Jane Austen Film News Roundup: Coming to a Television Near You Edition

Standard

While we’re taking a (probably needed) break from the Complete Jane Austen, a few interesting pieces of news crossed our desk.

According to a column by the president and CPO of Twin Cities Public Television, despite all the Janeite complaints, the ratings for the films have been quite good.

And suggesting that “Masterpiece Theater” has “settled” for an all-Jane Austen format is simply incorrect — “The Complete Jane Austen” drew the highest audiences for the program in more than a decade.

Yep, they might stink, but we watched them like the big Janeite saps we are, and that’s all that matters. Sad but true.

For those of you outside the U.S. and UK, many of you are going to have the chance to see some of the new films, if you haven’t already. The BBC has sold rights to S&S07 and Miss Austen Regrets around the world.

Meanwhile, acclaimed screenwriter Andrew Davies’ adaptation of “Sense and Sensibility” sold to 11 markets, including Japan, Sweden, Poland, Canada and Korea, and Jane Austen biopic “Miss Austen Regrets” also enjoyed solid sales.

Naturally, if we hear anything we’ll let our Gentle Readers know!

There’s even a tidbit of Becoming Jane news of sorts: a profile of Laurence Fox, whom many of us adored as Mr. Wisley, reveals that he originally was offered another role in the film, but turned it down.

“…With Becoming Jane they wanted me to be another part who was a bit jokey and buff but I didn’t have any interest in it. I quite liked the concept of going, ‘Maybe there is an alternative for everybody. Here is this shy guy who’d like to be able to express himself but can’t.’ Which is probably more like me anyway.”

Soooooo, who was it? Jokey and buff? Henry Austen, perhaps? Or–dare we say–Tom Lefroy himself? Because who else COULD it be?

Crudely tattooed on his left wrist is “Mrs Fox 31-12-07”, a memento of their honeymoon in Mexico. “Drunken moment in Playa del Carmen. And she’s got ‘Mr Fox’. But don’t tell the agent.”

Just how Fanny and Edmund would have spent their honeymoon, eh?

Lastly, a lot of viewers seemed to really like the music video that PBS put together for the Complete Jane Austen set to the music of Coldplay’s “Fix You.” It’s on YouTube now, so you can rewind to your heart’s content. (And a PBS representative told us about it, so the self-appointed Jane Austen Copyright Police can go have a cup of tea or something.)

S&S08 to be broadcast in the Netherlands beginning February 11

Standard

Alert Janeite Franka was surprised and delighted to learn that S&S08 will be broadcast on Dutch television beginning next Monday, February 11! Franka reports it will be aired by the NCRV at 20.55. The second and third episodes will air on subsequent Mondays. Franka said the episodes will only be 50 minutes long…welcome to Deletedscenesland! *rolls eyes*

The Complete Jane Austen News Roundup: In The Doldrums Edition

Standard

So, three down, four to go, counting Miss Austen Regrets. We’re actually rather excited about this one. We just have a gut feeling that it’s not going to completely stink. But then we’re a glass-half-full kind of blog, if you haven’t noticed. 😛

Mopping up the post-mortem for MP08, Alert Janeites Christiane and Lisa sent us this review from the Boston Globe.

Tomorrow night, Piper takes on Fanny Price, the shy, morally sound heroine of Jane Austen’s “Mansfield Park.” And Piper wins, big-time, as she pulls poor, pious Fanny over onto the Billie Piper side of life. In this third adaptation in PBS’s Austen “Masterpiece” season, our pre-Victorian introvert is a ravishing wild child who recalls Madonna in a Herb Ritts video, or a stoned hippie chick in “Woodstock,” more than a polite teen in a bonnet and frock. In “Mansfield Park,” tomorrow at 9 p.m. on Channel 2, Fanny’s rather rockin’.

Now, there’s an interesting take–Fanny as the rock-n-roll wild child. Not sure about it, but there you go.

Ultimately, this “Mansfield Park” makes Patricia Rozema’s excellent 1999 version (in which Fanny is made into an Austen-like writer) seem stubbornly loyal to the author.

As Christiane said, he had us up to the “excellent 1999 version.” Huh?

AP, via the San Francisco Chronicle, has an article that combines local and international interest, along with some anecdotes from the set of S&S08.

Dominic Cooper recalled the hash he made initially of one of the novel’s most romantic moments — when his character, the “uncommonly handsome” Willoughby, rescues Marianne Dashwood after she slips and twists her ankle running down a hill.

