Les Misérables, Episode 5

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While I like Les Misérables, and the novel’s one of my favorite books, there’s some je nes sais quoi aspect that is missing in this production. Perhaps I can’t help but compare a Les Misérables production to the musical, but then why am I completely satisfied with the classics with Michel Simon and Jean Gabin? I watched them after reading the book or seeing the musical and was swept up by the stories. With this version, I’m a bit detached.

This week resumes with Cosette pining for Marius, who’s rather mopey in my opinion. Marius’ friends led by Enjolras decide to seize the moment of General LaMarque’s funeral to start a revolution that will bring about the social change they seek, i.e. better treatment for the poor. Marius is teased for being so in love that he can’t focus on a revolution.

The penniless Marius decides to eat crow and visit his awful grandfather to ask permission to marry. The old man scoffs and just suggests Marius put the girl gramps believes is a pauper up in an apartment and amuse himself till it’s time to marry for status and wealth. Gramps is simply advising Marius to do what he did. To his credit, Marius is appalled and vows to never cross the threshold of his grandfather’s mansion.

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After escaping from jail, Éponine finds Marius and promises to give Cosette a letter from him. Though she’s in love with Marius, she’s willing to aid his love for her rival. She confronts her evil, abusive father in her efforts and while for a time hides Cosette’s new address she eventually tells Marius all and even sacrifices her life for him. The problem with this production was that the love Éponine shows looks so thin. I wondered why she died so Marius, who’s a bit of a wet noodle, could live.

The funeral procession seemed less epic, and probably more authentic, than in the musical. All hell does break loose, but this rush to the barricades didn’t have the impact on me as a viewer as other productions did.

Javert continues to obsessively want to capture Jean Valjean more than he wants to quell a rebellion. This time I wanted a colleague or superior to knock him over the head or ship him off to an asylum.

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Jean Valjean fears Thenardiér and the police and plans to leave France after a few days at a new secret apartment. In addition to retrieving the fortune he’s stashed in the woods, he has to deal with Cosette’s teenage rebellion. Like all her age, she can’t see that her love isn’t quite as important as saving her adopted father’s life. Well, it’s almost excusable as she’s not fully aware of Jean Valjean’s situation. But she does know enough. She’s the one who cleaned his wounds after his fight with Thenardiér’s thugs. He has told her he was in prison. She must remember how he saved her from abuse and neglect.

The episode takes us up to Jean Valjean arriving at the barricade. He’s finally discovered Cosette’s secret romance and selflessly goes to help Marius.

For the most part, Masterpiece has followed Hugo’s story, but as I said something’s missing. Je souhaite que je nouveau quoi.

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Poor Dwight and Morwenna

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Sunday’s Poldark episode began by showing the villagers poorer and starving. Yet, and this should come as no surprise, George had no mercy or compassion for them. He rounded up those he could and sentenced them to 15 years in prison.

Also, the program included the fastest, no fuss, birth I’ve ever seen on television. In one scene Demelza’s digging potatoes and a bit later she’s got her new daughter Clowance  in her hands.  I didn’t actually mind the abbreviated birth because the episode was packed with other events.

Dwight is stuck in a dank, dark, decrepit prison which rivaled the Les Misérables Paris sewers for hygiene. Yet despite the starvation and mental anguish of his imprisonment, heroic Dwight manages to perform surgery in his cell.

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Carpe diem, Morwenna

Morwenna and Drake, both reserved by nature, tentatively get closer. Yet as Morwenna’s charge Geoffrey speaks up to George and is found to have gone to Clowance’s baptism on the sly, George and Elizabeth feel it’s time for her to marry. Poor Morwenna. The Warleggan’s don’t bother to find anyone at all suitable. They settle for the first slimy widower to come along, a much older and very greasy Rev. Osborne Whitworth. Morwenna should run for the hills! But there’s no one who can rescue her. It’s out of the question socially that she could marry Dwight who lives in a dark, old building with a dirt floor with his brother. Even Demelza thinks Morwenna could never marry down.

George doesn’t brook opposition, no matter how wise or how true. Thus he’s exiling Aunt Agatha to the dungeon of the coldest, darkest part of the house. He makes sure that she gets no letters, including Ross’ invitation to Clowance’s christening.

As so many people are starving Caroline and Demelza team up to get them grain. Ross finds a way to trick George so that he’s fooled into thinking the villages stole when in fact they were given grain through donations. Ross’ trick backfires as it prompts George to get even by closing his mine, which was once a Poldark mine just out of spite. The result is 70 breadwinners will be out of work and their families may starve, but George has no compassion and he doesn’t care. Be careful George, look what the French did to their upper class.

The episode was brisk and moved a long with lots of emotion and action. The hour whipped by and I didn’t want the show to end. We’re left hanging to see what will become of Dwight, Morwenna and all the others in this splendid cast. I find I like Geoffrey Charles more and more.

The Collection

I gave Masterpiece’s The Collection a try when it premiered on Sunday. It didn’t take long for me to grow tired of a program where the characters all seemed dark, greedy and selfish. I confess after 10 minutes or so I changed the channel.

The show is about a struggling fashion house in Paris after WWII. The man in the center of the video’s first frame is the jaded, selfish owner of a fashion house is asked by a government official to help France’s fashion industry rise again to its former zenith.  To his left is his reprobate brother who’s a talented designer who’s got substance abuse problems.

I’d much rather PBS brought back The Paradise, where the characters were flawed and faced obstacles, but the heroine was good, though not at all boring. Dark characters like those in House of Cards or The Collection aren’t necessarily fascinating.

If I got the show wrong, and should give it a chance by catching up online, let me know.

