Tuesday 27 September 2011

    Jane Eyre


    Jane Eyre is the classic, Gothic tale of an orphan that was born in misfortune.

    The film adaption beautifully captures the emotions of the book and is visually seductive.

    And I loved Dame Judi Dench as Mrs. Fairfax, the housekeeper.

    Jane (Mia Wasikowska) grew up with a family that detested her and was eventually sent to a boarding school where she finally made a friend. But the school was hell, the children were beaten, and her best friend died of illness.

    Fast forward to when Jane is old enough to leave the school. She takes up a job as a governess at Thornfield Hall, the isolated and imposing residence, whose master is Edward Fairfax Rochester (Michael Fassbender). She tends to his ward while a friendship and her attraction to Rochester, who can be quite changeable, slowly builds. However the developing love story between Jane and Rochester means the ghosts of the past must be faced.

    Director, Fukunaga stated, “I’ve spent a lot of time rereading the book and trying to feel out what Charlotte Brontë was feeling when she was writing it. That sort of spookiness that plagues the entire story… there’s been something like 24 adaptations and it’s very rare that you see those sorts of darker sides. They treat it like it’s just a period romance and I think it’s much more than that.”

    Jane Eyre is directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga. The screenplay is written by Moira Buffini based on the 1847 novel of the same name by Charlotte Brontë.  Academy Award winners: Dario Marianelli composed the score and  Michael O’Connor designed the costumes.

    Filming locations included London and various locations in Derbyshire, including Chatsworth, Haddon Hall, Derbyshire Dales, Froggatt and Fox House in Sheffield. Fukunaga looked at some 60 residences for one to represent Thornfield Hall but settled on the previously-used Haddon Hall as it had not undergone much redecorating.

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    Sunday 31 July 2011

    Mozart’s Sister :: Nannerl, la soeur de Mozart


    The Family Mozart. Nannerl sings, Wolferl plays, Papa dominates.

    I was fully immersed this lavish costume drama with elaborate sets and luscious music about

    accomplished singer, harpsichordist and violinist Maria Anna “Nannerl” Mozart

    is Wolfgang’s elder by five years and a musical prodigy in her own right

    who also composes some wonderful music.

    Mozart’s Sister

    French writer-director Rene Feret’s film about the sister of the great composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

    is grandly set in 18th-century pre-revolutionary France.

    Written, directed and produced by René Féret, “Mozart’s Sister” is a re-imagined account of the early life of Maria Anna “Nannerl” Mozart (played by Marie Féret, the director’s daughter), five years older than Wolfgang (David Moreau) and a musical prodigy in her own right. Originally the featured performer, Nannerl has given way to Wolfgang as the main attraction, as their strict but loving father Leopold (Marc Barbe) tours his talented offspring in front of the royal courts of pre-French revolution Europe. Approaching marriageable age and now forbidden to play the violin or compose, Nannerl chafes at the limitations imposed on her, until a friendship with the son and daughter of King Louis XV offers an alternative.

    Nannerl strikes a friendship with Princesse Louise de France (played by Marie Feret’s sibling, Lisa), who is one of the many illegitimate children of Louis XV. Louise with her sibling sisters have been banished to Fontevraud Abbey 250 km from Paris, while the sons, in contrast, remain at court. The two girls’ fates mirror each other as events shaped by the male-dominated world in which they live subvert their dreams. At Versailles, Nannerl comes into contact with the Dauphin of France (Clovis Fouin), the future Louix XVI, and a rather charming romance develops. However, the tone gradually darkens as the Dauphin becomes insanely intense.

    We are transported by stagecoach through a winter wonderland,

    to the grandeur of the Palace of Versailles and the more austere Abbey.

    For 40 years, René Féret has been France’s most autonomous filmmaker, serving as his own writer, producer and even distributor. For Feret, Nannerl, Mozart’s Sister is clearly a labour of love, drawing on the talents of his daughters and those of his wife, Fabienne, as producer and editor, and their son, Julien, as his first assistant and in a small onscreen role. Feret was permitted to film at Versailles. Mozart’s Sister is beautifully shot with grand costumes and locations.

    The music is a classical feast for viewers and central to the story. It is a wonderful companion to the film; from practice sessions, to salon performances including pure Mozart and fanciful pieces (by Marie-Jeanne Serero) portrayed as compositions by Nannerl, which she undoubtedly would have written but sadly did not survive her. Heather Cameron.

    I thought this review by Philippa Hawker beautifully captured the film.