The torrential rain “did make it quite difficult picking her up from a 90-degree angle on a wet, greasy, green hill and turning back to walk up the hill with a very long, wet coat on,” Cooper recalls. “When I kind of squatted down, the jacket got caught. I fell over immediately and put her head in a ditch.”

Ha!

We found a blogsite dedicated to Miss Austen Regrets. It seems a bit sploggy but we think it’s in earnest. (A hint to the proprietors: To make it seem LESS sploggy, try writing some original content.)

The Jane Austen’s House Museum has seen visitors rise from past productions, and is seeing a surge of interest due to That Made Up Film last year and S&S this year. Also, for our UK readers who are feeling a bit left out of the Complete Jane Austen excitement, there will be an exhibition of costumes from S&S08 at the museum starting in March. If you go, send us a report!

A public service announcement of the Janeite Broadcasting Network

Standard

We want to clear up a few rumors and misapprehensions we’ve seen bandied about the Intartubes the past couple of weeks.

1. Persuasion, Northanger Abbey, and Mansfield Park were two hours long when they were broadcast in the UK and only 90 minutes on the Masterpiece broadcast and Region 1 DVDs!

Those three films were all broadcast at 92-93 minutes (this is according to the Region 2 DVD cases). They were never two hours long. Ever. Even in script version. (We shall comment on that presently.)

1b. They would be so much better if we could see the whole thing!

From someone who has seen the “uncut” versions: Afraid not. Really. 🙂

2. Andrew Davies did a hack job on Mansfield Park and Persuasion!

Andrew Davies had nothing to do with writing the scripts for those two films. He also had nothing to do with Miss Austen Regrets, which has yet to be broadcast. The PBS press releases were confusing; we had previously corresponded with one journalist who claimed in an article that he wrote the scripts for “the four new films,” so we made bold to write her a friendly note correcting her error. She wrote back insisting, “That’s what the press release said.” It didn’t, but she thought it did. So there’s a lot of confusion on this point.

Don’t blame Masterpiece for the first three films only being 90-some minutes long. That’s what they bought. Blame ITV. Though why anyone thought 90 minutes was sufficient time for any of these is beyond us, and why limit the running time of a TV movie anyway? Why not make it a two-parter? Two 60-minute episodes? We can speculate, a little bit. We have a copy of the original script of NA, which is 89 pages long. The generally assumption is one page of script equals one minute of running time. The script that we have is nearly the one that was shot; minus one scene in which Catherine walks in on Henry while he is bathing and plus the visit to Woodston, such as it was. The apple-picking scene was not in the script, but there is a similar “montage of General-free fun at NA” sort of thing in there. But generally it is the same.

Cub Reporter Heather L. has a good history of the long journey from page to screen of this particular production in her NA review at Remotely Connected. The script came into our possession while it was owned by Miramax and seemed dead in the water. (Our understanding is that it was being seeded around the Internet to raise interest amongst Janeites. We’ve been complaining about it ever since. 😉 ) There were a few false starts, but nothing really positive until after the success of P&P05 and the resulting resurgence in interest, at least among the entertainment Powers That Be, in Jane Austen.

So we’re not sure why the script was written to be 90 minutes. It could be that Andrew Davies felt that the best length for the film. It could be that was the length he was originally given by London Weekend Television. In that case, one could hardly “blame” Mr. Davies for the length of the film. However, if he was unhappy with that length, why wouldn’t he then rewrite it to be, say, two 60-minute episodes? So we presume it’s exactly the length he thought it should be.

Further speculating (we stress that this is SPECULATION, but it makes an awful lot of sense): ITV bought one script at 90 minutes. It therefore would make sense that it would contract for the other two films in its planned series to be approximately the same length.

We also have comments on record from Mr. Davies that the BBC originally wanted his new version of Sense and Sensibility (which is getting good reviews, but many thought was a little too short for a TV series) to be four 60 minute episodes, but he thought three was better. Why? When Pride and Prejudice, a novel of similar length, required 6 50-minute episodes, or five hours? And even his Emma was 107 minutes, which is a little better (but still too short–the theatrical film is 120 minutes).

So, while we can’t place direct blame on Mr. Davies for Persuasion and Mansfield Park, it is clear that there is a pattern with him of contracting Jane Austen’s novels to short films–perhaps shorter than they should be–and we can speculate that the length of his script for NA dictated the length of MP and Persuasion, all of which, it is generally agreed, would be improved with at least an extra half-hour. One of the selling points of the ITV “Jane Austen Season” was that “each generation deserves its own Jane Austen adaptations.” Too bad this generation gets the short-attention-span versions.

