Period Dramas on the Hollywood Horizon….

So… I haven’t posted in a while (but my time has been usefully spent reading tons of books, adding ever more books to my collection, watching (and in many cases re-watching!) hoards of period dramas and importantly… keeping up to date with all the exciting new ones which are due to be released this year!

For lovers of period dramas – what do we have in store?! Well! A great deal…

Firstly, fans of The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald have a new adaptation to look forward to. Released Christmas 2012, this Hollywood version stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby, Tobey Maguire as Carraway and Carey Mulligan as Daisy. I’m expecting a gorgeous adaptation of this classic American novel (see the trailer here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rARN6agiW7o ). Although being a HUGE Toby Stephens fan I fear my bias may mean that I think ultimately he will be play the better Gatsby… (Unfair? Maybe. Infact. Yes, definitely.)

In September, we have the Tolstoy masterpiece, Anna Karenina released, starring Keira Knightley in the title role. Supporting cast of Jude Law as her older husband, Aaron Johnson as dashing lover and Domnhall Gleeson as Levin (Bill Weasley in Harry Potter!) and many many more fantastic actors and actresses. I have to say this is one of my favourite novels. Ever. And I fear for the portrayal of these characters on screen (I have seen the 2000 Helen Mcrory version and the 1997 Sophie Marceau version and was sadly less than convinced…) – hopefully the sumptuous production and amazing cast will make it an enjoyable experience. I remain sceptical of the ability to cut down this wonderful novel into a tight Hollywood movie -style adaptation… (we shall see!) – if anyone has any good Tolstoy recommendations please do share!

For Henry James fans, we have a modern day adaptation (ok, so not technically a period drama, but I can’t miss off a James film – there are so few about!) of What Maisie Knew. This film is based on the 1897 novel by Henry James which focuses on Maisie, the young daughter of a pair of irresponsible and warring parents. The story surely translates so well into a contemporary setting with it’s depiction of a dysfunctional family and quite frankly I am so excited to see Julianne Moore and Alexander Skarsgard in this movie. More Henry James adaptations is all I can say (regardless of the era they are set in!!) See the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JE4Q_7YNlAo

Another(!) Great Expectations will also be released in December, starring Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter (Voldemort and Bellatrix for HP fans!!) and Holiday Grainger and Jeremy Irvine as Estella and Pip. And as much as I love, love, love, this novel – I can’t help but wondering when we will get some other Dickens adaptations (Hard Times/Tales of Two Cities/Dombey & Son PLEASE?! Anyone else with me on this one?)

And finally… what I am most excited about (but which will not be coming until next year…) a biographical re-telling of Dickens’ secret love affair with actress Nelly Ternan starring Ralph Fiennes as Dickens and Felicity Jones as Nelly.

The screenplay is based on the biography ‘The Invisible Woman’ by Claire Tomalin (on my to-read pile!) and charts the intriguing love life of one of my favourite authors. Fiennes will no doubt be an amazing Dickens.. and Tom Hollander is also set to play Wilkie Collins – another of my all-time favourite authors (Dickens’ best friend and popular 19th Century novelist specialising in ‘sensation’ novels). – I have high expectations for this…!!

There are LOTS lots more (including the upcoming television dramas we have to look forward to – what would Sunday night be without some period drama excitement to keep us entertained?!) but I will curtail my enthusiasm for now and post again soon. If anyone has any exciting tips for me to look out for then please let me know!!

Aside

2012… A year for the classics..

So… 2012 commences and as always I start the year full of the very best intentions (work-wise, health-wise, attitude-wise.. and this year  literary-wise!) I have big plans for 2012 as a year for reading (or re-reading!) all my favourite classic authors (and discovering some new ones I haven’t yet tried..)  I also want to start reading some more contemporary authors (so if anyone has any good tips they will be much appreciated!)

I’m also signing up to some reading challenges for 2012 to focus my reading energies and give me some goals to work to!

Firstly, I will be participating in Darlene’s Book Nook Mammoth Book Challenge – I’m aiming for Level 4: Read 8 or more mammoth-sized books.

2012 Mammoth Book Challenge

I’m thinking a lot of the classics I intend to read will fall into this category so (hopefully!) I should make the 8 if not more: e.g. Bleak House – Charles Dickens, Middlemarch – George Eliot ( I’ve read this before & I LOVE it so it can’t possibly not be on my list!), War & Peace – Leo Tolstoy, The Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas, – these are weighty tomes but have to be on my list.

