Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A letter to Ms. Austen

Dear Ms. Austen,

Having read your masterpiece Pride and Prejudice yet again, for the seventh time yesterday, allow me to commend you, albeit more than a century late, on a book so relevant as this. No wonder it has inspired so many adaptations right from Bridget Jones' Diary to Lost in Austen. I'd like to add here how I'd pay billions to see/hear your reaction to Darcy in a wet white shirt amongst so many other things. Ahem.

Every time I read Pride and Prejudice, Ms. Austen, I notice something new. This time, for instance, I noticed your analysis on the various types of love and marriages in society. While Lizzie marries only for love, Lydia marries for her frivolous idea of love. Charlotte on the other hand, is the other extreme who marries for financial and life security, not caring for romance or love. How true.

Your observations on society is a stroke of genius, Ms. Austen, as is the fact that all your characters are flawed, making them so very real to us. Some scenes in the book are so very poignant that they stand attached to my memory, close to my heart. For instance, Lizzie's visit to Pemberley, Mr. Darcy' s letter to Lizzie after she rejects his proposal, Caroline Bingley trying ever so desperately( sample her reading a book just because it is the second volume of the book Darcy is reading) to capture Darcy's attention, Darcy and Col. Fitwilliam's conversation with Lizzie at Rosing's Park and so many more.

A classic is a book that stays with the reader long after they've done reading it and that is exactly what Pride and Prejudice does to me, Ms. Austen. Your annoying characters like Mrs. Bennet and Lydia haunt me so much because, scarily enough, I've met several people like them both.

Saving the best for the last, oh, Ms. Austen, is Mr. Darcy just a figment of your imagination? What a wonderful creation is he! Doing things he would usually despise thoroughly, just to please his beloved, though she had been quite indifferent to him! He does set a ridiculously high standard for men, doesn't he?

Is that probably the reason many women say Jane Austen Ruined My Life? Why is it though that many call Darcy the perfect man? I'm sure you would agree with me that the whole charm of Mr. Darcy, excluding his marvellous Pemberley, is the fact that he is flawed, but works so hard to try and get over some of those faults for the sake of his love.

I don't think you shall understand the following, but let me still go with it. The Jane Austen Book Club film has a memorable scene where the traffic lights flash " What would Jane do?". How true. I think about that constantly. But I wonder about this more " What would we do without Jane and her books?"

Your obsessed fan,

Just thought I'd review Pride and Prejudice a little differently :P This makes it 3/12 in my extended Austen challenge.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Pride and Prejudice (1995) - Final episodes

I totally understand why millions of people world over absolutely love this adaptation. Beautifully directed with excellent performances -an unforgettable experience, this 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice is as good as it is can get.

At the extent of being repetitive, I have got to commend the excellent actors. They were truly fantastic.

Starting with scenes I absolutely adored:

Lizzie playing the pianoforte at Pemberley. Darcy gazing at her, a teasing smile in place. I confess I absolutely loved Colin Firth there! Caroline then brings up the topic of Mr. Wickham, which makes Lizzie run to Georgiana and change the topic. Darcy looks at her again - oh how looks speak more than just about anything!- and Lizzie glances at him. There. That moment, at last, there was chemistry! I had waited long for signs of some passion and some real chemistry and it was well worth the wait.

Darcy snubbing Caroline is great. Lizzie's entire angry conversation with Lady Catherine de Bourgh is one of the best moments of the series, for sure.

Ah, Mrs. Bennet! She was perfection itself. Mrs. Bennet winking at Kitty, Lizzie and Mary while trying to leave Jane and Bingley alone to themselves is definitely the funniest moment of the series.

Julia Sawalha's Lydia was great. She was very very exasperating. Absolutely annoying and a tad cruel. Benjamin Whitrow's flawed Mr. Bennet was skillfully done. Again, how much I love that Austen's characters are always flawed! Brings so much reality to the character.

Jennifer Ehle- what a magnificent performance! She is such a class act.

The double-wedding was beautiful. Caroline Bingley's expression as she sees two of her greatest schemes entirely ruined, is priceless.

I still do prefer the second proposal in the Matthew Macfadyen version. Yes, he was so much more passionate. But Firth is quite good in his own way- I enjoyed his portrayal. I don't think I can quite compare him with Matthew Macfadyen, because though they played the same character, a TV series and a film, are never quite to be compared in the same league.

My final verdict? Watch this version and enjoy yourself. It is as good as it is hyped to be, which is saying something. It makes you adore and fall more in love with everything Austen, if that is at all possible.