    French director Rene Feret imagines, in an intriguing, deftly integrated mixture of biography and fantasy, realism and fairytale, what the world of this adolescent girl might have been like. Her name was Maria Anna and she was known within the family as Nannerl; she was five years older than her brother, musically gifted and part of the Mozart travelling show that went around Europe, astounding crowned heads, courtiers and fellow musicians. She was a virtuoso on the harpsichord and accompanied her brother; there is evidence, in his correspondence, that she composed music but sadly none of it survives.

    When Mozart’s Sister begins, the father, Leopold (Marc Barbe) is taking the family – his compliant wife (Delphine Chuillot), 14-year-old Nannerl (played by Feret’s daughter Marie) and nine-year-old Wolfgang (David Moreau) – to perform at the French court. The coach in which they are travelling is damaged and they seek shelter in a nearby abbey. They discover that several of Louis XV’s younger daughters have been dispatched there, to live a cloistered existence far away from palace life and without any contact with their parents.

    Nannerl strikes up a friendship with Louise (played by Lisa Feret, another of the director’s children), a year her junior – isolated, precocious, yearning for companionship. To her, the Mozart family seem almost ideal and she’s smitten with Nannerl, while what Feret shows us is a sense of warmth mixed with deprivation.

    Leopold is focused on his son, on presenting Wolfgang to best advantage and highlighting his musical gifts and compositions. It is not a harsh portrait of the father, although it is clear his ambitions and restrictions tightly constrain Nannerl’s life. Women are not equipped to compose, Leopold says, and they should not play the violin – and Nannerl wants to do both. We also see the combination of intensity and playfulness with which the children embrace the musical life that is all they know – they might be drilled to perform for their supper but there’s a lovely, fleeting night-time scene in which they exuberantly sing harmonies together, then rush to the keyboard to work out the composition.

    At Versailles, Nannerl comes into contact with the Dauphin (Clovis Fouin), the future Louix XVI, a seemingly remote and quietly tormented figure who is scandalised by his father’s sexual exploits. This is a more fanciful element of the story and it explores desire and repression in different terms;

    Nannerl is required to disguise herself as a boy to speak to the Dauphin, a pretence that gives her a taste of freedom, a partial sense of a world not normally open to her. It also gives her, briefly, a licence for musical exploration.

    I am now interested to know more about Nannerl and am interested to read In Mozart’s Shadow: His Sister’s Story by Carolyn Meyer

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    Sunday 29 May 2011

    I’m hooked!


    Downton Abbey is laced with good lines, and that was just Episode 1…

    {Image via Period Films}

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    Sunday 29 May 2011

    Embellished LBD & Glistening Jets


    No-one wants to kiss a girl in black. Black is worn as the colour of mourning in Downton Abbey, and these dresses beautifully embellished with lace and jet jewels.

    Designing for Downton ~ Costume Designer for Downton Abbey, Susannah Buxton was interviewed by Ideas Tap. She talks about the precision and attention to detail that went into the costume, below is an excerpt.

    My starting point for Downton was France; at the time a lot of the influences in the period of 1912-1914 came from a Parisian designer called Paul Poiret. He was trying to pull away from the very highly corseted shape of the era and was influenced by Russian ballet company the Ballet Russes.

    On Downton, about a third of everything the actors wear is made from scratch. There was press criticism that some of the wardrobe was hired, but it would be insanely expensive to make every item, as some fabrics don’t even exist anymore – but you can find them in an original dress. I refashioned a £5,000 gown made for Nicole Kidman in a feature film 10 years ago to fit Michelle Dockery [Mary]. I couldn’t possibly have made that dress – we couldn’t afford the jet beading.

    Mary spends some of her time in London because she is the oldest daughter; she’s a determined, positive person, not flimsy or lacy, so we were very definite with her clothes. Sybil, the youngest daughter, still has a girlish quality but as she grows up she becomes interested in politics and the Suffragettes, which I tried to reflect in her costume. The middle girl, Edith, is less confident because she’s in the shadow of this rather beautiful older sister. I have avoided making her costume reflect this as I felt it would be a cliché.

    I think to recycle costumes is to be applauded. Gowns and accessories from the likes of A Room With A View and the 2004 film Finding Neverland were recycled for the series to name just a few.

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    Sunday 29 May 2011

    Grand drama :: Downton Abbey


    Downton Abbey is jolly good Fellowes. And that’s very hard to deny.

    I’m looking forward to curling up for a blissful escapist evening watching this sumptuous costume drama,

    with misbehaving servants and repressed masters, a grand country house (Highclere in Berkshire)

    & Maggie Smith as the scathing dowager in a role Fellowes wrote specifically for her ~ it’s got to be good!

    Written by Julian Fellowes, who has an Oscar for Gosford Park

    and a handful of stylish period pieces to his credit including Vanity Fair and The Young Victoria,

    has become the man producers go to for tales of upper-class intrigue.


