures of Little Mickey using some Australian landmarks as background, which was a great idea. I have no Little Mickey anymore because I sent my last (exactly the one on this picture) to Jackie before she passed away.

I want to have one Little Mickey with me again, especially since next month I plan to go to at least 2 cities in Central Java.

Last night I finished listening to Christine Falls audiobook by Benjamin Black. It's about corruption in Ireland, involving Catholic high society and sending unwanted babies to Boston. The story itself was very good: a combination of thriller, crime, love, and drama and written in remarkable style (which is not surprising as the writer has won a Booker prize). Timothy Dalton, who read the book, at first seemed to read it very fast; but after I got used to it, it was enjoyable - and his voice is still one of the most delicious speaking voices I've ever heard.

Also have finished a novel called The Physician by Noah Gordon. The story was very engaging, set in 12th century, about a penniless orphan who possessed a gift and wanted to use it to heal people so he traveled across countries and boundaries to learn from the best physician ever. It's one of the books which hard to put down.