Tag Archives: movie review

Jane Eyre (1983 BBC TV Mini-Series)

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Jane Eyre, the Timeless Classic

Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre (under the pen name of “Currer Belle” to discombobulate her biological determinism) is neither a romantic novel about a lonely young woman falling for her rich master nor a proto-feminist literature subtly championing women’s economic independence and choice to select their lovers on their own. It is a story of a resilient and noble spirit armed with education, clothed in canopy of humanity, and adorned with reflective beauty of the mind that transforms physical plainness into comeliness. That’s what makes our heroine Jane Eyre timelessly unforgettable, undeniably attractive; perchance, that’s why this novel has been made into a series of film versions for television and cinema resurrecting the ambience of the period and bringing the hauntingly impassioned characters into life. Of all the dramatized adaptations of Jane Eyre, this 1983 BBC mini-series version merits itself in the movie firmament as the magisterial translation of Charlotte Bronte’s original novel, wonderfully delivered by a cracking screenplay, a brilliant cast of performers, and a truthful setting of the story, resembling none other than themselves all together in this riveting panoply of Bronte’s dazzling creation.

Dramatized by Alexander Baron, this TV series is composed of eleven episodes that faithfully capture the epochal moments of the passionate heroine Jane Eyre from the moments she was cruelly castigated by her callous aunt and her equally sordid cousins to her eight years of boarding school experience, to the fateful encounter with the brooding but vulnerable Mr. Rochester, and to the consequential events packed full of surprises and serendipity worth every reward to the lonely Jane. The gem of this BBC miniseries is that each of the episodes is treated as a small story – that is, a story embedded in a whole story as if it were a short story itself – so you can skip the early years of Jane and jump into her employment as governess for Adele, the only daughter of Mr. Rochester at Thornfield without feeling adrift from the previous story that will defenestrate you to the middle of nowhere in the whole story. Of course, for those of us who have read and re-read the novel since the time immemorial, it’s a foregone conclusion, but even if you haven’t, take heart and play it fast forward to meet the grown Jane (although she’s only nineteen years old.) in her tantalizing suspenseful moments with Mr. Rochester and even St. John Rivers.

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Zelah Clarke as Jane Eyre and Timothy Dalton as Edward Rochester

At the heart of the drama lies the commendable performance of the characters: Jane Eyre, played by Zelah Clarke, Edward Rochester aka “Mr. Rochester”, by Timothy Dalton, and St. John Rivers, by Andrew Bicknell invest the drama with the beautifully nuanced dialogues and gestures, which are never outlandishly displayed, vying for individual attentions, but harmoniously concerted that impart the gusto and the verisimilitude to the story. In fact, the appearances, gestures, and diction of these three characters are exactly what I have always imagined them to be in my mind’s eye. Clarke’s rendition of Jane Eyre is the finesse itself that would make Charlotte Bronte happy with her performance as well as physiognomy. Jane is a passionate soul, but conservative, if not conventional. She is an intelligent woman who loves her gruff but deeply hurt and lonely Edward Rochester as her equal despite a sea of age difference and his petulant past. Unlike other Jane Eyres played previously and posteriorly, Clarke’s Jane epitomizes the heroine of oddly beautiful enigma personified: the plain but pretty, expressive but demure, passionate but docile, sensitive but strong, patient but yearning… Which is befittingly summarized by St. John Rivers, wonderfully and unforgettably played by Andrew Bicknell: “She has rather an unusual face…The grace and harmony of beauty are wanting in her features, she is not at all handsome…” I have seen other film versions of Jane Eyre, but none other than this Clarke’s Jane Eyre has won my approval in terms of all things regarding the heroine of Charlotte Bronte’s original novel.

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Andrew Bicknell as St. John Rivers

That goes the same for Timothy Dalton’s irrepressible Edward Rochester and Andrew Bicknell’s stoical but misguided St. John Rivers. On a personal note, Bicknell seems to nail the role down as handsome and intelligent St. John Rivers, who prioritizes his religious duties as a parson over his human feelings and emotions for his beautiful and kind-hearted admirer Rosemund Oliver in arbitrary belief that stoicism is the grist for the mill of vocation as a man of cloth. He believes that it is his calling to be a missionary in India and that it behooves him to abnegate sensuous delights to which a man is naturally inclined with all his might. Watching Bicknell playing the character makes me wonder if the casting director or the screenwriter had the uncanny ability to conjure up the spirit of Charlotte Bronte and ask of her the fitting image of the character prior to the production of the drama. The tall, imposing manly figure of St. John Rivers with beautiful Grecian facial features and golden hair is just as the description created by Bronte in the novel as if she had seen Andrew Bicknell in the peculiar alchemy of literature that enabled her to look into the future and to see her character incarnate.

All in all, this 1983 BBC miniseries of Jane Eyre will arrest your full attention to the every scene of the episodes without infelicity and pomposity that classical period dramas sometimes tend to produce on account of obsolete diction and outlandish gestures that look incongruously emphatic to our modern senses and sensibilities. This is a quaintly gorgeous drama without the ostentatious glamor of television drama exhibiting luminous Vanity Fair; it shows that just simple good scripts based on the loyal adaptation of the original novel and excellent performance of the fine cast that seems to be destined for the roles can translate the imaginative world of the author into the visual firmament of television drama this beautifully and impressively in a way that makes you feel the emotions of the characters by passing over to their inner worlds.

