Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Little Light Shined on Wuthering Heights 2011

The mystery with which Andrea Arnold's new Wuthering Heights adaption has been artfully concealed is both alluring and alarming. I try to remind myself that some of the best movies are those that don't over-commercialize and become masterpieces that slip under the radar; films that rely on quality rather than quantity. On the other hand, the lack of knowledge surrounding the film also makes me rather apprehensive.

There have been rumors (finally confirmed) that the movie will be appearing at the Venice Film Festival along with other movies I'm looking forward to such as David Cronenberg's A Dangerous Method and Steve McQueen's Shame. As an extra treat to accompany this sudden announcement, someone in "high places" behind the film has decided that us fans are entitled to some knowledge as to how the film will look, even if it's only a little. They went about it artfully, however. We all know that the big "hullabaloo" surrounding this adaption of the novel is the man playing Heathcliff. There are people embracing, debating, and questioning the casting of an unknown black actor as one of the most famous (or should I say infamous?) literary heroes. Whoever was behind the advertising of this new adaption must have obviously known that because in our first screen cap of the movie, we don't get a picture of Kaya Scaledario as Cathy, but of James Howson's dark eyes cast to the ground. 

First thoughts:

There's not much one can conjecture from a scant picture. When releasing it, the company knew very well what they were doing. They want to torture us even more with the knowledge that we can't draw any conclusions based on this screen cap. There's nothing in the background to give us any clues as to the setting. There's no piercing stare given by the man playing Heathcliff to leave us with any idea as to how he can project the gloominess and torment of his character. I almost wished that the picture hadn't been released at all because now I pine for the movie even more. 

I do like the idea of Heathcliff being black. Not only does it fit the description given in the novel (that people tend to overlook), but it also draws in a modern and more diverse audience. Whether the appeal to that new audience will be a blessing or a curse is yet to be determined. The fairly young (and inexperienced cast) could mean a fresh take to the novel, or it could mean a complete disregard for the traditional components. 

With all this uncertainty, however, I remain completely optimistic. Why? Because it is Andrea Arnold, who has proved to be a great director. After her work with Fish Tank, I have no doubt of her ability to pull out a believable and intense take on Emily Bronte's masterpiece. Yes, we do see a new pull to the modern audience, but so far it seems as though Andrea is trying to balance that by committing to the words of the source material. She went roaming through the streets trying to find the man to play Heathcliff after sifting through countless big name actors and holding open auditions. If James Howson is the man she ended up choosing, then there must be something in him that hundreds of other actors didn't have. Andrea Arnold is a proven artist. I have faith in the fact that she would never allow the adaption of such a beloved novel to be taken lightly. 

Bring on the comments!

oh..P.S: I found another picture of James Howson. Grant it, it's not from his role as Heathcliff, but at least it'll help us get more acquainted with his face. From what I've heard, people are arguing that Howson looks a little too "baby-faced" to play the glowering Heathcliff. I think this picture gives me a bit more optimism as too how he might pull off Heathcliff's intensity. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Jane Eyre 1944 Review

I could never neglect to remember my weekly Jane Eyre post, but this week I was almost tempted to skip it. For a moment I felt as if there was nothing left to say on the subject of Jane Eyre after writing my rankings of the adaptions, comparisons of characters, etc. But luckily, I found an error in my judgment. I'm afraid to admit that when I ranked all my favorite adaptions of the novel as well as the actors that played the characters, there was a slight glitch. 

Before I rank or review anything related to a Jane Eyre adaption, I make a point to watch all of them in a close time frame so that I might compare them better. The problem with my last few rankings was this; I had not watched the 1944 version with the rest of them. The 1944 used to be on Youtube, but due to the common copyright problem it was taken off again. After searching through my most trusted "free movie download" sites and not finding it on any of them, I gave up looking for a while and thus ranked the 1944 from my memory of it. That's not the most accurate way to go about things because I hadn't actually watched the 1944 version since last year. I remember that I liked it, but I didn't remember why or how and couldn't remember the details that I found positives and negatives in. 

By some strange turn of luck or blessing of fate, I embarked on the journey of searching for the movie once more. This time the search results worked in my favor, and last night I watch the Joan Fontaine/Orson Welles version in its entirety. 

If anything, I completely underrated this film in all my previous blog rankings. Watching this movie for the second time, I loved it twice as much. I know that this version has a faithful following, and I completely understand why some people would call this their definitive. When watching such an early black and white adaption of a novel, one has to approach it with a certain amount of skepticism. That time period is not necessarily known for producing adaptions that are particularly true to the source material (Ex: Wuthering Heights 1939 which cut out half the novel, Pride and Prejudice 1940, and Anna Karenina 1934 and 1948). Somehow this Jane Eyre adaptation sets itself apart from the usual overly romanticized and diluted black and white adaptions. 

Jane Eyre 1944 stars (as mentioned before) two highly praised and historically significant actors, Joan Fontaine as Jane and Orson Welles as Rochester. We also get the pleasure of seeing a young Elizabeth Taylor as Helen. The movie goes through all the appropriate parts of the novel, shining a rather good light on Jane's time at Lowood and especially drawing attention to the harsh and stingy Mr. Brocklehurst. The little girl that plays young Jane hits the nail straight on the head, exuding a passionate and rather hot-tempered little Jane that matches what I imagined in the novel. I enjoyed seeing the connection between her and Joan. Sometimes in Jane Eyre adaptions the child playing the young Jane and the actress playing the grown one don't translate well together and we forget the fact that they are actually the same person. 