    Downton Abbey

    is the eponymous house itself, a sprawling, Elizabethan-style country estate and home of the Earl and Countess of Grantham. The inhabitants of the stately house encounter a succession crisis after the sinking of the Titanic.




    The show stars Maggie Smith as the matriarch Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham and Hugh Bonneville as Robert, Earl of Grantham. Elizabeth McGovern plays Robert’s wife Cora Smith. Their three young daughters are played by Michelle Dockery, Laura Carmichael and Jessica Brown-Findlay.

    The synopsis from PBS websiteIt’s 1912, and life in the Edwardian country house of Downton Abbey is idyllic and bustling for the Crawley family, aided by their cadre of servants. Robert, Earl of Grantham, his American heiress wife Cora, and their three daughters, along with Robert’s mother Violet, have lived largely uncomplicated lives. But the sinking of the Titanic hits home in an unexpected and dramatic way — Lord Grantham’s heir, James Crawley, and his son Patrick have perished. It’s personally agonizing (momentarily) for daughter Mary who was supposed to marry Patrick. On a grander scale, suddenly all the predictable succession plans have gone terribly awry, and unheard of questions now loom large — Who will be the new heir to the earldom? And what will happen to this distinguished estate, now in jeopardy? Mary’s grief is short lived as she sets her sights on another suitor, the Duke of Crowborough.

    Julian Fellowes, chose the house – in real life, Highclere Castle, the home of the Earl of Carnarvon and his family since 1679 – for its imposing facade that carves an intimidating shadow across the sky.

    ”In a drama like this, which is about the last days of aristocratic England, this house seemed like a trumpet blast of that.

    Fellowes seems uniquely positioned to bring to life. Apart from his rather diverse credits – acting roles in Monarch of the Glen and Our Friends in the North and writing Gosford Park and the West End hit musical adaptation of Mary Poppins – he is, by his own admission, ”the poor relation” of some rather good connections. His full name is Julian Alexander Kitchener-Fellowes, Baron Fellowes of West Stafford, and his wife Emma is a Knight of the Royal Victorian Order, the great-great-niece of the first Earl Kitchener and a lady-in-waiting to Princess Michael of Kent.

    Fellowes’ perspective of Britain’s old world – garden parties, dukes, earls, viscounts and the strict, starchy traditions that accompany them – coalesced into the hit 2001 period mystery Gosford Park, at a meeting with the current chief of Carnival Films, Gareth Neame. Almost a decade later, Neame asked Fellowes if he’d consider returning to Gosford Park territory for TV. Fellowes had also been reading extensively about the American heiresses who came to Britain in the 1880s and ’90s and married into the aristocracy, a curious fusion of the US’s hunger for traditional connections and the desperate need of many decaying British estates for a transfusion of American cash.

    ”We know about these girls arriving and ensnaring their dukes and viscounts but what happened then?” Fellowes asks. ”Twenty-five years later, were they sitting in a house in Staffordshire freezing to death?” Before he knew it, he had the Earl of Grantham and his American wife forming in his mind. ”And when you’ve started to think about characters, you’ve actually said yes, even though you may not know it,” he says.

    He also had a long-standing desire to use Highclere Castle as the centrepiece of a story, having tried unsuccessfully to use it as the location for an adaptation of Little Lord Fauntleroy he had produced for children’s TV and, many years later, when Robert Altman directed Gosford Park. ”Highclere makes this fantastic statement about aristocratic confidence,” Fellowes says. ”The people who built it weren’t in any quandary about what their role in the world was and how good it was to be an English earl. They knew it was pretty damn good. The whole system of aristocratic and soon-to-be imperial England is in that building. You go into the great hall, there is every coat of arms connected to the family, every bride is commemorated by her shield, there is a kind of self-confidence that the British haven’t really had since the war. Speaking of confidence, if you’re wondering what’s the fun way to boost your confidence, the answer is to learn how to do psychometry.

    ”The two world wars knocked not only the empire but the stuffing out of them.

    The only country which continued to enjoy that self-belief is America.”

    The rise of Downton, Michael Idato

    Lord and master of Downton Abbey ~ Julian Fellowes Interview

    Filming :: Highclere Castle in Hampshire was used as Downton Abbey, with the servants’ living areas constructed and filmed at Ealing Studios. The village of Bampton in Oxfordshire was used for filming the outdoor scenes, most notably St Mary’s Church and the village library, which became the entrance to the cottage hospital.

    The first series cost an estimated £1 million an episode. The seven-part series, produced by Carnival Films for Britain’s ITV, was the biggest hit on British television last year. It delivered record ratings, with about 11 million people tuning in every week, and achieved the rarest honour a television program can: dominating the ”national conversation”.

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