Finished it! Here’s Janner, Kalmar, and Leeli from Andrew Peterson’s perilous, hilarious, and beautiful “Wingfeather Saga”. If you enjoy the fantasy genre, this is definitely a set of books that is worth reading, and I’m SO happy all four volumes have a permanent home on my bookshelf! :D Now, if you’ll pardon me, I’d best be off - I think I hear a stampede of fearsome Toothy Cows. ;)
Having recently re-watched the classic Pride and Prejudice starring Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen as Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy, or I should I say one of the most beautiful love stories ever told in literature adapted for the big screen, I couldn’t help noticing some elements reminding me of the series Poldark, especially in the protagonists’ characterization as well as certain scenes.
Mr Darcy and Ross Poldark are both impenetrable, easily irritable men but closeted romantics, dark on the surface but smooth on the inside. One of the most iconic scenes being Mr Darcy confessing his love to Elizabeth Bennet, and Ross Poldark asserting he became a better man thanks to Demelza. These two men need a woman equaling their strong temperament.
Elizabeth Bennet and Demelza Poldark are lively women, always ready with a quick reply - Elizabeth slamming Lady Catherine de Bourgh played by Judi Dench towards the end of the film when she was told she would never become Mrs Darcy and Demelza’s “What am I? A circus attraction?” as a reply to men examining her uncanny appearance are examples of their strong characters. Both are impressive young women as they don’t let themselves be impressed by the status of a gentleman, and look at the man rather than the sometimes-not-so “gentle man” polished by society’s expectations. Elizabeth is not as physically polished as her sisters, and Demelza not as graceful as the ladies of higher rank, but their verve & natural charm are subjects to attraction and endearment.
The iconic dance scene between Elizabeth and Mr Darcy during which she confronts him about his unfathomable character is full of tension to which you add the undeniable attraction, mirroring Ross & Elizabeth’s dance scene during which they were touching and longing for each other, shortly after she married his cousin.
When Demelza was asked to play something at Trenwith on Christmas leading her to use the sole instrument she is good at - her voice and, as a result, ends up singing a beautiful song as a love testimony for Ross, mirrors Elizabeth Bennet being called out on not being educated musically and forced to play the piano to entertain the evening attendants.
All of these elements to which you add the stunning cinematography contributing to the atmosphere make these two stories timeless and worth melting for, whatever your age.
Criterion has just released a splendid, extra-packed edition of Mark Robson’s infamous adaptation of Jacqueline Susann’s “Valley of the Dolls,” a movie I love, and a movie I imbibe in myriad ways – drug fueled dream, tough-talking-hard-living real, hilarious, gorgeous, feminist, pill-popping romantic (so many beautiful pills), junkie horror story, showbiz melodrama, sleaze, surrealism, camp, odd, unhinged behaviour that’s even weirder than it knows and, yet, recognizable, confessional and sad. I wrote and narrated a video essay entitled “Doll Parts” that comes with this edition and I’ve published two very small pieces from that much longer video essay here.
As I wrote of Robson’s direction of “Dolls:” “Looking at his career it may seem strange he ended up with the dolls, but perhaps not – melodrama and horror was his milieu. Hope Lange’s perfectly peroxide "Peyton Place” hair, ravaged by incest merged with the artful, terrifying insane asylum black and white of Robson’s Val Lewton-produced “Bedlam” – it all swirls in the same hot pot of sordid and artful. These things happen in life, but in cinema, they work as dreams, repressed memories, swoony trauma, all placed on screen to relive or revel in. And that is “Valley of the Dolls” – as Dionne Warwick sings: “Is this a dream, am I here, where are you, ‘Tell me, when will I know, how will I know, When will I know why?’“ This is the opening paragraph and the last paragraph of my essay. If you’d like to read everything in between, and there’s a lot more in between, pick up the very special Criterion disc.
–Confession: The last time I watched Valley of the Dolls, I finished the movie crying. I felt off, almost irrational. This is a personal admission to begin an essay and means nothing about the quality of the movie; it only means the film left me emotional and … altered. Like reading “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” at a certain time or listening to “Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten” at any time or the goddamn "Theme from Mahogany” when you’re just trying to find cough drops at the drug store. It’s not unreasonable to feel emotional when art or trash or anything in between tugs at your heart, but with Dolls it felt out of body. Musical. Like the way the that mad genius, Dory Previn and her Dolls-penned songs, hang over the movie like a lost little girl/woman spirit, fresh from the loony bin unafraid of warbling her fear and pain to the world. A beautiful, hilarious, bitter and almost embarrassing madness.
–These are women being confessional, like Jacqueline Susann herself, like the more esteemed Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton. And Dory Previn’s songs are confessing and scary (Andre Previn wrote the music, this must be mentioned, but Dory, oh Dory. Your lyrics). Here’s Dory, bitterly reminding viewers that love is like a flower “that lives for an hour then withers and dies…” That’s Tony’s love song. That’s the one. The one that wins over Sharon Tate’s Jennifer. The one heard over and over. That love doesn’t last. It dies. The Dory, the Dionne, the dolls – the film’s like a big budget, beautifully costumed echo to Anne Sexton’s “Briar Rose”:
was an insomniac… She could not nap or lie in sleep without the court chemist mixing her some knock-out drops and never in the prince’s presence. If it is to come, she said, sleep must take me unawares while I am laughing or dancing so that I do not know that brutal place where I lie down with cattle prods, the hole in my cheek open.
The poem ends:
What voyage is this, little girl? This coming out of prison? God help - this life after death?
With Valley of the Dolls there is life after death. This movie lives on. And these doll-women live on. They’ll never let you forget them. Even if god won’t answer the little junkie in the alley, she can answer herself. And she should. After all, she is merely traveling incognito.
“I find myself surrounded by faces of some of the most important men who took part in the Cretan Revolts together with memorabilia that would normally be housed in the Historical Museum of Crete. Yet here in this humble room in this tiny village in the wild and beautiful mountains, the stories of freedom fighters are as alive as if it were yesterday. My eyes pour over the portrait-sized photographs of some of Crete’s finest palikaria (brave young men), most of which are framed in ornate gilded or polished wooden frames. The photo of Anagnostis Skalithes, Zaccariah’s great grandfather takes centre stage. Born in 1818, he died in 1901, and was the general commander of the Kissamos region and for a period, was President of a Cretan Government. Anagnostis is shown in the midst of his prime. A strong featured man with a well-groomed mustache, he proudly wears a large Cretan hat with the long tassel elegantly falling onto his left shoulder, and his jacket and waistcoat appear to be of fine silk with contrasting embroidered buttons. In his zounari ( sash waistband which is 8 metres long)) are two enormous and elaborately carved Cretan Daggers of which no self-respecting freedom fighter would ever be without. Nearby is a photograph of his son and grandfather of Zaccariah, Georgios Anagnostou Skalithes, 1845-1926, taken in old age. He appears to be standing in front of the house. Sporting a long white beard and fine mustache, he wears the high boots and breeches of the mountain fighters. Inside his cummerbund are two daggers similar to those of his father and he holds a rifle, the same one that now stands on the nearby table.”