As great as it was watching the Lowood scenes and marveling at the skills of a young Lizzy Taylor, the adaption really begins to shine when Orson Welles comes galloping through the mist. Welles makes a suitably intimidating, dark, and world-weary Rochester that almost perfectly compliments Joan Fontaine's conflicted Jane.

 Fontaine's obvious fault is that she was much too beautiful and glamorous (and old) for the role, but despite that I really liked what she did with the character. In a previous post I remember saying that she played the "damsel in distress" too much, but after seeing the film again I can firmly withdraw that statement. Her Jane is a naturally passionate woman gilded by a timid and unsophisticated exterior. At first, I assumed she was too soft. But after seeing her mutiny against Rochester and say "I am perhaps bewildered sir, but not afraid", it was hard not to acknowledge the spunk that she imbued in the proper places. 

Orson Welles was a great Rochester. I can't imagine anyone who physically fit the role more than he did. His dark eyes, ebony locks, and tall stature were all augmented by the black and white cinematography, making him appear to be the perfect man to play the gloomy and intimidating master of Thornfield. Not only that but Welles is convincingly unhandsome. Add a resonant and naturally forceful voice to that mix, and you get the physical essence of Rochester. If any thing, the worst thing you can say about Welles is that his performance easily overpowered Fontaine’s. Before watching the movie, I was fully confident in Welle’s ability to play the brooding and commanding Rochester, but seriously doubted that he would be able to come across as a tender lover. Surprisingly enough, he awed me in some of the gentlest scenes such as after the fire, Jane’s leave of absence, and especially the “leaving scene.”

 The leads played well off of each other. You can feel the barbed words in their conversation and see the subliminal kinetic attraction between the two characters. Of course, in a black and white film you’re bound to have a few moments of “cheesy remedial acting” and a few of those moments came, but they also passed very briefly. The only things that I can say were truly bad was “would it be wicked to love me?” and the horrid graphics and over-intensity around “Say, ‘Edward I will marry you.’”

The movie was heartwarming. The director (of course) took the liberty of rearranging and copy/pasting a lot of the elements of the plot, but the movie didn’t suffer too much because of it. Is it the truest to the novel? Of course not. Are these the best performances? Joan’s is most definitely not, but Orson Welles could easily be thrown into the discussion.
I wondered why I enjoyed this version so much, and then it dawned on me that there are a lot of similarities between this and the 2011. Cary Fukunaga (the director of the 2011) admitted he was eager to direct the movie because he had always been a fan of the ’44. You can see the influence that this adaption had on the ‘11. The gothic lighting of Cary Fukunaga’s version is easily reminiscent of the dark cinematography of the 1944. Some of the scenes are even arranged the same way.

Definitely worth a watch, especially if you have a taste for classic film. I couldn’t help but think that the performances, cinematography, and script created a film whose believability and intensity was actually fairly well ahead of its time. It ought to have gotten more attention and is entitled to a larger following than it has.


Thursday, July 21, 2011

"The Scarlet Letter" Review

This review is dedicated to my best friend, "Bubblesandsoda." She is a fellow teenage lit lover, though a little less obsessed than I am. Bubbles and I both came into our honors English class and became friends almost instantaneously. We found that we had one binding similar interest, and that interest was reading. However, upon digging deeper I think we both found that "reading" in general was one of the only things we had in common. When it came to what we chose to read, we had completely differing tastes.

My favorite piece of literature was (of course) Jane Eyre. Bubbles' was The Scarlet Letter. What struck us as ironic was the fact that as learned as we were when it came to literature, neither of us had read the other's favorite novel. Jordan had read Wuthering Heights, but for some mysterious reason hadn't stumbled onto Jane Eyre yet. I had always meant to read The Scarlet Letter, but never saw the urgency to buy it when it was right in front of me in the bookstore. With this being discovered, we both decided to take a chance and read the favorite of the other, driven by curiosity, the passion for reading, and (admittedly) to make the other happy.

The Scarlet Letter is probably one of the most renowned novels in the world, right up there with the likes of (yes) Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and Pride and Prejudice. Only this one is set apart from the others. To speak truthfully, the novel perplexes me because it isn't easily categorized. It combines the language from what seems like the Shakespearian era, the dramatic irony of an Austen novel, and the subliminal gothic elements of a Bronte tale all into one story. The one thing I can say this novel boasts that the others don't is a big emphasis on lust and an unresolved conflict. We also see a lot more of the desolation of social exile.

The novel is set in the Puritan society of colonial Boston, dating around the mid-1600s (which would explain the shakespearian-ness of the language). I think most of us should know the story. Hester Prynne is released from prison with her child in her arms, wearing the infamous "scarlet letter" on the breast of her dress for all to see. The letter is an intricately designed "A", used to symbolize Hester's act of adultery and thus distinguishing her from the other commonplace sinners of her society. Now we come to the details of how Hester landed herself in this predicament.

Apparently Hester was sent ahead by her husband to the Americas. However, he didn't show up behind her so it was assumed that he was lost at sea. During that time, Hester committed adultery (with a presently unidentified man) and gave birth to the child she now holds in her arms. Her sin is only made worse by her refusal to reveal the name of the man with whom she had the affair. The plot knots itself into a tangle as Hester's husband returns, seeking revenge against the man who impregnated his wife while also concealing his own identity.

