Sunday, November 28, 2010

Jane Eyres

With the upcoming March 2011 release of a NEW Jane Eyre I thought I'd review the past versions. To some outside the costume drama circles it might seem strange or ridiculous that there are so many versions of the same story, but those in the know know that British literature lends itself to wonderfully different interpretations. Sadly, not all interpretations are created equal. If you'll permit me I'll now give you my opinions about five versions and what I think of what I've seen of the new Jane Eyre.

Ok, so truth be told the first two reviews are going to be rather short and broad b/c I just watched the pivotal scenes on Netflix. First up, Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine in the 1943 movie. By pivotal scenes I mean the proposal and the reunion. I watched a few more from this version because I didn't mind it too much, but here are my impressions, characterization wise, costume wise, production wise and overall wise.
Characterization: Run of the mill. You'll find with most Jane Eyres that Jane, b/c she's supposedly so plain and small, is played very subdued and deadpan. Rochester was pretty similar, VERY deadpan. There was very little fire and passion, but Welles made up for it with his RIDICULOUSLY sexy voice. He was rather captivating but she was nothing to scream about, too beautiful.
Costumes: Run of the mill. Made in 1943 the costumes had a very 40s feel to them, mostly in the menswear (what's with normal pointed collars? I should NOT see Rochester's neck, weird). Jane's hair was beautiful in a perfect, subdued, coming out of the 30s, into the 40s, looking historical sort of way. The costumes were more 1840s than 1830s which is when the novel is set (written in the 40s, tells the story of ten years prior).
Production: What you'd expect of a 1940s romance, very Casablanca. Lots of maudlin shots of the heroine with glistening tears and the man looking brooding.
Overall: It seemed like a pretty straight interpretation of the novel, with exact lines from the book. It really had the subdued feel of a 40s movie.

Oh William Hurt. I thought I'd watched bits of this on Netflix but it's not on Instant Play, so maybe it used to be, or maybe I actually had it sent to the house, I don't know. I barely remember it though...For being a Zeffirelli you'd think it would have made more of an impression, but it didn't. So, Rochester played by William Hurt, Jane by Charlotte Gainsbourgh, from 1996. Rochester was more passionate than Welles, but I remember thinking he wasn't as passionate as real Rochester. Gainsbourgh as Jane I do remember, totally underwhelming. Yes, Jane is poor, obscure, plain and little, but she's NOT soulless and heartless. Jane's written witty and clever and refreshing for Rochester. Gainsbrough was completely lifeless. The proposal scene was painful. I can't remember enough else to give you a good review about anything else.

Jane Eyre '97. Rochester=Ciarin Hinds, Jane= Samantha Morton. This version tried to be sufficiently moody.
Characterization: Rochester was temperamental, probably the closest to the book as any of the Rochesters so far. Hinds, whom I adore in Persuasion and other films, groused about and had a mustache and was probably ugly enough for Rochester, but lacked the lovableness that one gains for him as the novel progresses. Samantha Morton. Not. a. fan. I always feel like she needs to sniff her nose to keep it from dripping. She plays Jane soft spoken and timid. I watched this one awhile ago so I can't remember much else. Yes I am prejudiced against the woman, but I don't remember much to dissuade my prejudice.
Costumes: Fine, again, set further back in the 1840s. I remember Rochester being a little too big, like his silhouettes didn't do it for me. Jane was plainly dressed of course, and I don't remember enough petticoats. One could argue this was a choice to show her reduced circumstances. Nothing to write home about.
Production: Dark, bleak, very Bronte.
Overall: Not a fan. At about 100 minutes (which all the versions have roughly been thus far) it rushes a great story. I hate to be away from Rochester too, but rushing their separation is a disservice to Jane's development.

Alright! Here we go. I read Jane Eyre in 10th grade and loved it. After I read it I went straight out and rented this version, and got it for my subsequent Christmas. Timothy Dalton is Rochester, Zelah Clarke is Jane, 1983. I love this version, it was my favorite for a couple of years.
Characterization: Rochester is very passionate but lovable. Of course Timothy Dalton is no where near ugly enough, or ugly at all, to play Rochester, which truth be told we are all grateful for. He's tall and dark and has his growly Welsh baritone. His characterization is very changeable and I feel like the closest to the book. Zelah Clarke as Jane switches between looking and seeming 19 and looking and seeming much older, which I think is a hallmark of Jane. She's sharp like she is in the book and when called for she's just as passionate as Rochester. I think she's also the most appropriate portrayal of the novel's Jane.
Costumes: Set in the 1830s! Yes! I have nothing against setting the film in the 40s because the costumes are all together more palatable for the modern palette, but I can't help but love the 30s and this version has done them up right. Rochester's costumes are a little dated but I love that his neck is pasty white (b/c it really never would have seen the light of day. Jane's costumes, while plain and grey are the perfect examples of 1830s gigot sleeves. Her collars are adorable and everything is piped! The hair is also fantastically 30s with many a style a la Chinoise in the house party.
Production: Overall the production value was rather poor. The lighting was awkward or dark, the faces needed powdering desperately and the overall film quality was rather awful but the locations were good and the set dressings very appropriate.
Overall this is my second favorite Jane Eyre. It is probably the truest to the book in my mind with its characterizations, lines and storytelling. It is also something like 4 hours so it really tells the story like it should. The supporting characters are lovely. If you need to cheat and watch a movie instead of reading the book I'd say this is your best bet.