Downton Abbey, Season 6 Begins

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In the U.S. after months (maybe 10 months it seems) of promotions, Downton Abbey’s sixth season began on Sunday. My tradition has been to watch Downton with my aunt, who’s now living in an assisted living facility. I brought dinner for us and arrived early. Our problem was we couldn’t get PBS on Direct TV in her room. No one was able to help us. Ugh!

We had dinner and then I left to watch the show, feeling awful that my aunt wouldn’t be able to watch a show she loves.

I enjoyed this first episode, but feel that this review will echo what I said last season. I enjoyed seeing favourite characters and elegant costumes, but not all that much happened.

A chambermaid tried to blackmail Mary about her rendezvous with a Lord Whoever last season. We knew the chambermaid wouldn’t succeed and she doesn’t she’s just an annoyance. I’d expect a chambermaid in a nice hotel would have lots of opportunities for blackmail and that she’d be better at it than she was. It was odd how she had so much time and money to travel to the Abbey so frequently. By the end of the episode, Robert came to Mary’s rescue, showing his fatherly love, which made Mary realise how good a father he is. Still, I’d hoped that wily Mary would have outsmarted the chambermaid.

Violet has learned that a larger hospital would like to take over the village hospital. She shares her scuttlebutt at a board meeting and Isobel and Lord Merton, who seems to be trying to score points with her, oppose Violet and the local doctor, who doesn’t believe bigger is necessarily better. Cora’s caught in the middle and seems to be swayed more by Isobel’s views. I hope Cora gets a better storyline this season, but I doubt it.

Edith, as is often the case, didn’t get a lot to do. Her daughter is fully now part of the family. Edith handled an irate call with the editor of the paper she’s inherited. There was a nice scene with her aunt in which Edith considers moving to London to get out of Mary’s shadow, which would be best for her. Mary dominates Downton and there Edith will always play second fiddle.

I’ve wondered how the series will end and whether the Crawley’s will be able to keep their estate. In last night’s episode a nearby house went up for sale and the Crawley’s neighbours auctioned off most of their belongings. This sale obviously makes us all wonder what will happen to the Crawley’s who’re unable to replace staff and are now considering lowering wages.  The elegiac mood of the end of a beloved era hung more heavily last night and probably will throughout the series.

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At the auction, Daisy had an outburst. She’s very upset that her father-in-law will probably be kicked off his farm. When she saw the new owners, surrounded by her employers and all the people milling about shopping for antiques and what-not, Daisy let loose her feelings of the injustice of Mr. Mason. Though she had a point, she didn’t help Mason at all and just got herself in hot water. As Mr. Carson points out this was a “dismissible offence.” Yet the Crawley’s were merciful and Robert just scolded her.

Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes are engaged, but Mrs. Hughes was worried about the “terms of the marriage.” There was a bit of comedy as she had Mrs. Patmore run back and forth to find out how intimate Mr. Carson expected her to be. In the end, Mr. Carson convinced Mrs. Hughes that he wanted a real marriage and that his love for her was strong and real. I wonder whether Mrs. Patmore will have to continue to play the messenger/marriage counsellor between these two people who’ve known each other for decades?

With a flourish of deux ex machina, Julian Fellows tied up the storyline of  Anna being suspected of murdering her rapist. Another woman confessed to the crime. She must have been a female Jean Valjean since Anna was the prime suspect and there was no clear reason why the woman confessed, but it’s lucky for Anna that she did.

Favorite Violet lines

  • Does it get cold on the moral high ground?
  • If you were talking in Urdu, I couldn’t understand you less.

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Mr Selfridge, Finale – Part 2

Though I’m glad Nancy Webb’s identity and motive were revealed, there was so much I couldn’t abide in the last part of the finale.

  1. Why, oh why, does Violette feel doomed to marry Jacques, the aviator? She can do better. Anyone could. She hasn’t tried to find love other than Victor.
  2. Why did Victor send Violette away? Just last week he was frolicking with her in the grass waxing eloquent about wanting a nice home.
  3. Boy, did Rosalie get little to do this season. Sergei got a bit more, but in the end wasn’t much.
  4. Why do we have sequence after sequence where in one scene someone mentions how a person must fight for their love, and the next scene shows a character doing just that. Can we get a bit of sophistication with our drama, please?
  5. The ending emotion and music was soooo flat-footed and heavy-handed it bordered on schmaltz if I understand Yiddish correctly.
  6. Miss Mardle plans to move all of a sudden. If she want’s to quit fine, but why leave a nice house? London’s big. She wouldn’t have to see Grove.
  7. Oh, then I saw it – Miss Mardle, who was a tower of strength for most of the episode is now back with Grove because he held a sit in in her foyer. Really? It wasn’t the least bit romantic, just stubborn and pathetic. She could do better. Now she’ll have to mother his brood? Or will she just be his mistress again?
  8. And, of course, after confronting Nancy, who begs for a reconciliation, which I was at least glad she didn’t get, Harry heads to Victor’s club, which we can now see was converted to a gambling den just for this purpose. Dun, dun, dun, dun–enter the Dolly Sisters with so much make up you can guess they used spatulas. Ladies and gentlemen, who’ve read Shopping, Seduction and Mr Selfridge, we all know that these women will be nothing but trouble for Harry. His downfall must come, but so soon? And with bald, in your face music and dialog? Don’t the writers know that Masterpiece viewers are a sharp bunch that can deal with subtlety. We thrive on it.

Mabel Normand Films

Earlier I posted some background information on Mabel Normand who’s in the next episode of Mr Selfridge. Here are a couple of her short silent films. These two are both from 1912 so the real Selfridge folks might have seen them.