The mysterious adulterer, meanwhile, is caught between a rock and a hard place (a very hard place). He is the highly admired and well-respected town clergyman, who is supposedly destined for "great things." To the world he appears all that is pure and "God-like", but in the shadows he is just a regular sinner eaten by the guilt he feels for making such a hideous mistake and hanging his lover out to dry. In the end the stories of these three characters all wind around each other. Whether the connection will lead to their victory or doom is for me to know and for you to read.

With a seemingly thrilling plot like that, you'd think that I'd be intoxicated by the book in the same way Bubbles was. But for some reason, upon closing the novel I looked up with crinkled eyebrows and a confused frown. With the combination of Bronte, Austen, and Shakespeare, why wouldn't a lit lover like me be tantalized?

I guess the truth is that though that combination seems like a heaven-sent miracle, I'm not sure that those three completely different styles are capable of coexisting well in one novel. In fact, something about The Scarlet Letter irked me in a similar way to Wuthering Heights. The characters angered me to no end!

You've got an extremely strict and hypocritical society working as the main antagonist, exiling a fellow child of God for a sin that was obviously justifiable. If your husband is lost at sea (which basically renders the assumption that he's dead!), why wouldn't you be allowed to move on and feel free to love who you choose? Grant it, you might want to soften matters by marrying the man before you got to bed with him. Still, it angered me to pain that this so called "Puritan" society allowed a woman to think that she would never see her husband again and then turned around and chastised her for choosing to move on with her life.

Secondly, the man at the center of all this was weak and strikingly hypocritical as well. In novels like Wuthering Heights and (arguably) Jane Eyre, the absence of conscience in the male "hero" is what makes him the villain. In The Scarlet Letter, our leading man allows his conscience to eat at him from the inside, but makes absolutely no effort to confess his sin and stand by the woman he loves (which, in my opinion, is almost as bad as not having a conscience at all). Even then, I'm not sure if it's conscience or just self pity? How can a man torture himself for his transgressions when no one is looking, and yet stand up and preach to a faithful congregation every Sunday?

I could go on forever, but I'll start to close here. Despite all the obvious drawbacks that I found in The Scarlet Letter, I must admit that it was a very good book. However, it's not good for the usual reason. It's good simply because it is one of those immortal works. It's a masterpiece. Symbolism, juxtaposition, and irony are served on a platter to satisfy a lit lover's greatest dream. The discussions and debates that a person could have over this novel are endless. The religious and social motifs present are breathtaking. The problem is that I only appreciated these things after I finished because for most of my reading experience I was too annoyed by everything!

After reading through our "assigned" books, Bubbles and I came to the obvious conclusion that we have two completely different reading styles. She thought Jane Eyre was good, but laughable. I liked The Scarlet Letter, but found it frustrating. I'm sure that neither of us would choose to give the books a second read and I've come to terms with the fact that neither of us will ever fully understand the other's passion for their favorite. But that's the good thing about reading. It never hurts to read something new. The worst that could happen is that you absolutely detest the material. What's great is that it doesn't matter what you're reading; you're guaranteed to close the back cover with a bit more knowledge than you had before opening to the title page.

Monday, July 18, 2011

"Wuthering Heights" Review

I've read Wuthering Heights before. But with Traxy's "Wuthering Week" and the discussion stemming from my post "Rochester vs. Heathcliff", I was inspired to reread the book (without taking long breaks in between chapters this time). 

One might think that reading the book again (and actually endeavoring to pay attention instead of rushing through it to get to the back cover) would bring me to some kind of epiphany. Perhaps I might have an extreme change of heart and realize what so many Wuthering Heights enthusiasts see in the novel. I'm sorry to say that this was not the case. 

After closing the purple cover of my Barnes & Noble edition of Wuthering Heights, I felt all the same sentiments I experienced after reading it the first time. I still think it the most depressing and overly melodramatic novel I've ever read, and I have absolutely no idea how anyone could believe that Rochester pales in comparison to Heathcliff. Wuthering Heights is just extremely heavy! It's nowhere near as lengthy as Jane Eyre and yet I felt like it took me three times as long to read. Instead of feeling disappointment at the fact that the book was over, I actually breathed a sigh of relief. 

The core characters all had flaws that were so dominant that I could rarely see the good in them at all. Cathy is vain and, in my opinion, weak. I see a woman with no sense of constancy who seeks to make others miserable in order to secure her own happiness. She manipulates Heathcliff and in turn further augments his naturally resentful and devious character. I would have rather seen Cathy resolve to be with Linton and to break all ties with Heathcliff rather than allow both Linton and Heathcliff to struggle for her while she merely allows it to happen. 

Heathcliff...where to start? How absolutely evil can a person be? I'm convinced that he had no conscience whatsoever! What man could so easily wreak havoc on the lives of others, even with the "excuse" that he has? He knows no remorse and attempts no apology. Even in Cathy's last moments, neither of them choose to put their selfishness aside. Instead, they're arguing about whose fault it is that she's dying! 

I'm convinced that Cathy and Heathcliff's "relationship" can't even be deemed a "relationship." The two are better adversaries than they are lovers. There seem to be no traces of tenderness or regard for one another. But perhaps that's what makes their relationship appealing to so many readers. It's a psychological fact that we are attracted to those who we find similar to us. Therefore, it's only natural that a narcissist is attracted to a narcissist (and yes, I'm convinced that both Cathy and Heathcliff were narcissists). 

In conclusion, if you want to read Wuthering Heights, be prepared for a frustrating experience. I must also warn you that if you're reading it as a follow up to Jane Eyre or any other classic Brit romance, don't expect it to show any similitude. The one upside I claim from reading the novel is that now I get to sift through the numerous adaptions again. I like watching the adaptions. They're not as tortuous as the book. Reviews of some of them will probably be coming soon, so be prepared. 