Oh baby, oh baby. 2006. Rochester=Toby Stephens, Jane=Ruth Wilson. I waited and waited for this version to come to the US on Masterpiece Theatre and I have journal entry after journal entry from the Sundays it was on extolling this version's virtues.
Characterization: Definitely modernized. Rochester is grouchy and changeable, but much more dragged down and worn. With extra pounds of muscle and long curly hair Stephens is of course, again, too beautiful to play Rochester, but again, we don't mind. His Rochester is lovable and vulnerable in a way the others aren't. Scenes and lines have been added pointing to Rochester's dependence on Jane even before he declares his love. The reunion is heart warming and tear jerking. Stephen's Rochester is a man's man while still being absolutely desperately in love. Wilson's Jane is the feistiest and most full of character of any Jane I've seen. She acts a lot from just looks, something I think that is lost in other versions. There's no ignoring that she has a duck face and no chin, making her plain enough for Jane, but she has a beauty, especially with her hair down, that makes sure we like her. The relationship between the two really develops and you understand why they are drawn together.
Costumes: 1840s, great. I LOVE Rochester in this one, mostly because Stephens put on so much muscle weight that is excellently shown off by his tight breeches and high boots. Jane's costumes are appropriately plain, but well fitting. The house party's costumes are what there is to scream about. I just love them all.
Production: Excellent, of course. The modern BBC productions are unparalleled. The locations were breathtaking, the set dressing meticulous and the attention to detail was greatly appreciated. The supporting characters, with their own personalities and new characterizations and scenes were enjoyable and made our time away from Jane and Rochester bearable.
Overall: My favorite, duh. It is a very modern version. Time has been played with, esp with the after the wedding flashbacks. I don't mind it. This version is a lot more smoochy than any others. I don't mind. At four glorious hours this version also takes its time, but doesn't dwell too much with little Jane, a vital portion of the story I know, but once you've read it you don't need the entire back story on film. I just love this version for all its little extra touches which I feel don't take away from the story or the original novel.
Alright, new Jane Eyre. Due out March 2011 starring Michael Fassbender and Mia Wasikowska. Fassbender's been in 300 and other things I haven't seen. Of German/Irish decent he sure looks like a hunk. Mia Wasikowska (say that 3 times fast) was Alice in Alice in Wonderland. I was underwhelmed by her in that one, let's hope she brings more to the table with this one.
Characterization: Fassbender's 33 in real life, compared to Wasikowska's 21 I don't think the difference is enough, but there you go. I'm not going to complain TOO too much, b/c I mean, look at Fassbender, yum. Meanwhile, how weird is it that Wasikowska's younger than me? Weird. Anyway, moving on. Rochester looks rather brooding, but not dark enough. We'll see if Jane falls into the timidity, no personality trap. Judi Dench as Mrs. Fairfax is exciting!
Costumes: By Michael O'Connor!! of Oscar winning "The Duchess" fame! So excited. Again, set in the more palatable 1840s these costumes look GORGEOUS! Jane's look quite fancier than any I've seen, but I'm not one to say O'Connor nay for dressing her mildly above her station. The striped dresses alone of Jane and Blanche are enough for me. Also, watch the trailer above and checkout the shot at 1.36, yum yum Rochester's pants w/ his skinny skinny waist. Also, he rides that horse.
Production: Looks pretty great, big budget stuff.
Overall: I'm excited. The trailer claims that it's a bold new look at the novel. From the trailer I see nothing that's especially different from any other version. If they're playing up the Gothic, Romantic and horrific elements of the story I'd say that's slightly new, but not unheard of. Jane Eyre is a creepy, scary, unsavory story with fires, insanity, disfigurement and creepy laughs. It looks to me like this one might just capitalize on this more than others. I'm excited to see Sally Hawkins and Jamie Bell again, and I'm sure I'll have to buy this one.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Essentials for MY wardrobe

My friend Anjali asked me to compose an entry reviewing the essentials of a wardrobe. I was thinking about this and decided that I’d review the essentials for MY current (and someday my dream wardrobe) because your style is not my style and my style is not your style (but maybe it should be).

Let's start with the tops:
I’m absolutely currently in LOVE with the fact that trends are leaning on the big and baggy side so MY essential tops include my Gap t-shirts. I have two styles that I love and have multiples of, my navy and blue horizontal striped bracelet length long T and my two long batwing Tshirts. LOVE them! With my scrawny frame I swim in them and love it!
I also adore my New York and Co blue and white striped man’s style shirt. It has a self belt but I’ve stopped using it. I only define my waist on Sundays .

Bottoms: Gap chinos in brushed cotton. Adore them, wearing them right now. They are perfect now that the weather has turned and denim is so frigid. Mine are wide legged and fall from my rather large and angular hips. They’re soft and oh so casual.
When I want to look a little more feminine with my larger tops I wear my can’t live without them grey pants (of which I have two in twill and one in denim, all from the Gap). I buy my grey pants slim cut because they go with anything and define my legs when I leave my torso more ambiguous.
Wool grey pencil skirt: goes with brown or black neutral, I made it and it fits me perfectly. It's got a nipped in waist and looks great with my batwing tshirts.

Trouser socks from Banana Republic in neutrals (including greys and browns) and more fun colors (pink and blue). I’m dying for a pair in red but have yet to find them.
Brogued wingtips from Jones Boot Co in Soho (not strictly a Soho store, but where I got mine). Wearing them right now. I need to polish them desperately. As you may or may not have been able to tell, I am in love with menswear for women and this new rash of mens dress shoes for women is too much! I want more pairs of course, but for now I settle for my lovely wingtips.
Keds: I’m on my third pair in a year. I started with banana yellow and turquoise, wore those out in London and now am on to pink, not as versatile as the yellow, but lovely all the same. I love to wear them with my pink trouser socks. I want red and navy real bad, but I just buy the ones that are on sale.
Hunter Wellingtons: If you’re going to buy a rain boot buy a REAL rain boot. I got pea green wellies last year for Christmas and love them so much. I wear them all the time b/c I’m too lazy to tie my shoes.
Minnetonkas: moccasins. My home teachers got me a pair for my birthday last year from the DI. Mine have soft soles so I change into them when I get to work most days. They are a dream. The company has so many styles. Mine are the ankle fringe zip up the back variety.
Classy brown heels: mine are suede 4” Steve Maddens, reminiscent of the 50s opera pump.

Cardigans, get them, get them now. I have oh so many. I’m pretty peeved however that I’ve lost my navy ribbed cardi with pea green and ivory details. Boo. I do however still have and wear VERY often my grey Gap cardi with homey cabinesque knit detail. It has pockets in the front. I’m a HUGE advocate for patch pockets in my cardis.
Raincoat. I used an amazing Old Navy khaki trench for the past 6 years until I decided to leave in London to save on case space, but don’t you fret! I bought an amazing Kelly green trench in Stratford-Upon-Avov (b/c you go to the dep’t stores when you’re Shakespeare’d out).
Winter coat: Wool. All I have to say is wool. Wool is my favorite textile and your winter coat should be mostly wool. I’m not talking your North Face or your skiing jacket, but your proper, stylish winter coat. You may or may not have seen mine. It is orange. It has a pleated skirt, is double breasted and is awesome. Wool, and poly and nylon. Nylon is always a nice addition in moderation to make your outerwear last longer.
Pashminas/shawls/scarfs/Cashmeres: Call them what you will, they are ever so handy and lovely and SUCH a classy way to keep warm when church is absolutely freezing. I got 3 amazing Indian imports at Portabello road, proper and beautiful wool giants. They are a bit scratchy, but when I can’t afford the absolute BEST cashmere and we’re all so used to the rayon blends you get domestically it’s no surprise.

Pearls: of the stud and necklace variety
Drop earrings:just a little dangle. My favorite pairs are a princess diamond and a tear drop Forget-Me-Not from Kew Gardens
Golden fly Egyptian bracelet from Banana, or at least that's what it reminds me of. I really thing it's a recast of what was probably a 50s mimic of a golden fly motif.
A brooch: I have a long champagne colored gold and crystal brooch I got from Portabello Road. I pin my shawls with it.

When I get around to it I might add pictures. I found an amazing store I need to acquaint you with b/c it possesses my ideal essentials by way of leather and outerwear.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sherlock and Law and Order: UK

I spent the entire day watching the BBC's Sherlock, a 21st century adaptation of the Doyle character starring Benedict Cumberbatch (To the Ends of the Earth, Amazing Grace) and Martin Freeman (UK Office, future Bilbo Baggins). Three episodes, all an hour and a half each, available on PBS's Masterpiece Mystery site until the 7th of December, amazing. With a great performance by Cumberbatch who looks so tall but is only 6'1"ish, this series is witty, fresh but classic. Freeman as Watson's chemistry with Cumberbatch's Sherlock is great. Filmed on location in London, it made me pine for it even more than I have been. It's co-written by Steven Moffat of amazing Doctor Who fame (Blink, Silence in the Libarary, the new Matt Smith season as head writer). This blog post is pretty incoherent, unlike the show, which is great. The new series starts filming in May. Better get my tickets to go and stock it NOW!

Also, Law and Order: UK=awesome. Just as piney for London as Sherlock.