This brings my Austen challenge list to 2/12. I'm reading Pride and Prejudice now ( for the 7th time, I think) and I hope to get the review up soon :)

Also, thank you so much Colette at A Buckeye Girl Reads for picking my blog amongst your favourites for an award :)

And this hilarious comic strip by MissKVK on Photobucket, I felt, needed to be shared:Lol.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Pride and Prejudice (1995)- Episodes 3 and 4

Ah, well, I loved both episodes. Absolutely delightful would just about sum it overall. The fourth episode ends with Lizzie looking tenderly at Darcy as she moves off in her carriage from Pemberley having promised to meet Georgiana the next day. After this scene came the credits, which was followed by me yelling in a very 'un-ladylike fashion' " Argh! I want more of Pride and Prejudice!".

This time round, I shall just make note of scenes that I adored and some that I thought could have been better:

Great stuff:

Absolutely love Barbara Leigh Hunt as Lady Catherine de Bourgh. I thought no one would capture Lady Catherine as well as Dame Judi Dench did, but Barbara Leigh Hunt does a very convincing job.

David Bamber is perfect as Mr. Collins- his absolutely annoying descriptions of everything from the window to the closet, his repeated aplogies and praise for Lady Catherine, his extremely awkward 'love' for Charlotte. He's so good that he makes you shudder at the thought of Mr. Collins.

Anthony Calf as Col. Fitzwilliam is perfect and just how I imagined him to be: pleasing, polite and very charming.

God bless Pemberley! It's pretty obvious to all, I think, that I'm a fan of Pemberley ( See blog title ) and this version of Pemberley is absolutely delightful indeed. And here, I also have to confess that the famous wet white shirt scene didn't enamour me as much as Lizzie gazing tenderly at Darcy's portrait did.

Did I mention how annoyingly perfect Julia Sawalha is as Lydia? She's played Lydia so well that I just feel like rushing into the TV screen and giving Lydia a piece of my mind.

Absolutely love the house-keeper at Pemberley talking about Darcy. When she speaks about him, her eyes gleam, seemingly filled with fond memories. That scene is quite enough to make me fall in love with Darcy, I think.

Georgiana hugging Darcy is such an 'Aww..' moment :D

Jennifer Ehle is as near-perfect as any actress playing Lizzie can ever get.

Not- so- great stuff:

The first proposal in the room was so...dare I say it....flat? And no, I'm not asking for a wet Darcy proposing in the pouring rain, but Firth's Darcy just seemed as cold as ever in his proposal to Lizzie. I'd have liked him to be a bit more.....passionate.

I thought Lizzie wasn't quite as angry with Wickham as she should be, when she meets him after getting to know about his true nature, via Darcy's letter.

Wickham was very boring, to me at least.

The Firth meter:

Ah well, I still have mixed feelings for Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. There are some scenes were I can understand his appeal and his portrayal of Darcy, but in some scenes, I find him just a bit vacant. Having said that, I love him at Pemberley, especially when he talks to Lizzie, enquiring if she likes Pemberley and ascertaining how much her opinion matters to him.

As for the wet white shirt scene, it reminded me of two things. Just my opinion, of course:

One: Elliot Cowan in Lost in Austen was so much hotter. " Is that agreeable?" Very much so, sir.

Two: It reminded me of Bridget Jones 2: Edge of Reason where Bridget interviews Colin Firth ( to know about the 'complex man behind the wet white shirt') about his latest film and just cannot stop talking about his wet white shirt, though he tries to wade away from the topic. Anyone who's read or watched the second of the Bridget Jones series would know just about how hilarious that is!

So yes, Firth as Darcy does grow on me.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to the final two episodes tomorrow :)

Monday, July 13, 2009

Pride and Prejudice (1995) - Episodes 1 and 2

It's amazing how Austen turns up suddenly and reaches out when you least expect it.

Sample this: I got home early, with a burning headache. I couldn't sleep, so I decided I'll read Pride and Prejudice. I made myself a hot cup of tea( while sorely wishing that I had this fabulous mug), settled down on my couch and started reading. After a while, I decided I'll check what's on TV. And voila!- the famous BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice was about to begin. I couldn't believe my good luck- I'd always wanted to see for myself what most Austenites claimed to be a fantastic if not the best adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. I also couldn't believe how I always end up seeing and reviewing Austen-related things that are not on my list ;) I'm not complaining though.

The first two episodes were on today, that is, till the scene where Charlotte invites Mr. Collins to stay at Lucas Lodge, after Lizzie had rejected his proposal.

I have to say here that I'm a great fan of Pride and Prejudice (2005 version) and Matthew Macfadyen is totally my favourite part of the film. Not as much Keira Knightley. So I was wondering how I'm going to get used to this new cast and this version.