S&S08 DVDs: What's on the DVD? (Region 2)

Standard

Alert Janeite Bert’s Region 2 DVD of Sense and Sensibility lists “Interviews with cast and crew” under DVD special features on the cover of the DVD, but there are no such interviews on the actual discs. E-mails and phone calls to BBC Shop have gone unreturned. We know that several Gentle Readers have received their DVDs, and there’s no information about special features either on Amazon UK or the BBC Shop; can someone please post in comments what exactly is listed and what is contained on the DVDs?

Take the magic home

Standard

We’ve collected the news on the DVD front for the most recent adaptations.

Northanger AbbeyA big piece of news is that the Region 1 DVD for Northanger Abbey does not restore the cuts made to the original British broadcast version. Approximately nine scenes have been cut–nearly ten minutes. It should be pointed out that North American audiences for the most part are not equipped to watch Region 2 DVDs. The percentage of AustenBlog readers might be larger, but looking at the larger Janeite diaspora, many people will buy the DVD and never know that they’re missing something. Although we were not that impressed with the films, it seems a shame to us.

PersuasionThe cuts made for broadcast have been restored on the Persuasion DVD. As Cinthia has pointed out, Persuasion is distributed by BBC America. Northanger Abbey and Mansfield Park are distributed by WGBH Home Video. We don’t know why the cuts were made or who is at fault for perpetrating them. WGBH might not have had a choice in the matter. It’s a nonsensical decision however one looks at it. The MP DVDs, we believe, ship this week, and we’ll see if anything has been cut; it’s more than likely.

Sense and SensibilityOn the bright side, S&S and Miss Austen Regrets are BBC productions (huzzah!) and, like Persuasion, will be distributed by BBC America; therefore we are confident that whatever might be broadcast, the DVDs will contain the full version. There is some confusion about what exactly is contained on the DVDs. WGBH is selling a three-disc “collector’s edition” that, according to the site, has S&S and Persuasion and Miss Austen Regrets as a “special bonus.” The two-disc set has S&S and Miss Austen Regrets, as well as audio commentaries (rumor has it the Region 2 version has commentaries by Charity Wakefield, Dominic Cooper, Hattie Morahan, and Dan Stevens), interviews with producer Anne Pivcevic and writer Andrew Davies, a photo gallery, and deleted scenes (these are presumably *in addition* to a full original cut–there is no reason at present to think that the film on the DVD is cut in any way, but of course we will keep our readers informed). Presumably the 3-disc set includes these extras as well but we do not know that definitively; it makes sense that the extra disc would be Persuasion, though. Amazon also is carrying the two-disc set (we hasten to add that S&S does NOT, repeat does NOT, star Colin Firth. For crying out loud) and the three-disc collector’s edition. That’s what we’re talking about, Gentle Readers! That’s how you treat Janeites! Give us some value for our money. They wanted an Internet-savvy audience; that means a global audience, an educated audience, and it’s a little harder to pull the wool over our eyes.

Alert Janeite Julie P. sent us reviews of the Persuasion and Northanger Abbey DVDs by one Paul Mavis at DVD Talk. He likes both of them, and scolds the dried-up tar-hearted spinster purists. How special.

Horseshoes and hand grenades

Standard

It’s unfortunate in a way that Andrew Davies has become so closely linked not only with period television adaptations in general, but especially with Jane Austen. Unfortunate because he really comes close to getting it sometimes, and sometimes you just wonder what the heck he is thinking.

Alert Janeite Diana Birchall sent us an article Mr. Davies wrote for The Times. Apparently he also has written the introduction for a new edition of Sense and Sensibility. Meaning the book. What? Anyway, there’s some interesting stuff in the piece.

Best of all, Austen has dramatic gifts herself. She would have been an excellent playwright. She builds surely and subtly towards the big scenes, then writes them so well that all the adapter has to do is copy them out.

So why don’t you then? Poor Henry Tilney, who has some of the wittiest and most intelligent dialogue in the Austen oeuvre, had a nearly complete dialogue makeover.