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Hear Ye, Hear Ye!

This is going to be a really short post. I just want to give thanks to all my regular visitors and followers who have been so supportive of my writing endeavors in the blogging world. With that being said, I've been rather anxious to start blogging on things besides literature. I love this blog and I love its purpose, and that purpose is to create a place where my lit lovers can read and write on our common interest. Now with this blog beginning to flourish, I've now pretty much learned the ropes to blogging. Therefore, I am now starting a NEW blog. I will still be posting regularly on "Lit Lovers and Corset Laces" as I always have, but I will also be sharing a great deal of things on my new blog.

"Lit Lovers & Corset Laces" is devoted entirely to my interest in English lit. My new blog will encompass a GREAT deal of subjects. As I near the beginning of my junior year in high school, I wish to chronicle my experiences and preserve memories as well as express myself in the best way I know how. That way has always been writing, and so what better way to chronicle my growth than by blogging? For all of you who've enjoyed seeing my write, I fervently urge you to follow my new blog (accessible from my profile). It's the same "Bonnie" and the same satirical writing style, only now instead of expressing my opinions on literature alone, I will be writing life lessons, creating memories, and writing on all aspects of myself instead of only one.

Please check it out. As of now there's only one post, but I hope that you guys will continue to follow and visit me! The link is:

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Pooh vs. Potter?

Harry Potter returns tomorrow. But while everyone else is weeping over the last film installment of a worldwide favorite, I'm rejoicing over the appearance of another. What am I speaking of? None other than the most famous bear in the world, Winnie the Pooh! Please don't mistake me. I am an avid Harry Potter fan, but when it comes down to being a teenager without a driver's license and who happens to have a restrictively tight budget, it's almost impossible to part with twenty dollars to watch two movies.

I'm hoping that perhaps I might be able to get away with the illegal method. Both movies are playing on the same night. If the scheduling matches up so that one ends just before the other begins, I'll play the little criminal and pay for one movie and then movie hop to go see the other. If not, I'll have to pick because twenty dollars is a lot of money! Well it's not a LOT, but it's the equivalent of three books and I'd rather have three books that last a life time than two movies that I can only watch once before getting the DVD. 

Anyway, with that dilemma coming into play, which should I choose? The obvious answer would be Harry Potter, but I really think that I would rather go see a happy movie that takes me back to my childhood memories than visit a gloomy film, pre-knowledgeable of the fact that all my favorite characters die. 

After The Order of the Phoenix, I became convinced that J.K Rowling was trying to torture me. Sirius Black (my favorite) went first, Dumbledore said goodbye shortly after, and in the seventh and by far the most depressing book Lupin, Mad-Eye, Dobby, and Tonks all get wiped out as well (along with other beloved characters). Do I really want to see all those corpses when I have the option of watching a film in which the most depressing thing is helping Eeyore find a tail? 

Winnie the Pooh makes a smile come to my lips and a little youthful light return to my eyes. The books provided me with some valuable lessons and gave me guidelines with which to live my life. Does that sound like an exaggeration? Well, it's true! Pooh (though he pictures himself as stupid) is about as wise as they come. You really can't "stay in your corner of the forest waiting for others to come to you", sometimes you have to reach out to them and make friends for yourself. I really am "braver than I believe, stronger than I seem, and smarter than I think!" 

It seems like so much has changed since I was the little five-year-old reading Pooh and agreeing with Piglet when he said, "It's hard to be brave when you're only a very small animal." Now I'm sixteen with my sights set on college, soon to fall out of the nest and find the wings to fly. I'm at the place where Christopher Robin was in The House at Pooh Corner where he "came to an end of things, and he was silent, and he sat there looking over the world, just wishing it wouldn't stop." 

Sorry Harry! If push comes to shove and I have to choose between you and Pooh, I've got to go with my  trusty old pal who taught me the basic morals of life before your source material was even published. 

Bonnie's Jane Eyre Rankings

Edit May 16, 2018: For an updated version of these Jane Eyre rankings (and more rankings and reviews), visit my new website Lit Lovers & Corset Laces

I just had a personal "Jane Eyre-a-thon" in which I watched just about every Jane Eyre adaption ever made all day. I've compared Rochesters, compared Janes, analyzed chemistry, talked about and reviewed a few adaptions. Having now compared each and weighed the positives and negatives, I have now officially ranked all the Jane Eyre adaptions according to my personal ("personal" is in italics to emphasize the fact that I know that some of you won't agree with me) opinion.

For any of you haven't seen some (or any) of the adaptions, I hope that this may help serve as a guideline to you, but we must all forge out own opinions when we watch  adaptations of novels. I've always stressed in almost every post in which I must compare aspects of an adaption that the success of a film or miniseries wholly depends on your personal image of the novel. With that being said, this ranking is done based on my image. As always, PLEASE comment because even though I am very decided in my opinions, I still always love to hear the rankings of others.

The rankings will go from ten to one with ten being the worst and one being my personal favorite. Each ranking will include a mini (paragraph or two) review. I'll try not to take up too much of your time, but it's hard not to get a bit carried away when speaking (or typing) on a subject as enjoyable as Jane Eyre. So here we go!

