Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Vile Bodies

A few more literary adaptations - Evelyn Waugh this time, Waugh has now been filmed almost as much as E.M. Forster!

BRIDESHEAD REVISITED – I recorded this 2008 version out of curiousity last week but then decided I did not need to see it, but then I wondered just how bad it could be, so it certainly made for fascinating viewing. The main question though is: Why? Why bother to remake a classic and fillet it down to a 2 hour running time? The bare bones of the story are there but so many characters (like Anthony Blanche and Mr Samgrass) are just glossed over that it makes no sense. We still have Castle Howard though. A few lines of the original pop up here and there, like Carla’s line on how charming the English are with their male romances – Greta Scacchi is effective here. There is no point in making comparisons with 1981 the 11 hour BBC version. I often complain about movies being over-lit but this one seems curiously underlit with lots of interiors looking very gloomy if not almost dark.

Matthew Goode (glimpsed as the dead lover in A SINGLE MAN) is the rather dull Charles Ryder while Ben Whishaw (acclaimed for his Hamlet on stage) makes for a rather petulant, camp schoolboy Sebastian, certainly not as fascinating as Anthony Andrews in the original BBC production. All the subtlety of the original has been removed – Emma Thompson’s Lady Marchmain is just a dragon lady (without any of the subtlety of Claire Bloom's original) – she gets one good moment though when she turns her thwarted rage and withering disdain on Charles, and then a bit later we are told she has died, as though her character has been dispensed with. Despite the occasional nude swim there seems to be nothing going on between the boys and Hayley Attwell is simply not charismatic enough for Julia Flyte. Scripted by Andrew Davies and directed by Julian Jarrold. It reminded me of that dreadful 2005 film PRIDE & PREJUDICE by Joe Wright, again with the story simplified and streamlined and utterly without merit. I threw my disk of that in the bin, but at least didn’t purchase this BRIDESHEAD!

BRIGHT YOUNG THINGS – A much better Waugh adaptation (from his “Vile Bodies”) and as scripted and directed by Stephen Fry in 2003, this is delicious entertainment with just the right touch. Add in a whole roll-call of thespians and nice period detail and it all works a treat. We are back in the 1930s again as James McAvoy as the gossip columnist Mr Chatterbox works for newspaper magnate Dan Ackroyd. Mr Chatterbox is banned from Lady Metroland’s party but sneaks in and files a full report on their cocaine-fuelled existence before gassing himself. Stephen Campbell Moore (THE HISTORY BOYS) is a replacement Mr Chatterbox while he tries to retrieve his manuscript and woo Emily Mortimer. The cast is a dream: David Tennant, Jim Broadbent, John Mills [sniffing cocaine in probably his last screen appearance], Peter O’Toole, Harriet Walter, Imelda Staunton and wonderful Julia McKenzie as Lottie Crump, the landlady always trying to get guests to pay their bill. Even the small parts are perfect like Bruno Lastra as the very camp waiter. There are also Stockard Channing as the evangelist, Michael Sheen, Margaret Tyzack and others, and again the bright young things of the 1930s have to face World War II. I enjoyed it hugely. "Vile Bodies" is classic Waugh and as not well known as "Brideshead" liberties could be taken (I dimly recall a BBC production with Vivien Pickles as Lottie). Can we ever get to see that '68 film of another Waugh: DECLINE AND FALL, and of course Tony Richardson's THE LOVED ONE? - that A HANDFUL OF DUST was well done too.

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