Austen, we can be pretty sure, identifies more with Elinor. Her wry shrewdness is very close to Austen’s authorial voice, and a million miles away from Marianne’s rather soppy eulogies about falling leaves, which are not unlike the utterings of Fotherington-Tomas. Moreover, Austen lets us see into Elinor’s mind and heart, whereas Marianne is represented by what she does and says in Elinor’s presence, and by what Elinor thinks about her. Whether consciously or not, Austen forces us to identify with Elinor.

We’ll buy that.

Then there’s Colonel Brandon. Austen shows us his instant and powerful attraction towards Marianne. We learn that he had a tragic love affair when young, and has not looked at another woman since. So, he has a passionate nature. Excellent. This is all very promising, except that Marianne sees him as an old man (that flannel waistcoat is a real downer); when Willoughby comes onto the scene, Brandon becomes virtually invisible to her. It has potential, but it’s difficult material, and Austen doesn’t handle it as well as she would have done in her later novels. We need a few hints earlier on that Brandon is more than a dry old stick, and, crucially, we need to see, in the final movement, how Marianne comes to love him. There’s at least one missing scene.

Honestly, it’s not that difficult. The reader understands that Colonel Brandon is, under the flannel waistcoat, a seething pile of romance, just like Marianne. He’s been a bit hardened by experience, and learned to keep it under good management, but it’s there, all right.

And we don’t need help to understand that Willoughby is a jerk, either. Every woman understands it. He publicly dumps her. Publicly. At a ball. In front of people. The sisterhood will stand as one on that, trust us.

These dark Austenian subplots are never fully dramatised; we always hear these stories at second hand. We never meet Eliza or her mother, so we are not likely to feel for them as we feel for Marianne, though their fate is so much worse, and I for one feel quite haunted by them.

Many readers do. Honestly, we’re not that stupid. We don’t need to have everything spelled out for us. It’s okay that stuff happens off-canvas. It’s also okay (if it’s not giving away the plot too early) to show a bit of backstory in an adaptation. It helps if the adaptation has enough time to develop the backstory AND the main plot; and an adapter who doesn’t bludgeon the poor viewer with what Jane Austen painted so painstakingly on her bits of ivory.

Dan Stevens on Jane Austen

Standard

Dan Stevens, currently appearing in a play in Bath, was asked about his involvement in the most recent adaptation of Sense and Sensibility.

Stepping into Hugh Grant’s shoes is a tall order for anyone, but actor Dan Stevens took it all in his stride when he wooed the nation in the recent BBC adaptation of Sense And Sensibility.

Dan played the handsome Edward Ferrars, moving women all over the UK to tears in the conclusion to the beautifully-crafted series.

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen is a tale of two sisters and their fortunate and unfortunate choices in lovers. It was made into a 1995 feature film starring Hugh Grant as Edward and Emma Thompson as Elinor.

“I have not enjoyed a job so much for years,” said Dan. The cast were lovely.” Dan read Jane Austen when he did his English degree, but did not pick up anything of hers again until getting the part of Edward. It was a reminder of how much he enjoyed Austen’s work.

He believes the Austen books translate so well into television because she is such a keen observer of people – we still meet her characters walking around today.

“As a female writer, Jane Austen’s primary occupation was to sit and gossip, and we still have a gossip industry today,” he said.

He seems like a lovely boy, but…gossip? Oh, Dan.

The Complete Jane Austen News Roundup: The Air Is Full Of Spices Edition

Standard

Northanger Abbey is up Sunday night, and Team Tilney trembles in anticipation, for whatever value one wishes to place on “trembles.”

Two reviews of the new film have been posted on PBS’ Remotely Connected blog. AustenBlog’s own Cub Reporter Heather L. has written a thoughtful and perceptive review that highlights what is enjoyable about the adaptation as well as why so many of us who love the novel were disappointed with it.

The challenge in adapting Northanger Abbey – or any Jane Austen novel – is to capture the wit and telling details which define a character or scene, and give such keen insight into human nature. These lift Jane’s novels above the myriad boy-meets-girl stories (even though they may share the same plots) and give her timeless and universal appeal.

[. . .]

It’s entertaining, but details that made the story special (and worth adapting in the first place) are gone.

We highly recommend that you check it out. Mr. Tilney would approve.

Fashion blogger Natalie Zee Drieu has a most harmless delight in being fine, and her review includes a Best Bonnets lineup.

The press coverage, unsurprisingly, focuses on the extra dash of Andrew Davies special spice that has been given to this new adaptation. And we just threw up a little in our mouth as we were typing that.

