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Archive for June 4th, 2013

I hate such shallow pretenses. I’d let the world say what it pleased and show no grief [for a dead husband] if I felt none – perhaps not show it if I did,” and (when Bertie & Charlotte do not reply) “you both know in what way husbands and wives generally live together. You know what freedom a man claims for himself and what slavery he would exact from a wife and you know how wives generally obey. Marriage means tyranny on one side, and deceit on the other, and a man is a fool to sacrifice his interests to such a bargain. The tragedy is a woman generally has no other way of living — Plater out of Trollope, Barchester Towers, uttered by Madeline

MrsProudieSurveryingHerTerrains
Our first shot of Mrs Proudie, surveying the battlefield as she emerges from her coach — no one will tyrannize over her

Dear friends and readers,

Yesterday I watched all 7 hours of Plater’s Barchester Chronicles in a row. A shoverdose. I was newly impressed by this mini-series based on the first 2 of Trollope’s Barsetshire cycle (6 altogether). Maybe this was the first time I ever watched it during the day. I was using it to try to absorb my mind. And it did, mostly. Only towards the very end when the happy ending became too insistent and maybe the pudding was egged by a slightly overdone final toast to Mr Harding (Donald Pleasance).

FirstCloseupasSurveyedbyBold
First close up of Mr Harding, POV Mr Bold — Pleasance understands this Trollope type and plays Malachi of Malachi’s Cove as brilliantly

What’s so good is how it combines serious feeling with a kind of light comedy. Because I was watching it on a laptop, I could stop the Application (I guess it’d be called) and contemplate stills. Geraldine McEwan was magnificient as Mrs Proudie: a seething passion to dominate fueled her very body, and she was matched by Alan Rickman, who was not a comic figure but burned with a kind of matching maddened ambition.

Assessing
Slope at far left assessing Madeline; at far right Arabin, who does not try to conflict with her

Near its final moments he wishes Mrs Proudie and the Bishop to go on being alive the way they are forever. One theme of this film adaptation was ambition: so many of its scenes are characters discussing who is beating out who for what?

Against them is Donald Pleasance inimitable as Mr Harding whose lines are so delightful because they refuse to play this game — and he gets away with it. He would rather be destroyed quietly. He will resign the Wardenship because he’s in the moral wrong to hold such a large salary and the men he cares for have such a pittance. He will not take the deanship because he’s not fit for its duties, to which Nigel Hawthorne as Archbishop Grantly bursts out with a quivering anxiety of desire: what duties? there are none.

HowtocopewithNewspaperArticle
Discussing how to cope with a newspaper article (a serious matter): don’t answer it says Grantley and as a tactic it’s the one which can win if you have the safe position

Elaine Showalter says Barchester Towers is the first academic faculty satire and certainly that’s part of the mix. Walking away, resisting what will destroy you because the price for whatever it is is too (in terms of ego needs) is the tragic pattern of The Warden, whose references are jobs we can do without because we have some other minimum of support, in the warden’s case his small sinecure in the city. He is willing to take a step down, lose of pride and shallow admiration by others to save his sleep as he’s not got the rhineroceros skin getting on in this upper middle class world of privileges demands.

Erotic. How erotic it was too.

Suggestingthewalkblog
It’s not clear who suggests the walk, but it’s probably Bertie as Madeline cannot go — she has but one leg (marital abuse)

The central presence here Susan Hampshire as Signora Neroni, supposed to be the cynical perspective on what motivates everyone. She has had some real hard experience of marriage — and it’s not been pleasant. She is in the end very nasty to Rickman-Slope, humiliating him, exposing him spitefully. She’s a match for Mrs Proudie in this. She and her brother, Peter Blythe (well named) as Bertie Stanhope and Susan Edmonstone as Charlotte are without the usual ambition to rise and to make money but they are not without a desire for pleasure all the livelong day and they do it by living off their father who has one of these unjustifiably large incomes — and by using others. The close of one part ends in a moonlight walk with Janet Maw as Mrs Eleanor Bold, whose lines and feel are taken directly from Trollope’s Barchester Towers.

But they are not quite harmless. One should not marry Bertie Stanhope who no matter how innocent he seems, is not. His lines reminded me of Dicken’s Skimpole (Bleak House) and when they echoed by Mr Harding who also says he’s a child when it comes to money, knows nothing of it, we are to realize the uttered stance has to be unreal, hypocritical at some level.

TheInterviewblog
The interview: Mr Slope hazing Mr Harding — pray tell reader have you been on many interviews (I’ve endured 16, got the job, such as it was 8 times)

Yes the piece is a produce of Alan Plater’s pen, David Giles’s direction (uses caricature at high points) and the uncompromising costumes and production design of Jonathan Powell (who did the 1979 P&P this way), with the art of Juanita Waterson (costumes) and Chris Pemsel (basic design). Very picturesque fairy tale use of closely accurate costumes of the genteel classes of England in the mid-19th century.