Also, I will be doing the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die Challenge (hosted here http://caitieflum.wordpress.com/2011/12/29/1001-books-you-must-read-before-you-die-challenge-2012-edition/)  I’m aiming for gold medal status (21+ books). There are some amazing classics on the list so it should fit nicely with my resolution to read more next year!

I do intend to post as many reviews of my reads as possible, but my reading list as ever will be posted on here so I can keep track of my progress!!!

As as personal challenge, and in recognition of the Dickens Centenary this year – I’m going to attempt the feat of reading Dickens entire works (‘just’ his novels not short story collections, criticisms, travel writing.) (Optimistic perhaps but I will try my best to give it a go!)

Interested to hear what others sign up for…!

New Wuthering Heights Adaptation

http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/filmblog/2011/oct/21/wuthering-heights-film-heathcliff

I’ve just been reading this article on the casting choice of Heathcliff for Andrea Arnold’s new adaptation of Wuthering Heights and I was really interested about people’s thoughts regarding James Howson as Bronte’s (anti?) hero.

Casting a mixed race actor in the role has never been done before, and this article seems to imply that this was Bronte’s original intention for the character of Heathcliff. Highlighting Bronte’s description of him as “dark-skinned gypsy” and a “lascar”, it could indeed be argued that the previous adaptations with Heathcliff played by actors like Ralph Fiennes, Tom Hardy and Laurence Olivier fail to fully portray what Bronte intended… However.. I’m not sure that I agree with this. Essentially what is important is the acting and the portrayal of the role (and as I’m a stickler, how close the adaptation sticks to the original plot!!) I think the  casting is an interesting choice and it highlights a racial dimension to the story which has perhaps been underplayed in other versions (although I don’t think this is necessarily all that overt in the actual text).

Interested to hear what other’s think. Definitely looking forward to watching this verson. Kaya Scodelario is cast as Cathy and I think she will be great! Trailer here for those who are interested : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hoOuB9PAVug&feature=player_embedded Still not sure what my favourite version has been so far (and there have been so many!! over the last few years) – but there is always some room for more Bronte. (Although I would love love love an adaptation of Charlotte Bronte’s Villette or Shirley instead of remaking the same novels.)

A re-read will definitely be in order before watching this! Also going to see We Are Three Sisters next month – a Chekhov inspired play about the life of the Bronte Sisters.. Can’t wait!!  http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/2011/sep/14/we-are-three-sisters-review

New Great Expectations Adaptation.. and Dickensian ramblings..

So… I love Dickens. Yes, sometimes his novels are looong, winding chunky beasts with tons of characters and sub-plots, but he surely deserves recognition as one of the greatest writers in the English language. His novels are timeless classics and his depictions of various characters have become English institutions- what would Christmas be without Scrooge?

So, I am super excited about the new adaptation set to be shown on the BBC around Christmas of Great Expectations.. (Yes, I know this has been done lots of times- but I think we have room for some more Pip, Estella, Havisham and Magwitch in our lives…!) The casting looks perfect- Gillian Anderson (who did an amazing job as Lady Deadlock in the BBC version of Bleak House) is Miss Havisham, Ray Winstone is Magwitch (yes!), and David Suchet is Jaggers (yes, yes, yes!!) All lovers of Great Expectations will surely be thrilled about this new version (even if there are other neglected classics which the BBC should seriously think about adapting!)

The adaptation is part of the year-long celebrations for the bicentenary of Dickens’s birth in 2012. There are some amazing plans for 2012 across the country (and beyond!) with events, exhibitions, performances and festivals – looking at it all here http://www.dickens2012.org I hardly know where to start with what I would like to attend! I will have to start planning..!! Be interesting to hear what other people are up to!

After completing my read of all the Sherlock Holmes books (one still left to go which I am holding back to save for my holiday!) I think I will turn to a reading (or re-reading) of all my Dickens favourites and the ones I haven’t yet got around to. I still have Bleak House, Little Dorrit, David Copperfield and Our Mutual Friend on my to-read pile so having a Dickens reading project would be a great motivator to get stuck into some of these!! One of my favourite novels is A Tale of Two Cities so that will definitely have to be on the list, along with Great Expectations.. What are other peoples favourites?

Also to highlight this interesting article about an online journal project looking for volunteers to edit content for ‘Dickens Journals Online’  http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/booksblog/2011/aug/04/charles-dickens-journals-online-project – looks like a hugely beneficial project to spare some time for…!

 

A Sherlock Holmes Summer…

So.. one of my reading challenges for 2011 was to read the complete Sherlock Holmes novels by Arthur Conan Doyle.  I had seen the 2009 film with Robert Downey Jr. and I heard that a new film was being made, so I really wanted to read the novels to see how well the films adapt the texts.. I also thought it was an unforgivable gap in my knowledge of Victorian literature not to have read ANY of the Holmes stories(!)