The New York Daily News seems to have swallowed the propaganda whole. (Now, do not be suspecting us of a pun, we entreat.)

“Northanger Abbey,” the first novel Austen completed, was not published until after her death, and Catherine in some ways feels like an early draft of later Austen figures like Elizabeth Bennet. But Catherine has a distinct character of her own, and her dreams reveal a restless, visceral spirit that some today will argue reflects Austen’s own.

*stares*

*blinks*

*squints*

*reads again*

No, it still says the same thing; we are not hallucinating.

For the record: Catherine is not a prototype of Elizabeth Bennet, as though Jane Austen wrote the same heroine six times; nor is she a portrait of the author (for crying out loud!). She is a parody of the typical heroine of the Gothic and sentimental novels of her time. She is a parody in her ordinariness and imperfections, and like Henry Tilney, we come to love her for them, not in spite of them. She is a brilliant creation from the wonderfully humorous and ironic imagination of Jane Austen, who was a genius.

We also are highly amused by the single spammy comment to the article! HA! (And you wonder why we have the Occasionally Overzealous Spam Filter on AustenBlog. Isn’t it worth getting caught occasionally to keep our little playground here free from that sort of thing? Not to mention keeping the Editrix from setting her hair on fire as she cleans 500 spam posts off the blog?)

Andrew Davies was interviewed on NPR’s Morning Edition (thanks to Alert Janeite Jenn for the heads up). We caught a bit of it but had to turn it off before it was over. It’s the usual “Jane Austen is all about sexy sex” stuff from what we could determine. You can listen to it at the link.

Alert Janeite Susan sent us a link to an article on the series in the latest issue of Newsweek, which is most remarkable for one of the first reviews of Miss Austen Regrets.

What trumps these three Austen adaptations is the series’ bonus, “Miss Austen Regrets,” a surprisingly good fictionalized biography. Beautifully acted—especially by Olivia Williams in the title role—it focuses on the last years of Austen’s life and displays a richness and wit often missing from the new films. Austen’s novels always end with a wedding, but this biopic opens with one, where the spinster Austen is a guest. As the happy couple—her niece and her bridegroom—burst out of a picturesque country church, they pass among the gravestones. The shadow of death isn’t far in this autumnal tale as it explores the question: did the author who wrote so magically of true love regret never marrying? “This is the real world,” Austen tells another niece. “The only way to get a man like Mr. Darcy is to make him up!” Yet middle-aged Miss Austen still loves to dance, to flirt (“I’m still a cat when I see a mouse,” she says) and, most of all, to match wits. She’s had some literary success, but she and her family, like many of her well-bred characters, suffer financial misfortune. As her novels do, this film points up the precarious position of women who lived outside the security of marriage to a man of means. The house she shares with her mother and sister resembles that in “Sense and Sensibility,” which will be the final PBS film. You may wonder how this new version compares with the first-rate 1995 Ang Lee-Emma Thompson movie. Then again, comparing competing Austen films has become half the fun.

That’s because you don’t have to moderate the “comparisons.” 😉 (Not that such considerations should hamper our discussion! Keep it lively, Gentle Readers!)

The way she's running, you would think the Borg Queen was chasing her or something

Standard

We were very much amused by the latest YouTube madness: a parody of the final part of Persuasion 07, with Anne running through the streets of Bath accompanied to the music from, in turn, Chariots of Fire, Benny Hill, and Run, Lola, Run.

Thanks to Alert Janeite LauraGrace for the link!

Alert Janeite Julie sent us a link to a rather amusing page on the PBS Complete Jane Austen site: The Men of Austen. First the command: Show the Men! Oh, if it were always that easy!

We were further amused by the “personal ads” for each gentleman. For instance, Henry Tilney’s interests are listed as: “Reading, dancing, fashion, shopping, storytelling, spending time with my sister.” *falls over laughing* Poor Henry! Don’t worry, your acolytes still love you even amidst your undeserved public humiliation. Nonetheless, we chose Tom B. as “Our Man” because of his artistically flowing locks. Yum.

The only article not a rehash of everything we’ve heard before was in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, which included this tidbit:

The bottom line is this. If you’re a fan of Austen’s feisty females (and millions are ), you’re in for a treat each Sunday night for the next three months.

Or maybe not.

I watched three of the preview DVDs with an Austen aficionado of my most intimate acquaintance and she informed me the productions were “uneven.” I’ll have to take her word for it since I’m no great Austen expert.

Wow! He committed actual journalism. How refreshing.