Friday, July 08, 2011

Adaptations!





Adaptations!

Let’s talk about some:

First off, I was delighted to re-discover a classic I have been aching to see since I was a teenager. When I was in high school director Ernst Lubitsch’s 1946 adaptation of Cluny Brown (based on the novel of the same name by Margery Sharp) stole my heart. I remember it stayed with me weeks after and I immediately sought out ( and loved ) the novel. The film is of course the ultra-condensed version; but still ridiculously charming. The film is NOT available on DVD ( though I have searched far and wide) but lo and behold some great person has uploaded it clearly onto youtube so last night I saw the film that stole my heart in yesteryear. In fact, I saw the film for the first time since several subsequent re-readings of its source novel in my early 20s (as a 30 yr old, saying early 20s makes me feel ancient).

The novel is a delightful little class comedy of errors set in small village Britain in the years preluding the Second World War. Cluny ( short for Clover), a snappy and imaginative plumber’s niece is sent into domestic service by an uncle who feels she needs to find her place. There, Cluny encounters a colourful bouquet of characters: winsome archetypes of the British upper class, a snooty chemist, a military retiree with a kind heart and an author-in-exile who is quite the play thing for a rich family who feels a Czech refugee emblemizes their commitment to stopping Hitler’s onslaught.

The film adaptation starring Peter Lawford, Jennifer Jones and Charles Boyer is just delightful: in the snappy, sharp and popcorn-paced tone one expects of those sparklingly written romantic comedies of the era. Jennifer Jones plays Cluny with a mischievous and sensuous undertone: her skin is luminescent and her dark eyes are wide and doe-like and you experience everything she does as she experiences it. Charles Boyer is divine as the Czech refugee, his delicious French accent caressing a sarcastic and dark philosophy that undermines and cuts British tradition as it rampages before him. The developing bond between his Prof Belinski and Jones’ effervescent parlour maid is a delight: they are very much kindred spirits.

There is a heap of double entendre in the film and scenes that border on risqué for its time period and the wordplay is fabulous. I was so glad I found it. It played quite well on my MacBook.

It also has nudged me to re-visit the book, I repeat, a favourite of mine in my early university years.


Next, I am thrilled to the gills for two upcoming adaptations of my favourite Dickens’ novel, Great Expectations. I have seen all available adaptations of this from the David Lean version to the modernized take to the miniseries with Ioan Gruffudd and Charlotte Rampling to that awkward late 70s BBC production and I have to admit that I have never been satisfied. Unlike Little Dorrit and Bleak House, complete and true homages to the works of this great writer, I always finish a film adaptation of GE less than full. Something always seems to be missing: whether they spend too much time on Magwitch and Havisham to fully play out the grace and compassion of Joe and Herbert Pocket --- may be part of the ongoing problem. Thus, I am thrilled with the new BBC treatment (take that BBC for swearing off 19th Century bonnet films! I knew this day would come) and the upcoming feature film directed by Mike Newell. I am sure between the two they will touch on some of my favourite facets of the great novel and comparisons will abound.

2 comments:

Ruth said...

I'm so so happy you found Cluny Brown on YouTube, it is truly delightful. I left a suggestion on Warner Archive's Facebook page that they get on the BALL and release Cluny on DVD...and I will keep leaving the aforementioned suggestion until they LISTEN TO ME. :P

Gina said...

"Cluny ( short for Clover) . . ."

I love it already. :-)

Joining you in excitement about the dueling "Great Expectations" (even though I REALLY wanted a new "Tale of Two Cities")!