Madame Bovary (BBC 2000)

4 Kernels
Like Jane Eyre, it appears there are enough adaptations of Madame Bovary to keep you busy for weeks watching each one with a bag of popcorn and a glass of French wine. Another new version is on the horizon (see trailer below), which will soon be released in the United States in June.

Curious about the story (gasp, yes I hadn’t read the book or watched another version until this one), I tuned in on Hulu (swearing at every commercial, but it’s not streaming on Netflix) and watched the BBC series done in 2000 with quite a few great actors that I like.

The cast includes Frances O’Connor as Emma Bovary (aka Mrs. Selfridge); Greg Wise as one of her lovers (aka Willougby in Sense & Sensibility 1995 movie); Hugh Dancy as another lover (who played in Daniel Deronda); and Hugh Bonneville, who plays her husband (well, you know what Earl that he is).  Fantastic lineup and great acting move this melodramatic story along.

If you haven’t read the book or watched an adaptation before, this one will no doubt be as memorable as Anna Karenina by Tolstoy. Madame Bovary was written by a French author by the name of Gustave Flaubert in 1856.  Emma is the central focus of the story, who is a young lady who is in love with love and hungry to experience the world of passion.  (Hum, sounds like my character Ann Seddon in Blythe Court.)

She marries a kind and fairly good-looking doctor, who gives her a comfortable life. He is a widower and emotionally mature but soon discovers, after his marriage, that Emma has her head in the clouds when it comes to love, life, and reality.  Unable to satisfy her constant yearning to experience something more, she quickly succumbs to the seduction of two men who fall madly in love with her.  Illicit affairs begin, but it’s obvious that Emma has a screw loose somewhere.  As she begins to smother each of her lovers demanding constant attention, they eventually leave.  (Clue – don’t smother men. They tend to run.)

Not only does she crave passionate sexual relations, she also craves things.  She’s the type of woman that in this day and age you definitely don’t want her to have a credit card.  Even in Madame Bovary’s day, purchasing on credit was as easy as signing one’s name. Of course, just like our due dates and bills of the 21st century, there’s a time to pay up.  After losing her second lover and the creditors calling in her debits, things turn bleak, having bankrupted her husband.  Arsenic is the answer to her problems, and a young, vibrant woman comes to a tragic end.  Frankly, she would have been better off doing herself in like Anna Karenina – at least it would have been quick and less painful (well, maybe not less painful).

Both Tolstoy and Flaubert’s stories are hailed as literary greats. I do find it interesting, though, that each touches on the sad outcome of women who dare to find solace outside the realm of passionless and boring marriages. It was perfectly acceptable in that time period for men to have mistresses. You never read a tale from a 19th-century author of any brokenhearted male throwing himself in front of a train or downing arsenic over a lost love – at least I haven’t read any.  Enlighten me if you have found such drama between the pages of a book.

Nevertheless, in these stories we are given tragic endings to apparently remind the female gender that if they sought such romantic trysts, only tragedy awaited them as punishment for their sins.  Of course, had her husband done his duty (which most men didn’t do either in those days except copulate to have heirs), perhaps Emma would have stayed in the bed she belonged and received the love and passion she longed from her spouse. Okay, I’ll stop ranting about the discriminatory attitudes of morality in the 19th century (even before and after that century).

With the new version about to be released, I can honestly say that I found this BBC series a satisfying and well-done portrait of poor Madame Bovary.

Below is the trailer for the new movie.  Will you go?

The Monuments Men (Movie 2014)

  Stars: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, Hugh Bonneville, John Goodman