10. Jane Eyre 1934  starring Virginia Bruce as Jane, Colin Clive as Rochester.
Oh, goodness! This adaptation was so horrible that it had tears of laughter coming to my eyes. Everything about it just screams "Spoof!" But surprisingly enough, I did genuinely enjoy a few moments when I wasn't laughing myself to death. This version deviated horribly from the novel. Rochester is Adele's "uncle" in this version and there are some other changes that aren't even worth mentioning. Actually, this version as a whole isn't worth mentioning. Everything from the very first scene to Virginia Bruce saying "I've brought your tea Edward" is just horrid. I can't even give it slack for the time period. Grade: F+. The plus sign is only added for a decent effort and a cute Adele.

9. Jane Eyre 1949 starring Mary Sinclair as Jane and Charlton Heston as Rochester
This is only slightly better than the 1934. Actually, that's not true. It's much better but still not very good at all. It was a low budget adaptation made for American TV in the 1940s, so I will cut it SOME slack. The setting made Thornfield seem like an American townhouse rather than an estate and from what I remember, every scene took place in the SAME room. The one upside is that it starred Charlton Heston as Rochester. He wasn't good, but it's Charlton Heston so he automatically counts as an upside. The other upside is that this is the ONLY adaption (from what I recollect) that actually includes Rochester's famous slip up, "Goodnight my--." Grade: D-

8. Jane Eyre 1996 starring Charlotte Gainsbourg as Jane and William Hurt as Rochester
For some reason I feel like I'm going to get a lot of heat for ranking this adaptation so low. From what I've seen on the internet, some people actually count this as their definitive Jane Eyre adaption. I don't understand it, but it's all a matter of opinion I guess. For all it's worth, this version really wasn't all that bad. It just wasn't as good as the rest of them. There was a complete lack of chemistry between the two leads, a horrible sense of "blah" from Charlotte Gainsbourg, and a feeling of utter sleepiness from William Hurt. 
I'm glad that this version actually paid some heed to the age difference between Jane and Rochester and I also liked some of the blatant symbolism such as "the shadows are just as important as the light" and "the roses had thorns" but it felt like this movie was taken apart and put back together in chunks. And the leaving scene (which I count as one of the most important scenes in the novel) was practically nonexistent! Grade: C-

7. Jane Eyre 1997 starring Samantha Morton as Jane and Ciaran Hinds as Rochester
Once again, not that bad. Just not that good. This adaptation could have ranked so much higher had it not been for Ciaran Hinds who made a horrible Rochester. All I can remember is "scream scream scream." The chemistry was horrible and made even worse by the messiest kiss I've ever seen. There were also enormous details either left out or changed for no apparent reason. All details of Lowood are merely skimmed over. Jane's return to Gateshead isn't actually put in the film at all, it's one of those "I'm leaving" and then cut-to "I'm back!" kind of scenarios. But there were streaks of genius such as when Rochester and Jane watch the sun rise, and even the reunion scene was done solidly. I noticed that Rochester's injuries were done pretty well. I also love how Rochester gives sympathy to his wife in this version. Just a little kiss on the head made him seem like much less of a villain. Grade: C

6. Jane Eyre 1973 starring Sorcha Cusack as Jane and Michael Jayston as Rochester
I only ranked this higher than the '97 because it was the first adaptation to really include all the details of the novel. Details are rather important and can make up for lack of chemistry and acting skill. Sorcha Cusack's Jane had the same facial expression for every emotion! Her eyebrows stayed at the roof of her head for most of the miniseries. Michael Jayston was an "okay" Rochester, but he didn't inhabit the role whatsoever. This adaption made Jane Eyre come off as a "quaint little love story", which it most definitely is NOT! Jane Eyre is supposed to be full of darkness, danger, and passion but this version's cast, music, and setting made everything seem much too happy. There was no sense of torment, no emotionally charged atmosphere evoked by either the set or the actors. Grade: C

5. Jane Eyre 1970 starring Susannah York as Jane and George C. Scott as Rochester
Not bad. I was very forgiving of this adaption for some reason. A lot of details were skipped over and the actors weren't at all who I would pick to play Jane and Rochester, but something about this adaption worked really well. Even though York and Scott weren't necessarily "Jane and Rochester", they had a good on screen chemistry that surpassed that of a lot of other adaptions. The ages of the characters were completely disregarded, St. John is much too nice and very creepy, and the Lowood scenes are breezed over (again) but it was still really good!
 I don't understand what it is about this version that had me smiling. It fails in all the small details but when it came to the core of Jane and Rochester's relationship, it delivered. However, its lack of faithfulness to the novel makes it hard to watch sometimes, even with the good chemistry and a few tear-jerking moments. Grade: C

4. Jane Eyre 1944 starring Joan Fontaine as Jane and Orson Welles as Rochester
Are you surprised that I ranked it this high? I know, so am I. But it was good! You really see the true gothic elements of the novel in this movie. Joan Fontaine is much too pretty to be playing Jane, but she was still good. Orson Welles was a very good Rochester. He definitely helped the film a lot because he was the closest to my mental image of the character. He was the first truly intimidating Rochester. They just don't make classics like this movie anymore. Sure, it's got cheesy graphics and melodrama in bundles, but it's still a solid adaption with solid settings, solid actors, and a solid inclusion of some important details from the novel. I also love how this version conducted the big revelation of Mrs. Rochester. It was rather scary! Grade: B-

3. Jane Eyre 1983 starring Zelah Clarke as Jane and Timothy Dalton as Rochester
This is truly the adaption that sticks closest to the book. In fact, it sticks so close that sometimes it seems like there wasn't even any need to write the screenplay because it felt like the actors used the original novel as their only script. The problem with sticking that close is that there is such as thing as too close. Sometimes this adaption just felt like it was too close. But it was still really good! Zelah Clarke (though too old) was a presentable Jane. Timothy Dalton was a great Rochester that actually fit the physical description of the character. The chemistry was lovely (in most areas, not all) and all the details of Jane's childhood and her experiences with St. John were dwelled on with more emphasis than any other adaption. 
This version has a very large fan base. A lot of Jane Eyre enthusiasts would deem this adaption their definitive version because of its undying faithfulness to the novel. If you're looking for a cheap way out of reading the book without failing your English test then I would recommend you watch it, even though you could probably read the book faster because this version is very long. But in my personal opinion, faithfulness to the source material is not the only thing to look for in an adaption, and so in a lot of other areas this version fell too short to be my definitive. Grade: B

2. Jane Eyre 2006 starring Ruth Wilson as Jane and Toby Stephens as Rochester
Great adaption! This one has the greatest fan base by far it seems. Details all made it through in tact, gothic elements were definitely present, chemistry between leads was amazing. Ruth Wilson played a really great Jane though she (like the rest of them) was a little too old. Toby Stephens was a lovely Rochester, though not as forceful as I might have liked. You can't deny that the two leads had a great chemistry. I also loved the St. John in this adaption. Something about him was just much more likable than those in previous versions. I warmed up to him much more and he created a better foil for Rochester. Everything about this version was just good. Ruth was a natural and passionate Jane. Toby Stephens was a gloomy and sensual Rochester. I loved the way that this version delves into Rochester's memories. Instead of having Rochester just tell us what he's been through, they show us, which helps fully impress us with the emotions of his past. The flow of the plot moved fast enough to keep me actively engaged without compromising the details from the novel. They even threw in a tweaked gypsy scene! If it's all that good, then why is it only second?
 The one thing I just couldn't stand was the lack of faithfulness to the novel when it came to dialogue. It seems like I've said this over and over, but I'll say it again; the script just seemed way too dumbed down! It frustrated me to pain that the screenplay wasn't done better, because if it had been then it probably would have been my definitive version. Oh well. Grade: A

1. Jane Eyre 2011 starring Mia Wasikowska as Jane and Michael Fassbender as Rochester
I can just feel the controversy coming on! Let me just say that deeming this version my favorite was a very tough decision. I can't tell you how close I was to just declaring it a tie between this and the '06. Let me tell you what finally gave the '11 the edge, though. I think that out of all the adaptions ever made, this  one did the best job of taking the essence of the novel and translating it to a screen. No, it was not completely faithful like the 1983 when it came to small detail, but I don't necessarily think that every detail of the novel should be put in an adaption. No, it didn't dwell on some things as much as the 2006. But when it comes down to it, this version had the best adapted script, paid the most attention to the gothic details, and arguably had the best portrayal of the characters.
 I felt the pain of Jane's childhood without having to spend an hour on it. I could feel the heat of the passion between the two leads through the screen. I got a great picture of Jane's life with St. John and his contrast to Rochester through the use of flashback. Mia Wasikowska was a young, acute, and understanding Jane. Michael Fassbender was a sardonic, probing, and passionate Rochester. The costumes were spot-on. The dark cinematography nailed the feel of the novel. All the essential elements of the novel were compressed without being chunked and translated without being lost. Everything was done well. Is it my definitive? No. None of the adaptions are. Grade: A

I feel some comments coming on!!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Hollywood's Newest Obsession: Corset Cinema

I've just been full of posts lately, haven't I? But I can't help it! I've come to the solid conclusion that the movie industry is really trying to make me die of happiness. Look at this line up from the eyes of Bonnie:

1. Jane Eyre DVD is slowly making its way around the corner.
2. Wuthering Heights is soon to be released, so I hear. The set date for the UK is late September, so I imagine that it shouldn't be that much later for America unless they decide to pull a "Jane Eyre 2011" on us in reverse order and make the Americans pine for the film while the lucky Brits watch their DVDs.
3. The appearance of both Winnie the Pooh and Harry Potter in theaters on Friday. The latter I'm approaching with a certain amount of skepticism, but Winnie the Pooh was a childhood favorite of mine and my sixteen-year-old butt will be rushing to the theater near me to see it.
4. A Dangerous Method is set to be released in early 2012 near the awards season. It is considerably far away, but still enough cause for excitement.
5. Anna Karenina. Keira Knightley. Jude Law. Need I say more?

And now...the trailer for the Sherlock Holmes sequel has been released. I know what you're going to say. The film installment completely disregards all aspects of the source material except for the name. Still, I loved the bad-boy edge given to the film. It combined Sherlock's eccentric intelligence with a proportionate amount of action sequence, a little touch of romance, and a large dose of sex appeal. Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law are both in my top ten Movie Star crushes. Yes, I do keep a list.

All the same, I'm a bit skeptical of the sequel. The word "sequel" automatically sends a slight shiver up my spine because they have a notorious tendency to fail miserably. The first Sherlock got great reviews and picked up a new generation of followers. Now I have a feeling that filmmakers will overwhelm themselves trying to usher to this new generation and the film will end up missing all the qualities that made the first one good.

But it's got Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law in it, so I'm going to be excited anyway.
Comments, anyone?


Rochester vs. Heathcliff

It is tuesday, and my love for the novel makes it imperative for me to write a Jane Eyre related post. It just so happens that just this morning I was conveniently arguing with another lit lover in a very heated discussion. I remember back when I was thirteen (oh yes, three years ago seems like a huge amount of time when you're a teenager) I picked up Jane Eyre on a cozy winter night about two days before Christmas. While the rest of my family sat at the coffee table and played an exciting game of Taboo, I nuzzled myself into a corner and resumed my avid reading of the novel. My sister-in-law came over to me and smiled.

"What do you think of the book?" she asked me. By this time I was already past most of the book and in the middle of St. John's proposal, so I was safely assured of my feelings.

"I absolutely LOVE it!" I exclaimed. She laughed and clicked her tongue at me, which led me to inquire what exactly she found unsuitable about Jane Eyre. 

"Most readers either like Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights," she explained. "I could never take Rochester over Heathcliff."

I remember those words still. At that time I hadn't read Wuthering Heights yet. I did on future occasion, however, and after closing the back cover I understood perfectly what she had said. There's something combative about Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre that makes it almost impossible for anyone to like them both equally. After coming to this realization, I was quickly exposed to the results. It seemed like everywhere I turned there was some type of debate between readers arguing in favor of either Emily Bronte's masterpiece or Charlotte Bronte's impeccable tale. Which one was more popular? Which heroine was the stronger? But the most reoccurring question was who is the better male hero; Rochester or Heathcliff.

My answer:

Can you really choose either? Asking the question of "who is the better male literary hero" and then mentioning those two names is so contradictory that it's almost paradoxical. Who in their right mind would really define Heathcliff and Rochester as heros? In truth, they could much more easily be categorized as villains. One is an adulterer who attempts to commit bigamy and lead an innocent teenager into a life of sin, the other is a manipulative and resentful rake whose only goal in life is to seek vengeance against those who misused him and torture the woman that loved him. BOTH are intensely gloomy and vicious characters with shady pasts and violent tempers. What good do we actually find in Rochester and Heathcliff besides the intense passion they have for their lovers? And even that eventually leads them to their "demise."

Who is the more resentful of the two? Heathcliff, without a doubt. Who is more manipulative? Arguably, Rochester. I've come to the conclusion that when people ask "who is the better male literary hero", they're really asking who is the more passionate of the two, and THAT is the question that sparks debate.

Of course, as the Jane Eyre lover that I am I would be remiss not to argue in favor of Rochester. How can you get much more passionate than the man who is so in love with a woman that he would risk losing his soul and going to hell just to be with her in life? You can't argue the passion of a man who says, "You are my sympathy--my better self--my good angel.  I am bound to you with a strong attachment.  I think you good, gifted, lovely:  a fervent, a solemn passion is conceived in my heart; it leans to you, draws you to my centre and spring of life, wraps my existence about you, and, kindling in pure, powerful flame, fuses you and me in one."

But Heathcliff lovers would say otherwise. They would argue that Rochester's attempt at bigamy would show a weakness of character, a lack of forethought. They exclaim that Rochester had only known Jane for months whereas Cathy and Heathcliff had been in love since they were mere children. They say you can't dispute the ardor of a man who asks his lover to haunt him so that he might never be without her. All are good arguments. 

So on which side do you stand? And in reality, is there really any way you can choose between two similar but yet completely different characters? Is there some unwritten code that deems one more "passionate" than the other, when even the word "passion" is subject to opinion? Who knows? But for now I stick with Team Rochester!

Monday, July 11, 2011

"Pride and Prejudice" Review

I normally don't like to post so late at night (it's 11:22 pm right now), but with nothing else to do and with just having reread the novel for the "umpteenth" time in my life (thank you very much summer reading) I think I'll go ahead and write a review. It strikes me as peculiar that I actually haven't reviewed Pride and Prejudice yet. The book was, after all, what made me embark on journey of "lit loving", a beautiful and glorious journey that I have yet to finish and hope doesn't end any time soon.

Pride and Prejudice was the first classic I ever laid my hands on. Grant it, at that time it was the abridged version with surprisingly good pictures, but it was still a classic nonetheless! I brought it to school for "silent reading time", which was a privilege that only my most favorite books received in first grade. Now I'm no longer seven years old. I'm sixteen with a solid knowledge of literature; a knowledge that I hope will  eventually transform into an expertise. Now I have the full capability of both understanding and reviewing the novel. 

Oh, Pride and Prejudice! Who doesn't know the story? Even if you haven't even read the book, you know the basic components of the plot if you've watched just one romance/comedy in your life. Almost every remedial love story has been modeled after this novel! 

Girl meets Boy. At first, Girl hates Boy because he's stuck up and arrogant and Boy can't stand Girl because she actually stands up to him. But then Boy finds himself gradually falling in love with Girl while Girl has absolutely no idea that this happening. Boy offers himself to Girl out of nowhere and Girl sends him packing. Then Girl realizes just how warmhearted and passionate Boy really is and acknowledges her feelings for him. Now "all seems lost" but out of nowhere something happens that brings Girl and Boy back together. Now they both confess their feelings, admit how stupid they both were and THE END! 

Yup, that's the basis for almost every chick flick nowadays. But it all started with a novel by Jane Austen. It just so happens that Jane Austen's take is infinitely better. People don't seem to really understand just how out of the ordinary it was to write a Romance in which a woman was actually a "heroine" and not the forsaken damsel in distress. Elizabeth Bennet was one of the first memorable lit heroines who paved the way for greats like Jane Eyre, Cathy Earnshaw, and Margaret Hale. 