I am currently making my way through these beauties.. (and I have to say I am loving!! every minute of the journey..)

1. A Study in Scarlet                                         5. The Hound of the Baskervilles

2. The Sign of Four                                            6. The Return of Sherlock Holmes

3. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes    7. The Valley of Fear

4. The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes         8. His Last Bow and The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes

I (think!) that is the entire works and I’m currently only on the third book, but I am hugely enjoying them so far. I was worried that perhaps the stories would get a little repetitive after a while, especially reading them in close succession.. but on the contrary I find that each new story is unique and clever.. and Holmes gets even more intriguing. The stories are snappy and don’t drag, and each one leaves me rushing ahead to read the next!

I can’t say how well Downey Jr captures Holmes yet, as it has been a while since I have seen the film.. my feel is it wasn’t that accurate.. A re-watch may be in order.. but dare I say it.. I don’t want to spoil the characters I am enjoying so much in the novels by watching any terrible adaptations. Holmes is so clever… and elusive… and arrogant… and charming…and so many other random things that much make the character hugely difficult to bring across in an adaptation. The recent modernisation with Benedict Cumberbatch has also been reccomended to me- what do others think? Which adaptations of these stories capture Holmes the best? Which portray the relationship between Holmes and Watson? Jeremy Brett seems to be the favourite from what I have heard.. but then Rupert Everett seems such a good choice too? I really think I may need to get some of these versions once I am done with the novels!

Anyway.. so I am only on book 3 of 8.. lots more to get through.. I think I am becoming a fan though! :-)

Countdown until 9th September….

The new adaptation of Jane Eyre is going to be released on the 9th September.. and I can’t wait!! An exclusive trailer was highlighted in the Guardian today and it has got me super excited again!!

http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/video/2011/jun/03/jane-eyre-mia-wasikowska-michael-fassbender

Fassbender will be a great Rochester, I have no doubt (although seeing him as Magneto in X Men next week should be an interesting contrast!) I have high hopes for this version of Charlotte Bronte’s *amazing* novel. Mia Wasikawska looks to have the right measure of feisty spirit, plainness and vulnerability that a perfect Jane Eyre should have. A re-read before September is definitely in order though so I can really appreciate whether the film captures the subtleties of the text.

On the flip side though (in spite of my enthusiasm for the film!), I do wonder why it is that none of the Charlotte Bronte’s novel have merited any screen time? An adaptation of Villette or Shirley (particularly a lavish BBC version with weekly installments to get us through the winter!) would be so welcome! What is it about these other texts, (other than that they are lesser known to the wider public), that merit this neglect. The BBC adaptation of Anne Bronte’s Tenant of Wildfell Hall is proof that lesser known novels can be brought successfully to the small screen. In short then- more Bronte please!! :-D

New D H Lawrence Adaptation…

I am super excited for the new BBC4 adaptation of D H Lawrence’s Women in Love/ The Rainbow! It starts on Thursday 24th and is a two-part series which brings together the two novels. The cast looks fantastic, with Rosamund Pike, Rachael Stirling, Rory Kinnear and Joseph Mawle starring, so it should be a real treat for period drama fans! Pike and Stirling play Gudrun and Ursula, two sisters, who are the focus for the novel as it charts their lives and loves and their relationships with each other.

For anyone interested in the contextual backgroud of the novels, there was a really interesting article in the Guardian this weekend: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/mar/19/rainbow-lawrence-rachel-cusk-rereading The articles focuses on the novels treatment of women and how it subverted traditional Victorian stereotypes of femininity, and how in reading Lawrence we shouldn’t be put off by the connotations of his controversial, ‘highly-sexed’ image. Cusk’s article draws attention to all the reasons why Lawrence’s ‘provocative’ novels should be read by modern-day readers as “a subversive, transformative, life-altering act”.. I couldn’t agree more!!

So.. high hopes for the series..! Not sure how easy Lawrence is to transfer to the screen as often with his novels it is the elegance and poetry of his narrative rather than the plot which is the most striking, but we shall see..!! Definitely think I should put some Lawrence on me to-read list his year!

Victorian Vampires, Werewolves & Soulless Spinsters…

I recently discovered a fun series of novels by Gail Carriger, which I would highly recommend as light reading for anyone with an interest in the Victorian period and vampire/werewolf fiction. As a lover of the two, I was curious about this series which focuses on the antics of Alexia Tarabotti, a twenty six year old spinster, with a forthright manner and no soul. The novels are set in a Victorian England where vampires, werewolves and ghosts are integrated members of society (so kind of like a 19th Century True Blood!) and this odd mix of comedy, period setting and the supernatural works to great effect. Alexia is a great heroine, and the relationship between her and Lord Maccon (“loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf”) is fabulously funny.