Have you ever had that feeling that something is terribly wrong, but you cannot put your finger on it? You analyze it, try to find the reason, and end up like a marble statue of indecision. That’s how I felt with The Monuments Men.
As far as the storyline, I had no idea that Hitler amassed such a monumental collection of the world’s masterpieces while conquering Europe. When I initially saw the trailer for the movie, I thought it would be an interesting flick of war intrigue. To my horror, about half way through I kept fiddling with the stop button on my TV wanting to escape my $3.99 movie rental on Amazon.
I cannot put my finger on any one thing as to why this movie doesn’t work. Since George Clooney and Matt Damon star in the film, maybe I was hoping for a WWII version of Oceans 11 where the gang steals back valuable artwork from the bad guys. There are great actors, but mediocre performances. Even George Clooney was a dud, like the landmine that barely sparks in one scene. 
The film lacks conflict and intrigue. Perhaps it’s the script that is dull or poor direction. It jumps from scene to scene.The only thing that did ruffle my feathers were the Germans stealing, stashing, and destroying the masterpieces from great artists. As the war is ending, the team of men who are lovers of art, take on the task of finding, salvaging, and returning the stolen treasures.
Of course, there are undertones of much more being destroyed than art. There is the terrible confiscation of Jewish property, even down to barrels full of gold fillings taken from the mouths of victims. It is a sobering reminder that more than art had been lost during the war, and perhaps we should care about human lives rather than a Rembrandt. 
Nevertheless, it is true that our greatest achievements as human beings should be preserved. Hitler wanted to conquer more than land and human lives, he wanted to conquer and own all of the art created by master artists of centuries past. Two men gave up their lives to preserve and reclaim the artwork. The only question left for the audience to ponder is whether the price of a human life is worth the preservation of a masterpiece.

Lost in Austen (2008)

5 Kernels

Stars: Jemima Rooper, Elliot Cowan, Hugh Bonneville, Alex Kingston and many other wonderful individuals.

Type: Four-part 2008 British television series for the ITV network


If you’re obsessed with accuracy and looking for a perfect Jane Austen rendition, move on. But if you’ve ever read the book, saw an Austen movie, and closed your eyes and wished that you could go back in time and live in Austen’s time period, this is story for you. How many of us wish we could be part of Darcy’s world? Meet a man with manners or live in a world without TV’s, iPods, computers and learn what the true intercourse of conversation meant? Our modern lifestyles would actually make it very hard for us to adapt into a time and place we merely romanticize about in our minds. How odd those characters would think our mannerisms were in return!

The series does just that, only Amanda’s arrival sort of “buggers” up the story, if you get my drift. One night as she reads her favorite Austen book of Pride and Prejudice, the fantasy begins. Elizabeth Bennett enters through a door in her bathroom, of all places, and comes from the past into the future. After their first encounter, Amanda chalks it up to delusion and needing a break. When Elizabeth shows up again, her life takes a turn toward fantasy. Amanda hadn’t planned on going back in the past, but Elizabeth loves the future. She shuts the door behind her and leaves Amanda to enter the book world of Pride and Prejudice – right at the very beginning. The door back into the future remains locked. She tries to acclimate herself to the times, which often is quite humorous. The plot goes haywire, and Amanda tries to fix the story.

Darcy, of course, is wonderfully attractive, the absolute snob, who can’t figure out why he’s “tormented” and attracted to a woman he frankly considers vulgar–Amanda. It’s fiction living inside of fiction – a phenomenal idea.

All I can say to the die-hard Austen fans, is lighten up folks! It’s meant to be fun and enjoyable, not a perfect rendition of the original. It’s called creative liberty. What always amazes me about obsessed fans of certain genre, is that they treat the originals as if they were written by the finger of God on stone, and we’re not to change, alter, or enjoy it in any other manner. That, I think, is a great shame.

Favorite Character: Darcy, of course! Duh…Elliot Cowan is extremely dreamy in the role and has become my favorite Darcy (sorry Colin).

Favorite Lines: Mr. Bingley: [after Amanda sings ‘Downtown’] Brava, Miss Price! And whenever life is gettin’ me down, I shall be sure to go ‘downtown’. Eh, Darcy? (Unfortunately, Amanda’s singing of “Downtown” was removed from the DVD collection. Bummer.)

Favorite Scene: Darcy dipping into the pond and coming up with his white shirt clinging to his sexy body, just so Amanda can relive Colin Firth’s role in P&P.

NOTE: At one time, Lost in Austen was going to be made into a movie set in New York City, rather than in Britain. Nora Ephron is noted as the Director, filmed by Sony Pictures, and there is still reference of a 2013 release. I cannot find anything that says the movie has actually gone to production.