What is it about Pride and Prejudice that still resonates with readers around the world centuries later? Is it just the fact that every generation adores a good "age-old" love story? Perhaps we love to get the satisfaction of seeing Lizzy and Darcy go through the twists and turns only to arrive at the beloved happy ending. Maybe we love the escape from the real world where people don't always end up together when they've bungled up all their chances and made asses out of themselves. 

I love all of those things about Pride and Prejudice! But what I love more is the common misconception that many readers get. To me, Pride and Prejudice isn't a Romance at all! Sure, there's a turbulent relationship at the core of the novel, but there's so much more to it than that. If romance was the only great thing about Pride and Prejudice then no one would like it as much. There would be nothing to separate from countless other romance novels and "Boy meets Girl" stories. 

Pride and Prejudice puts a resounding love story at the heart of a social satire and intertwines the two with an artistic creativity. The novel is so timeless because every generation can relate to it. Jane Austen had the innate talent of being able to analyze the follies of human nature and create comedy, irony, and love with it. Our love for Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy is because of their "reality." We see ourselves in them!

When reading Pride and Prejudice, we can all find something to identify with. We all have a tendency to judge people before we really know them, just like Lizzy Bennet. Sometimes we're all just a little too full of ourselves, or perhaps just afraid of breaking the mold and doing what other's might not agree with the same way Darcy was. Some of us might have a house full of annoying little siblings. One might be to preoccupied with boys (Kitty). The other is perhaps a bookworm (Mary). Maybe one is trying to grow up too quickly and be the little rebel (Lydia). Or in my case, maybe we have the tried and true older or younger sibling with whom we have an unbreakable bond (Jane and Lizzy). Perhaps we even have the annoying and clumsy older cousin who tries to hit on us! But at the heart of the story, some of us might have relationships that have gone to hell and back; relationships where we thought "all was lost." 

Pride and Prejudice gives a happy ending to normal old people like us. Why wouldn't we love that? 


Thursday, July 7, 2011

Turning the Page

I'm sorry for the inconvenience possibly rendered by my frequent changes to the blog. As I've said before, I'm trying to give the site a permanent identity. I've decided that the link will stay the same. I don't wish to confuse any visitors. But the official blog name is now "Lit Lovers & Corset Laces" and will remain so for the rest of my blogging days. The background and template are subject to change in the next few weeks until I find one that I deem worthy of permanence. The present one is my top contender at the moment, but who knows what might change? Nothing is ever certain with an erratic nature such as mine.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Intricacies of Accents

Today is the first day in what seems like a rather long time that I've put up a post. With my entire extended family coming to visit and taking up all the available space in my house on friday and the 4th of July being celebrated monday, I found my hands full. The blog and literature itself was far from my thoughts as I chased my little cousins around and tried to keep them the least bit subdued.

Now with my company gone and the house once again under the peaceful dominion of my father, mother, and I, the computer is back under my control and I am now overflowing with the need to write once again. Today's post is not lit related, however. It's rather an interest that's overtaken me particularly in the past two months.

I've been working on a book for the the past year now. The first draft has been finished and with second now underway, I have to devote a lot more time to research than I did before. The book is an in-depth analysis of Jane Eyre from quite a different perspective, but I find myself running into trouble when entering the fictional world. The worst of those troubles is geography. The book is, of course, set in a fictional home near a nonexistent town, but we know that it must have been based on SOMETHING.

Charlotte Bronte was born in the county Yorkshire. She was then sent to a school in Lancashire, and settled in to a parsonage on the moors of Yorkshire. The problem with this is that from what I've gathered in my research, each place has a distinctively different accent. In fact, Lancashire is a different county altogether from what I see on the maps of England. As an American, I would hate to fall into the common trap that so many of those unfamiliar with Yorkshire fall into and assume that all the accents are the same. I did extensive research on Yorkshire inflection and am told that because Yorkshire is the largest county in the UK, it in turn has the largest variations in accent. Which then was Charlotte Bronte envisioning when she wrote Jane Eyre?

There also seems to be some discrepancy between the place that Charlotte lived and the place she described in the novel. For years, filmmakers have chosen to use Derbyshire as the setting for numerous Jane Eyre adaptions in order to evoke the setting that Charlotte painted in the book. Was it perhaps possible that Charlotte envisioned the novel to be set in the county below hers? But then that would discredit the idea that Lowood was based on the Charlotte's school in Lancashire, would it not?

After studying the actual sound of the accents of each place, I found that the Yorkshire accent that I had imagined when reading the novel was one commonly used in Sheffield (particularly for the character of Rochester). I imagined Jane having a sweeter more "country" accent influenced by Lancashire. For Rochester I had imagined a more severe and rough inflection perhaps a bit muddled by travel. My particular emphasis goes on Rochester's accent in this analysis.

When I say I want a "roughness" in Rochester's inflection, I mean that I love the bluntness of the vowels.  For example, in the latest adaption of the novel, the actors put greater emphasis on the northern English accent. There seems to be a great emphasis on the "o" and "u" sound. For example "you mOOst accept me as your hOOsband" and instead of "good luck" I hear more stress on the "u" so it sounds like "good look." There also seems to be a higher inflection at the end of sentences than in southern England. Does any of this make sense to you?

What is a girl to do? I know that many of you tuning into this Blog are from the UK. Can I get a bit of help??

Friday, July 1, 2011

Just a Little Treat

I don't really have a multiparagraph post to write. I simply wanted to say that as always, Jane Eyre has been the dominant thought in my head for most of the week. I wanted to give you guys a little something special so I made a new video posted below. It contains quite a few spoilers, though not enough to ruin the movie or anything, only to make you want to see it more. Enjoy :)