Actreses
Mrs Vesey Stanhope & Susan Grantley family matters (aka Phyllida Law, Emma & Sophie Thompson’s mother; Angela Pleasance, Donald Pleasance’s daughter who is seen in much of BC eating her morning cereal with a long gold spoon)

This could have been and today make for a non-modern feel that will lose the series watchers. But all this emanates from Trollope’s Barsetshire vision which is about (among other things) the inescapability of ambition, erotic take-overs and sexploitation (I did use that word), with just these characters. Its Christianity is equated with selflessness, really giving to the other person what he or she wants (hoping what he or she wants will not be destructive), respect for the other or others, caught up in music which is presented as asking nothing, only giving an experience of beauty (“if you like music” says one of the sceptical old men).

This continual undercutting is Trollope too.

roundingBendblog
Her husband, having given up his job, Mrs Quiverful rounds the bend in her quest to get it back

MrsQuiverfulatdoorblog
Mrs Quiverful at Mrs Proudie’s door — Mrs Bold too goes forth to fight for a man (her father; her hysterical appeal is made to Mr Bold)

Watching it mostly at night, only one part at a time, I concentrated more on — remembered as true the moving scenes of Maggie Jones as Mrs Quiverful doing battle on behalf of her “soft yielding” Mr Quiverful (Jonathan Adams). How desperate they are for, in need of money (14 children is their cry). How eros has done for them. They are the farmost edge of the themes’ continuum. They are easy to notice and as imitations of life feel for. Obvious. Watching it straight through — say Part 4 — one could see suspended an interweave, a kind of dance of couples just after the Stanhopes are introduced into the mix, really engineered by Mr Slope’s maneuverings. It’s then holding the film still and watching gestures and movements and react to them as true cores of emotion, kept private, only given social expression indirectly or silently.

BTPt6Ep8blog
Note the gravity of Janet Maw’s expression as she rightly rejects Bertie Stanhope (who does need her money)

A young lovely Barbara Flynn provides undercutting calmness — as there is a calm center in Trollope’s books. He remains calm in the face of what he observes as it is sort of droll. It’s not that she takes an Olympian perspective, she’s too realistically wry for that.

WhyMrHardingblog
“Why Mr Harding?” Mary asks her brother, and answer comes there none because reason is, Mr Harding’s vulnerable, in reach

What you don’t notice at first is how she (like Mr Harding) does not participate in personal ambition or a ruthless or needy quest for erotic love. And she too is taken care of as Barsetshire is this idyllic place where everyone is taken care of (as long as they can give up pride at judicious moments). Other pastoral figures in the wistful line are Miss Ullathorne and her brother who live together, keep away from life’s battles, be they erotic love (the sister) or social gamemanship (the brother says he can’t take too much socializing).

It’s not that there is no chance of ultimate loss. People die in Barsetshire. (Stories where no one dies or people can come back from depth cannot have life’s emotions since these depend on knowledge life must come to an end.) But when they do, we are to rejoice at their achieving peace — here we slip reality altogether — except for those who need people to die at a particular moment in order to gain some advantage or place from someone else just then in power. The other end of this (upending death) is the pastoral tournament where a local countryman, young Greenacre (unfortunately not listed on IMDB) takes the lists and falls off his horse immediately, nearly breaking his head – but not quite. Mr Plomacy needed Greenacre to do this to please his lady boss, Miss Ullathorne at that moment, to keep his job. A delightful moment is when Eleanor Bold comes upon him and Bertie with glasses of wine and beer in the grass. It’s matched by Mr Harding at the bedside of the dying, seeing them out as it were.

MrHardingseeingblog
Mr Harding seeing old Bishop Grantley (Cyril Luckham) out

Telegramblog
On the other side of the door of the now dead man, Archbishop Grantley ready with the telegram to send to the PM to see if he can get his father’s position: Mr Harding must take it to the post office as it would not be seemly for Grantley …

But I myself did not want to see anyone out. I wanted the man I care most for in life to live and he was being helped to fight for his life by a team of people not far off in an operating room, cutting out a cancer in the middle of his body, the lower esophagus, just above the stomach. This was not novel art. In reality Alan Plater, a great screenplay writer (he did Fortunes of War from Olivia Manning’s Balkan Trilogy which I’ve just now started), died recently. His is the sort of art that I love and wish were more respected: the art of the TV playlet where the TV experience’s strengths are understood.

I had brought a book with me for the day I had to get through but found I could not read. Trollope’s books, especially once in Rome, The Last Chronicle of Barset had seen me through a strained holiday, but the stress of what I was trying to keep on the top of my mind under control would not permit me to lose my mind altogether to conceive thoughts and images. I could only let them in ready-made (as it is in film-taking in). Plater is dependent on Trollope for his concoction.

Movingnearendblog
Mr Quiverful having got the job, the family moves — near the close of the film; it’d been better if it had been the close

I stopped watching only for short trips for food — we went to Starbucks for coffee and croissants (and a hot breakfast sandwich) and Noodles and Company for bowls of spicy spaghetti (and for Laura a juicy-drink, and for me a glass of white wine).

Ellen

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