Victoria, Season 3, Ep. 1

The premier of Victoria starring Jenna Coleman delivered great historical drama.
The series opens in Paris with yet another uprising in 1848. The barbarians are storming the gate and the King Louis-Phillipe flees for is life. Cut to a dignified, pregnant Victoria knighting a noble. Soon word reaches Victoria about her French counterpart.

Next Feodora, Victoria’s half sister, washes up on the shores and heads to the castle. Feodora, who seems to have a plotting and dramatic nature, seeks refuge with her younger sister the Queen. She’s seeking the high life as well as refuge, but is disappointed. When she hints around that she needs new clothes Victoria’s offer to let her wear her old dresses with some alterations was quite a bitter pill.

In Parliament another new character Lord Palmerston, the supercilious Foreign Minister, is stirring up trouble. Without consulting anyone, Lord P. wrote to the rebels in France. Neither Victoria nor Albert took this news well. In addition to being a political maverick, Lord Palmerston is coming off as a philanderer. Victoria’s new Lady of Robes had best be careful so she doesn’t get in trouble with her husband or the Queen.

screen shot 2019-01-16 at 10.11.48 pm

At home, there’s a bit of trouble in the nursery. Albert and Victoria now have five children. The oldest son Bertie, now 7, has no clue about the line of succession. He believes in England only queens rule. Throughout the episode he’s making comments about how women rule in England and how he doesn’t want to be a king. When Louis-Phillipe arrives and the children perform for him, Bertie dramatically refuses to play the king. Inadvertently, this pours salt in the wound for Albert, who’s never liked the role of Prince. Victoria seems very concerned though she does realize Bertie’s just a little boy.

Downstairs a new footman and maid arrive. The footman’s quite robust and Mr. Penge warns the women that he’s a known ladies man. He soon proves Mr. Penge right with his flirtation. Skerrett and the pastry chef are betrothed but haven’t set a wedding date. As the Queen’s right hand maid, Skerrett realizes life will be quite different as a married commoner. We see she’s got cold feet. I’m doubtful that we’ll see her marry this season.

The maid who is hired is a Chartist, so she’s part of the lower class activist movement that is protesting for workers’ rights. It’s 1848 and with Marxism getting popular and the French King getting deposed and begging to stay with the Queen, Victoria is quite worried. By the last scene of the episode, we see she’s right to be concerned.

The first episode had a brisk pace and lots of new characters, most of whom spell trouble. Lots of tension and uncertainty along with the gorgeous gowns and luxurious settings. We’re in for a good season.

Advertisements

Morning for the Osone Family

MORNING FOR THE OSONE FAMILY

Keisuke Kinoshita’s Morning for the Osone Family (1946) probably couldn’t get made today. It’s an anti-WWII film that exposes how the military and government squelched free speech and exploited citizens even when Japan was at a point when it was clear they were bound to lose.

Curiously, the film begins with the Osone family celebrating Christmas and singing “Silent Night.” After some chit chat, the eldest son is summoned by law enforcement and is soon imprisoned for writing an article that subtly questioned Japan’s militarism.

It’s a big hit for a family whose father died a while back. The mother has tried to live up to the father’s pacifist philosophy. She continues to support her second son, who’s a struggling artist, and her daughter who wants to marry for love, but now that her fiancé has been drafted, is getting pressured by her uncle to marry a scion he’s lined up.

The family unity continues to dissolve. The painter gets drafted and the daughter goes to work in an army support job. The uncle, who’s an officer and very pro-war moves into the family home with his haughty wife. Their presence, and particularly their lavish lifestyle enjoying black market goods, while most citizens starve, sickens the mother and daughter. The final straw is when the uncle urges the youngest son, who’s still in high school, to enlist in the army.

Morning for the Osone Family offers a beautiful, moving view of history. My hunch is few Japanese have seen this film, but they should. We should too. I’m glad I did.

The Woman in Black

6809DCE97AD-DCBC-5990-6714E6B1FDB167C1
The Woman in Black has been playing in London since 1987 and my friend has seen it four times. She invited me to see the Royal George Theater production. The play was engaging and acting was accomplished.

A man who wants to share his frightful experience with a ghost hires an actor to coach him. However, this man is so dull that the actor winds up taking the reins and performing the story himself. We see the two rehearse the tale of the man’s journey to a gothic, desolate mansion owned by a woman who’s recently died. In the course of this project, the actor comes in contact with the otherworldly Woman in Black.

The show is entertaining and whether you go with friends, your grandma or a child, there’s nothing objectionable in terms of content or language. It’s scary, but not something that would give anyone nightmares. All in all, it’s an entertaining show that I liked. I don’t see myself going again and again, but I’m glad I went.

Jane Eyre

Screen Shot 2018-11-08 at 2.13.59 PM

Hurry! You’ve got one last chance to see Jane Eyre at Northwestern University’s art center this weekend. I went last Saturday and was blown away with this production. Northwestern University is famous for its theater majors including Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Charlton Heston,  David Schwimmer, Shelley Long, and more.  Thus its no surprise that the plays they put on are top notch.

In this story of orphan Jane’s hard life, the Northwestern students’ acting was, as usual, superb. The woman who played Jane was outstanding. Her voice was lovely. I’d list the names but the program didn’t print the names of actors’ ‘with their character’s name. every cast member was spot on.