The first novel, Soulless, begins with Alexia being attacked by a vampire who has a shocking lack of etiquette, poor choice in clothing and no knowledge of ‘preternaturals’ (i.e. soulless individuals who have the power to neutralise supernatural powers). Alexia accidentally kills the vampire and from here the adventure starts…! With some fabulous characters (the uber-camp Lord Akeldama, a vampire with a passion for puce waistcoats, being a prime example), the novel jogs along at a great pace and is definately worth a read for anyone who likes their supernatual fiction with a heavy dose of comedy!!

I have the others in the series on my to-read pile, so hopefully they continue in the same vein! There are currently three other books in the series, (Changeless, Blameless & Heartless) with a fifth to come soon.. (Timeless) and I can’t wait to read more about Alexia’s adventures!! A great beach-read I think (I tend to pick things that are a bit too heavy normally!) so I may save them for summer holidays later in the year!

Dangerous Liaisons with Colin Firth and John Malkovich

In 1782, Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’s epistolary novel, Les Liaisons Dangereuses was published in France to immediate public success. The novel scandalised contemporary readers with its unflinching insight into the ‘immorality’ of it’s two main characters,  the Vicomte de Valmont and the Marquise de Merteuil. I read this novel last summer and thought it was a beautifully constructed piece of writing which offers an intriugingly unjudgemental (particularly for the time it was written!) insight into the complexities of human morality.  I had been aware of the John Malkovich/Glenn Close adaptation for a while, but not the Colin Firth adaptation which was actually released a year later. A period film with Colin Firth as the leading man, that I hadn’t yet seen? A must-watch indeed…!

Valmont, released in 1989, stars Firth alongside Annette Benning as Merteuil and Meg Tilly as Madame de Tourvel, the morally pure married woman, who Valmont views as a tantilising challenge and sets about trying to seduce. The chemistry between Tilly and Firth is great, and really captures the development of their relationship as Valmont begins to realise he is not emotionally invulnerable. The acting is beautiful and totally believable, and I think this is the real challenge for any adaptation of this novel, as the characters of both Valmont and Madame de Tourvel develop so subtly and it is important not to demonise Valmont, or make him wholly sympathetic. (Incidentally I think the modernised adaptation, Cruel Intentions, with Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillipe in these roles also does a great job with the characters.)

How does it compare with the John Malkovich version then, released in 1988? I have to say, I actually like it better. Dangerous Liaisons is a good film, and the casting is great, but I just think the Firth version captures more of the subtlety and poignancy of the story. Malkovich is great as Valmont however, (he has that king of sinister charisma about him which is perfect for the role) and Glen Close as Merteuil is a brilliant counter-weight of unrepenting immorality. Both films however are fantastic in their own right – beautifully produced period dramas which evoke perfectly the life of French aristocracy in the 18th Century.

The purpose of the post then is to draw attention to this wonderful Firth film, which seemed to have slipped under my radar thus far. Lovers of Laclos’ novel and Firth fans alike are sure to enjoy this film (it even includes a wet-shirted-Colin-coming-out-of-a-lake scene which is always a plus!) Maybe after his recent Oscar win (YAY!), more people will start to dig out some of his old films, and I highly recommend Valmont for something a bit different from his usual roles.

Jeremy Irons in “The Borgias”, New Renaissance Period Drama Series

In the grand tradition of ‘Rome’ and ‘The Tudors’, Showtime now brings us “The Borgias” – a new historical drama series based on the intrigues of the infamous Borgias dynasty set during the Italian Renaissance.

The show will be led by Jeremy Irons, who stars as Rodrigo, the patriarch of the Borgias family and newly appointed as Pope, and will focus on the machinations of him and his children in their quest for power and status. Charting their rise and fall in politics, the show is sure to be a scintillating account of Italian Renaissance life and with a cast including Derek Jacobi, Francois Arnaud and Colm Feore, it is bound to be a hit!  

I don’t have any extensive knowledge about the period this series is set in, but I am actually really excited about the shows release(!) and there is a great website that has loads of photos and information about the cast and what not here: http://borgiaswiki.sho.com/ 

Really can’t wait for the show to start..! Although in the mean time we have the gorgeous final series of The Tudors on our screens to keep us entertained and the various trailers that have been released…

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