The Barchester Chronicles

[Screenshot]I saw a mention that this production had Alan Rickman performing as the Rev. Mr Obadiah Slope, and it was worth the price of admission for me to see that. He does an excellent job (it would be hard to imagine him not doing a good job with a character as oily and fawning as Slope), but he is not actually even nearly the main character of this series. Actually, it’d be best to start by defining the scope of this series more fully: the “Barchester novels” are a 6-part series, of which the first two are the most closely narratively linked, and the second the most well-loved. This series only follows those two, with the first two episodes covering the plot of The Warden, and the remaining five for Barchester Towers. This is a pretty satisfactory division: plot-wise, The Warden is rather slight and it’s full of elements which would translate poorly to the screen (such as the newspaper broadsides and the parodies of Carlyle and Dickens). So the energy of the series is much better spent on the more dialogue-and-plot-driven situational comedy of Barchester Towers. In terms of delivery of the novel’s original themes and elements, this adaptation works pretty well, presenting a charming ecclesiastical satire, cutting minimally at important elements of the original (as always, screen adaptation requires cuts, but Trollope has easy-to-cut digressions and a miniseries is more forgiving of bloat than a movie). The cinemacraft works too: it’s not shot on location, of course, since Barsetshire doesn’t exist, but it captures much of the same flavor in the (real) cathedral town of Peterborough

Of course, the actors are what drew me, so what can I say of them? As mentioned, Alan Rickman does a fine job, but not the most significant one in the story. That honor goes to Nigel Hawthorne, who presents an impressively abrasive and frequently rueful Archdeacon Grantly. And top billing goes to Donald Pleasance, who actually doesn’t get too much chance to show range: Rev. Harding really has only one attitude, that of quiet, unassertive stubbornness. Among the actresses present, Geraldine McEwan is most notable, putting on a believably, unambiguously unpleasant performance, in keeping with the source material. The other actors do a competent but not superlative job, which I only found particularly problematic with the role of Arabin. As a character with few lines, he needs to be especially expressive to be sympathetic and interesting, especially when we’re deprived of his backstory: he came across disappointingly like Grantly-lite in this performance, where he is in actuality supposed to be a much more sympathetic character.

But, all in all, this is an excellent series for anyone hankering for a video adaptation of Barchester Towers, and for anyon who hasn’t read Trollope, well, there are worse ways to be introduced to his most well-regarded novel.

See also: IMDB, Wikipedia.

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BPAL: Envy, Havana, Haunted, Incubus, Inferno, Laudanum

Big BPAL order, part 2!

Sometimes we have to suffer for our art, or other people’s

The Fall

[Screenshot]The Fall is, first and foremost, visually lush. The real-world scenes aren’t exactly drab, and yet the fantastic scenes are unmistakably fantasy, with grandeur a touch of oversaturation and all the right fantastic trappings. It hits a couple of my buttons, particularly the metaleptic ones, what with the two layers of reality and the dual casting and the analogues, played for dramatic effect but not extremely tight congruence, between the real world and the story. It’s a strong piece of art, visually and structurally. The acting is quite good too, although hardly anyone except Lee Pace (who des a good job) and Catinca Untaru (who does OK, within the acceptable parameters of child actors), is really called upon to show any acting range.

So, yeah, definitely well worth the seeing. It even manages to clock in at under 2 hours, which apparently films have decided they don’t have to do any more, and yet feels epic in length and scope.

See also: IMDB, Wikipedia.

ואלס עם באשיר‎/Waltz with Bashir

[Screenshot]This one I had to see. As a cultural Jew, I have more than a little interest in Israeli film and Israeli subjects. As an animation buff, I had to see how an animated documentary could hold up. And as a fan of cinematic oddity, I was drawn by its critical acclaim. It lived up to the hype and my expectations. I don’t know much about the Lebanese Civil War, so I was coming into this with no particular context. It’d be interesting to see how someone more culturally grounded in the Lebanese massacre as an element of history would view this: this film seems not to inform about the massacres themselves as to illuminate with individual vignettes, most of which work. It seesaws between the fabulous and the horrific, the reality of battle and the unreal trance of waiting. It captures war as a human experience quite well, and it does so within the constraints of a documentary form: the stories are built from eyewitness accounts.

Arguably, it might be considered more of a docudorama than a documentary: a documentary actually uses primary-source footage, while a docudrama includes re-enactments, and an animated feature is necessarily the latter (the animated scenes of Folman interviewing veterans complicate matters even more, since it’s surely an accurate depiction of Folman and his subjects talking). From a format perspective Waltz is difficult to categorize: if it’s a documentary, then is, for instance, Persepolis also? I’m not averse to that categorization, but it raises interesing questions about its purpose. There’s the danger that animation can be distancing, and I doubt it was Folman’s purpose to try to make the war seem fictional. Perhaps it was meant to explore the space between “unreal” and “imaginary”, and I can roll with this as a noble purpose.

See also: IMDB, Wikipedia.

BPAL: Bengal, Black Forest, Caliban, Debauchery, Drink Me, Eclipse

This is part one of a pretty big set of imps I’m working my way through (12 bought, 6 freebies). Drink Me and Eclipse were freebies. The others I selected specifically.

In which our hero smells delicious, which may not be a good thing