I read the novel Jane Eyre a long time ago, but remember the general plot. This production used Polly Teal’s adaptation, which is a little confusing because at the start of the play Jane is reading to a woman who appears to be mad. She represents Jane’s wilder side, but then the same woman is Rochester’s mad wife. I think if I hadn’t known anything about the story, I’d have been thrown by that part of the plot.

The simple set design was sparse but set the right tone of 19th century elegance. For the attic where the madwoman was locked up, there was a platform with one lone chair which could be lowered and raised. This was a genius way to show the attic and how the madwoman haunted life in the mansion.

I love how easy and affordable plays at Northwestern are. Parking’s a breeze and it’s close to home. Tickets don’t cost an arm and a leg.

SPOLIER ALERT Continue reading

The Cave of the Yellow Dog

Filmed in Mongolia, The Cave of the Yellow Dog is a simple and powerful film that captured my heart. The actors aren’t professional. They’re real nomads who live in a yurt and live off the land.

The oldest daughter Nansal, age 6 or 7, returns from the city where she’s going to school and while exploring finds a black and white dog that she brings home. Her mother allows her this pet, but her father later objects. He’s worried that since the dog was living in a cave, he may have lived with wolves and could attract them. Namsal does everything in her power to keep this dog, even though wolves have been a threat to the flock, which is the family’s source of life.

The film was a marvelous look at a culture that I know little about. It’s colorful and compelling. I was amazed at how much autonomy and responsibility these young children had to look after each other and after the herd.

Many thanks to the librarians at Skokie Public Library for challenging me to watch The Cave of the Yellow Dog. I think you’d like this family-friendly film too.

If you like The Cave of the Yellow Dog, you’ll probably also like director’s first film The Story of the Weeping Camel. 

 

Poldark, Season 4, Episode 1 & 2

05-poldark-402.w1200.h630

Poldark, Season 4 started with two strong episodes, one last night and the other the Sunday before. The first episode showed Hugh Armitage still pining for Demelza and penning pretty poetry for her. It’s appealing, but Demelza stays on the edge of fidelity for Ross. Hugh’s health is deteriorating and wants Demelza by his side, which concerns Ross, but the situation leads to some impeccably written and acted scenes that portrayed a tough aspect of marriage.

Politically, George’s use of power is dangerous. Ross sees how his backing away from taking a seat in Parliament has made for injustice. In episode 1, in an uprising at the port, where the hungry, were protesting, Demelza’s two brothers are erroneously arrested along with Zacky Martin’s son Jago, who was fit to be tied at the injustice. Jago, a hothead, accidentally kills a merchant. All three are arrested.

Hugh Armitage, dashing and poetic, continues to woo Demelza, though Dwight advises him not to. Hugh is going blind and dying so he’s not going to give up on his dream girl. Demelza is flattered. It’s nice to have such devotion when you’re husband takes you for granted.

Ossie’s the same ogre and churl. His mother has come to town and plans to arrange for a governess to put a distance between Morwenna and her son. How much is this poor woman to endure?

The tension grows as Sam, Drake and Jago’s hanging nears. Ross believes it’s best for Demelza to be in the dark so he ships her off to a fancy dinner at Hugh’s uncle’s with Caroline and Dwight.

Ross has a certain deux ex machina charm and convinces the magistrates to spare his brother-in-laws, though Jago is hanged. Yikes! Demelza is reunited with her brothers though she’s unaware of exactly how close they were to hanging.

More good news! Caroline is pregnant!

The premiere drew me in from the start when Aiden Turner emerged bare chested from the ocean. Certainly, the writer and producers wanted all the audience to be rapt from the get-go.

For episode two, visit Armchair Anglophile. I’m too far behind and having trouble with my computer lately, so I suggest you visit Armchair Anglophile for a recap.

The Wings of the Dove

I’m reading the novel The Wings of the Dove with my friend Bill. We’ve been discussing novels in more or less chronological order. I’d never read a Henry James novel and I’m not enjoying this one so I thought if I saw the movie, I the plot would be clearer as I read.

I have not been won over. This story about Kate, a plotting middle class girl who falls in live with middle class Merton. Since the rich aunt who supports Kate financially won’t let her marry down, Kate manipulates Milly, a dying rich, American girl she meets and Merton. Her plan, which the wimpy Merton agrees to, is for her lover Merton to cosy up to Milly with the aim to getting into her will. Despicable, n’est pas?

The film stars Helena Bonham Carter, who’s moody and and sort of dark, as Kate. Elizabeth McGovern plays Milly’s companion Susie and Merton’s played by Linus Roche, who was an ADA on Law and Order for several seasons.

The film isn’t doesn’t go into each characters’ psychology as the novel tried to but the poor people weren’t that poor and their plot was doomed from the start. I just had no sympathy for Kate or Merton and very little for Milly, who was dying of some unspecified aliment and had little sense. It wasn’t clear to me whether she was an orphan. If her parents were living, I’d expect them to keep better tabs on their naive daughter. Susie is a fine companion, but had little sway over Milly.

The film was pretty, but the story itself was a non-starter for me. Watching the movie hasn’t spurred me to dig into the novel. I’ll continue to trudge through it.