As there is no need to summarize the story, let me just go to how the characters were handled in this series.
Let me start by saying that Jennifer Ehle is a brilliant Lizzie Bennet and totally trumps Keira Knightley's version, in my opinion. I love the fact that they establish the great relationship between Mr. Bennet and Lizzie in this TV series. Be it rolling her eyes at her mother's absurdity, playing around, arguing with Mr. Darcy or walking all the way to Netherfield Park covered in mud, Ehle has captured the Lizzie that Austen wrote, perfectly.

Jane Bennet as played by Susannah Harker was effective, though Rosamund Pike will always be the most beautiful Jane in my book.

Alison Steadman as Mrs. Bennet totally stole the show. She was loud, brash, impolite, socially naive and an absolutely great performer. Jumping around with Lydia and Kitty, chastising Mr. Bennet for not meeting Mr. Bingley, calling Darcy the most handsome man and within just minutes after this exorbitant praise, calling him exactly the opposite- she's brilliant as Mrs. Bennet, so much so that as I saw her on the screen, I could recall Mrs. Bennet's lines and description from the book. I could feel the character in the book, in her performance.

Kitty and Lydia were perfectly cast and did exactly what they ought to- make me feel so embarassed by their silliness. Mary was apt, and even looked like how I imagined her to.

David Bamber is hilarious as the obnoxious Mr. Collins, while Anna Chancellor is perfectly wicked as Caroline Bingley. Mr. Wickham is a disappointment- I don't find him handsome at all and I didn't find Adrian Lukis' portrayal very convincing either.

Crispin Bonham Carter is an impressive Bingley- always smiling, sort of naive and very believing. Benjamin Whitrow is great as Mr. Bennet. I used to love Donald Sutherland's Mr. Bennet in the 2005 version, but I think when I finish watching this series, I'd appreciate Whitrow more.

And yes, I deliberately saved Colin Firth for the last :P

I'm probably not going to find too many people who agree with me, but Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy did nothing to me in these first two episodes. Yes, he spoke his lines well, he was brooding, he kept staring at people well,he did 'brooding', 'haughty', 'arrogant' well, but there was something missing. It's probably too early to judge his Darcy( after all the famous wet white shirt scene is yet to come ;) ), but as of now, I'm not too much of a fan. I'm not saying that he wasn't good as Darcy. He just wasn't great so far.

I loved the fact that unlike the 2005 version, this TV series had the luxury of going in-depth to some of my favourite scenes from the book- scenes that I read and re-read with joy. There were some scenes for which I prefer the 2005 version. Like Darcy and Lizzie dancing at the ball- I thought the 2005 version had more of a chemistry and the music was just so brilliant.

But it was a delight watching the first two episodes of the BBC series. This is mostly truthful to the book, an Austenite's delight and has some brilliant performances. To sum it up, it was- let me borrow from Sir Lucas' vocabulary- 'capital' ;)

I can't wait to watch and review the rest of this series. The remaining episodes are being telecast tomorrow and the day after and I hope to review them on the same days :)

Monday, July 6, 2009

Extended Austen Challenge

I've decided to give in to my Austen obsession and take part in the extended Everything Austen Challenge. In addition to my previous list of 5 books and 1 miniseries to watch, here are the rest of the things I have in mind:

1. Watch Kandukondain Kandukondain an Indian take on Sense and Sensibility.

I've completed this and reviewed it. Thanks to all who took the time to read and comment. It really helps me keep going with the challenge :)

2. Read The True Darcy Spirit by Elizabeth Aston. I've read this a long time back and I don't think I liked it much. I figured a re-read won't do any harm though.

3. Watch Lost in Austen. Yes! I've been so looking for an excuse to watch this amazing TV miniseries again. I had so much fun with it!

4. Watch Northanger Abbey . I've watched this some time back too and I loved it. Can't wait to watch it again :)

5. Re-read Bridget Jones' Diary by Helen Fielding. This book is pure fun and hilarity and possibly one of the best Austen inspired books I've read.

6. Watch Pride and Prejudice starring Matthew Macfadyen and Keira Knightley. One of my all time favourite movies.

From my previous list:

7. Re-read Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

8. Read Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

9. Re-read Emma by Jane Austen

10. Read Persuasion by Jane Austen

11. Re-read Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

12. Watch Miss Austen Regrets

I'm sure I will do more- I've been planning to watch Persuasion ( With Rupert Penry Jones) , Mansfield Park and Emma. In addition, I've always wanted to do one whole analysis with comparisons of all of Austen's novels, which I hope I'll find time to do within this 6 months. Plus, I thought I'd have some fun 'What would Jane/ Darcy/ Lizzie/Emma do?' polls and discussions, including discussions of Austen inspired movies and books. Time willing, this should all work out fine =)

Something Austen-related to share:

How cool is this mug !?


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