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“Mind Your Language” (TV Series 1977-1979)

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Have you ever tried to explain a certain colloquial expression, such as “kick the bucket,” “shoot off his mouth,” or “until the fat lady sings” to someone whose mother tongue is anything but English? You probably have been delighted to find out how meanings of words can yield multifarious feats of creative interpretations, which can also, in turn, be prospective nouveau vocabulary of the most effectively deployed Lingua Franca of our time. After all, that’s what Geoffrey Chaucer and William Shakespeare, and George Bernard Shaw did to the English language, which is still kicking and alive in keeping up with the evolution of our own cultural progress. And certainly, the students in the evening English class are a tour de force of such cultural enterprise in this hilarious original British sitcom “Mind Your Language.”

The story of Jeremy Brown, an ingenuous young academic teaching English to his slightly offbeat motley crew of foreign adult students at evening classes in an adult education college in London forms the basis of the show. Mr. Brown has to deal with his students’ creatively wily answers to his questions, while trying to instill in them the elements of the English language with his Oxford-educated academic credentials. In fact, it’s the class that gets the laugh by pushing their naive enthusiastic young teacher into an imbroglio of jocular situations all for the celebration of joviality in their evening English class after hard days of work. In bewilderment of his students’ wily but innocuous chicanery, Mr. Brown’s affection for his class grows bigger and deeper as the show continues; you see him becoming something of Jack of all trades for his students as well as the principal, Ms. Courtney. You will find Mr. Brown at the police station, in court, in hospital, on the dance floor at the school fete, and of course at the pubs with his beloved students or Sidney, the cockney school caretaker.

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The Cast of “Mind Your Language”

The delightful peals of hearty laughter, the bounty of warmth, and even remedial lessons of English embroider on these three scintillating series of the show produced by London Week Television between 1977 and 1979 for ITV in England. Each of the episodes was ingeniously written with simply brilliant feats of words and ideas on the grounds of realistic situations relating to anyone who speaks English as a foreign language or anyone who deals with such person in reality. Also, the collective efforts and performance of the cast with each actor and actress harmoniously contributing the best of the self to the respective character is the ipso facto gem of the perennial popularity of the show to this date. All in all, the setting, the topic, the storyline, and the cast of “Mind Your Language” give you the idea that in order to make a good TV comedy show that strikes the chords with a wide range of people regardless of ethnic, racial, and/or social backgrounds, all you have to do is to look into the everyday life around you and see if there is anything that transcends the subjectivity of the aforementioned backgrounds in order to reach the universal code of humor and humanity without pontificating social/political ideology. For these reasons, “Mind Your Language” is an unmissable feast of comedy of intelligence, wit, humor, and a touch of innocence that deserves of its recognition in the canons of British Classic Comedy.

From PBS Masterpiece Theater – Mr. Selfridge

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This Masterpiece Theater Mini-Series of “Mr. Selfridge” produced by ITV is a tour de force of excellent performances of the actors, the finesse of drama scripts, gorgeous costumes, and classically elegant settings coordinated as truthfully as possible. It chronicles Harry Gordon Selfridge’s business adventures from the onset of establishing Selfridges & Co in 1908 until his farewell to his labor of love twenty years afterwards.

 From Episode I of Series 1 to Episode 10 of Series 4 (Final Season), we get to see a man named Harry Gordon Selfridge (1958-1947) who was something of a Napoleon Bonaparte knowing no word in his dictionary for “Impossible.” We see the man build a one-of-a-kind department store in London’s Oxford Street as an adventurous American tradesman against the British aristocratic chauvinism. Selfridge was a man who set a standard of modern department store; by placing the cosmetic/perfume counters on the lobby, Selfridge intended to sweeten the atmosphere of the floor in attempt to use it as a magnet for passers-by, especially women. In effect, Selfridge broke down the class-stratified fashion wall guarded by the rich/privileged by democratizing the luxurious items and making them accessible to common people as well.

Moreover, the ace portrayal of Selfridge would/could not be possible were it not for the fine acting of Jeremy Piven whose quintessential American accent doubled with inescapable American can-do attitudes triumphs over the transatlantic cultural differences in working with the British peers. The viewer will be left with a feeling of heartfulness of the characters upon finishing all of the episodes in this series and cannot help but applaud to Mr. Selfridge for his entrepreneurial effervescence and Mr. Piven for portraying the man in a stellar performance that evokes both pathos and respect.

One Man’s Fighting for Justice and Honor: Film Review on The Verdict by Paul Newman

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Release dateDecember 8, 1982 (USA)

This is not a movie about a courtroom drama displayed by the verbal theatrics that we can easily see in today’s legal dramas. It’s a movie about a man’s redeeming of his honor tainted by his self-destructive resort to alcoholism and disorientation in life pursuant to the destruction of his youthful idealism as a novice lawyer. Once bitten, twice diffident, the lawyer’s god-sent chance to turn over a new leaf in his later chapters of life comes to him when he is asked by a woman to represent her sister, a young woman whose life is forever bedridden in a coma as a result of inadvertent administration of anesthetics by doctors at a Catholic hospital. As the lawyer works on the case for a trial, he regains his confidence, hope, and meaning for his own life.

Paul Newman’s excellent performance as the lawyer struggling with his own life is the gem of the movie, rendering the verisimilitude of the character that evokes the pathos. His trademarks of fierce blue eyes that seem to be the only distinct features of his weary, forlorn face symbolize a suppressed light of intelligence, bludgeoned confidence, and vanquished hope, all of which still struggle to be liberated from self-imprisonment at any moment. The viewer will never fail to notice the feelings and the emotions Newman’s character tries to subdue or express by his brilliant method acting.

“The Verdict” is indeed a thought-provoking movie about the human nature and a light of hope that we all have in our lifetime. Without any courtroom theatrics full of sensational machinations and exchanging of fiery tirades between the lawyers of the opposite parties, this movie proves how a well written script based upon a realistic subject matter that elicits universal empathy in concert with the excellent performances of fine actors could work a wonder.