Monday, May 16, 2011

Week of May 13 to May 19 (Mann)

What’s on at the Tropic
by Phil Mann

     Amazing! Two buzz-worthy literary adaptations in one week, both from books written by strong, survivor women.
     JANE EYRE is said to be the 28th cinema version of this Gothic novel from Charlotte Brontë, originally published in 1847. We’ve had Orson Welles as Rochester, the overbearing Lord of the Manor; with Joan Fontaine as Jane, the struggling orphan of indomitable fortitude. We’ve had William Hurt and Charlotte Gainsbourg. The Rochester figure has been captured by Charlton Heston, George C. Scott, and even Timothy Dalton in his pre-James Bond days.
     This time Michael Fassbender (300, Inglourius Basterds, Fish Tank) is an excellent Rochester, but the soul of the movie is Mia Wasikowska, fresh from Alice in Wonderland and now Jane in the Yorkshire moors. “Do you think that because I am poor, obscure, plain and little, that I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong…” says Jane, straight from the page to the screen. The novel was originally published as a faux “autobiography,” but much of the story is derived from Charlotte’s own life, including the physical description of Jane and her travails at a Dickensian boarding school. And Mia looks strikingly like pictures of the author, so we finally have a Charlotte look-a-like portraying the Charlotte life-a-like character of Jane.
     The most surprising element of the movie is the director, Cary Fukunaga, a 33-year-old American of half-Japanese decent. This is only his second movie, after the Central American immigrant saga Sin Nombre, but he has mastered the Victorian Gothic look and feel essential to any Brontë movie. It “very likely surpassed all previous cinematic versions of "Jane Eyre." … it's also a cold, wild story about destruction, madness and loss, and this movie captures its divided spirit like none before." (
     ATLAS SHRUGGED has never been seen on the screen before, having spent decades in development hell since its publication in 1957. It’s certainly not for want of interest, since author Ayn Rand’s cult of objectivism is much in vogue and has followers, like Alan Greenspan, in high places. The 1949 film of her first novel, The Fountainhead, with Gary Cooper and Patricia Neal has become a classic. But this sprawling 1000+ page book which is as much a tract of political philosophy as a romance novel, had defeated all Hollywood’s efforts, until now. Word has it that the current producers’ option would run out unless they got the movie released by next month. There’s nothing like a deadline to bring decades of labor to fruition.
     The movie, which traverses only the first third of Rand’s novel, is set in 2016. The United States has become the Tea Party’s worst dream, with a Socialist government running everything. The female hero, Dagny Taggart, is a railroad executive whose efforts at modernizing her empire are thwarted by government regulation. You see why this is seen as prophetic in certain quarters. (Although there’s a little disconnect in the fact that her goal is flashy high-speed rail that seems oddly akin to the 2011 government project just torpedoed by Rick Scott.)
     This is a love it or hate movie that has generated the widest split in Rotten Tomatoes ratings I have ever seen, with a 13% from critics (“An eye-rollingly clumsy amble through a Middle Earth of Monopolists” – Orlando Sentinel) and an 82% from viewers (“Fantastic film…). I guess you’ll have to see it to decide for yourself. Meanwhile writer-producer John Aglialoro is contemplating Parts II and III, which will carry the story to the establishment of a Randian utopia (dystopia?).
     On the Special Events calendar Maurizio Nardi returns to the Tropic’s Carper Theater stage with his summer dance festival on Thursday (encore on Friday).
     Comments, please to

No comments: