Monday, April 7, 2008

Steampulp!



Here is a great pennydreadful, pulp fiction, steampunk victorian parody. Enjoy!

Top Hats and Bow Ties....



The Victorian theme of elegance and grandiosity is prevalent throughout the fashion industry, with the current collections that are being seen around the world. More and more elegant, Victorian inspired outfits are being presented not only for women, but for men as well.

Like women’s Victorian fashion, there has been an evolution in the clothing warn by men throughout the years. Modern attire is for the most part comfortable clothing, which consists of jeans and t-shirts, but when it comes to dressing up for a formal occasion, the Victorian influence shines through.



Men’s Victorian attire consisted of long coattails, pocket watches, top hats, vests, high wasted pants and for some a walking stick. These things have all had a great influence on contemporary formal wear for men.

Formal wear has also been greatly influenced by the clothing warn by middle and upper class men of the Victorian era. The modern suit is a variation of what one would wear on an every day basis with slight changes made to accommodate the modern style.

Not only are we seeing Victorian inspired fashion in formal wear, more and more Victorian influence is seen in casual wear. Men are wearing dress shirts and vests with a some nice fitted jeans to create a modern Victorian look.

The elegance of the Victorian era shines through to contemporary society as famous designers such as Mark Jacobs, Roberto Cavalli and Burberry imitate the extravagant styles of the Victorian era in their current collections.


The Importance of Being Colin



This was my second viewing of the 2002 cinematic adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest.” I was really more impressed this time, I think because I had not been lectured to on the subject by a professor of English. My biggest problems were the action scenes. I’m simply unimpressed with filmmakers who try to Americanise classic British works by adding chase scenes and Reese Witherspoon in a decidedly – what’s the word Gissing uses? – sluttish outfit. You may defend the costume design on the grounds that Wilde himself was none-too-concerned with the ways people thought of his dress and manner, but in that instance, I will point you to Hollywood’s continued retardation of North American culture for the purposes of homogeneity and profit flying in the face of anything resembling integrity or authenticity.

You may well defend Witherspoon’s costume on the grounds that Cecily herself is a country girl and not accustomed to the style of dress of the city, that she is, in fact, has no need to dress in such a manner. I will point out that certainly even if someone as earnest as Mr. Jack Worthing would allow it, the outfit would never be deemed acceptable to Lady Bracknell. No, the outfit is a blatant exposure of Witherspoon’s childish American frame for the purposes of tittilation and – once again – profit. To be perfectly frank – by which I mean earnest – she reminds me more of Fanny French of George Gissing’s In the Year of Jubilee than she does of anything resembling Cecily Cardew. Also, she is American. She doesn’t look in the slightest English.

There is much criticism, on the other hand, of Judy Dench’s interpretation of Lady Bracknell as understated. I think that overstated Lady Bracknells are impossible to take seriously – and therefore impossible to laugh at – and that Bracknells played by men simply undercut any chance of gender inversion depicted in the character. Dench, because she takes herself so seriously, is realistic to us. If we do not know someone who takes herself and her position this seriously, then we certainly are aware of the fact that there are those women (and men) who are so serious all the time that it is funny. Dench’s earnestness is in her softness, not in her loud and obnoxious manner. Leave that to Albee’s Martha.

My mother once made a comment about a singer in a musical that he was “too good looking to take seriously.” I must admit, I am still beleaguered by this idea. What exactly is it about a handsome face that makes it less believable. Having said that, I suggest that Rupert Everett’s face is just a touch too ruggedly handsome for the role of Algernon Moncrieff. His face is perfect; it detracts from his realism. It’s true, Wilde was constantly mocking the realist dramatists of the day you need to present the concept accurately in order to make fun of it. On the other hand, he delivers the nuances of the role so well, that the unrealistic beauty of his face is only barely noticeable.

Frances O’Connor as Gwendolen Fairfax is in fact my favourite casting choice. She’s got such a perfect poker face, always smiling just so, so that you can never quite tell whether or not she’s being insulting or genuine. I liked her costume, as well. It’s a little demonstrative without being, shall we say, American. And I like her tattoo. It’s cute.

Then there’s Colin Firth as Jack Worthing. Enough said.

Well, the real value of the picture is its scenery and setting. The production values were extremely high for this picture and as a result you get a very authentic view of a dandified Victorian London, without all the shit and gore that it’s now apparently famous for. Certainly the filmmakers can’t have thought too much of the dialogue’s ability to tell the story at hand because it’s all cut up and edited. Also, in order to keep the audience’s interest, the scenes – which in the play are one act each – are split into several settings. This is necessary in modern film, as the audience needs to be reminded that there is more to the setting than one room in a house. In realist drama there isn’t, and so in Wilde there was not for the simple fact that he was satirising realism, as I’ve said above. The cinema cannot very well satirise realism because that is the principle upon which it is based. Well, Hollywood, anyway.

That would be something, wouldn’t it? I’d like to see an acidic adaptation of this play! Then we’d see some satirical realism. Oh, the fun we’d have! And it would be a propos of the style to which Wilde refers, though just a little updated.

Ivy!

Disatisfied with Dystopia



Oh, I tried to watch Steamboy, that four-hour piece of crap. It’s good for about the first hour-and-a-half, until you realise they’re nowhere close to finished. Well, fine, you think, the ending’s going to be a little bit dry, but it’s been a good ride with lots of explosions and neat inventions and stuff. They extend the film by finding things to go wrong. Nothing works, which is a good point about modern technology, but if you can’t say “nothing works” in five minutes, how good a story teller can you be?

I mean, they’re trying, really trying, trying so hard to make you understand what’s wrong with technology and the way we invent technologies for war instead of peace and prosperity. Again, if you can’t do it in two-and-a-half hours, you run the risk of boring everyone. That’s why everyone cuts Hamlet to shreds. I don’t think it’s ever been performed in its entirety!

So, in short, this movie takes too long to encompass its themes and resolve them. The women are useless and the men are foolish children, running around like chickens without heads. It’s not a bad principle to build a dystopic narrative on, but by the time you’re up to three-and-a-half hours, all the humanity is worn out of these characters. You just don’t care. I wanted them to just all explode in a massive steam catastrophe, and take all of London with them. And by “them” I mean the film makers. It’s all well and good to set a dystopic novel about rampant techonological development in the Victorian age when everything was run by steam or run down, but for goodness’s sake: keep me interested! Using the same device over and over again is an insult to your audience’s intelligence. (See also: Speed.)

Ivy

The Times...

The Times

Actress Kemble triumphs in another Shakespeare reading.

February 14th, 1847

Fanny Kemble continues to amaze us with her craft onstage. In the words of an avid admirer who has been watching her perform for ten years, she is “like a firecracker, she constantly sparks with her ability to be the characters in the plays.” Yes, we can all look back at the time she made her first appearance as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet. “You can tell she has grown.”

In an interview, Kemble has compared to her outlook on acting then to how it is now. “When I started out, I saw myself playing Juliet. But I had it all wrong. Now it’s all about being the character, slipping into her mind and adopting everything about her- her emotions, habits, and personality.” That wasn’t always easy; when one takes a look at the gentle, fair Kemble, one sees that she is far from Lady Macbeth. “I had an intense preparation for that role,” she points out. “VERY intense. I had myself cooped up at home with little light as possible and nothing to eat except a small portion of bread and water. The hunger in Lady Macbeth’s eyes was from my starvation; I used this hunger to wretch after power, just the thing she desired.”

This time she transported audiences into the magical world of Oberon and Titania and their fairy subjects in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.



Audiences noted her warbling vocals came into handy as she read for Titania’s train. “She was able to recreate the enchanted forest, just by being on a stage with the text in hand,” recalls an attendant. “We saw everything from the looming trees to the adorable little creatures out at play.” Everyone seems to agree Titania’s passage during the argument with Oberon was a highlight. The whole time she stood, poised and elegant, her back straight and chin up, capturing the unafraid attitude of the fairy queen, beginning with the line, “Set you heart at rest.” Her voice had accompanying thunder which captivated audiences.



Titania refuses to give Oberon the Indian Child. Fanny Kemble recited this very scene with a major difference- she was of course clothed!



Kemble’s performance is indeed elaborate, with no set, costumes, or other company. One thing is guaranteed- no one shall ever sleep through it!







Covent Garden presents

Covent Garden presents



William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet

Wednesday April 6th, 1829



Starring the ever so lovely Fanny Kemble in her stage debut



as Juliet



Wednesday April 6th, 1829
The Covent Garden is fortunate enough to have Ms. Kemble address you, the audience, within this program!


To the members of the audience,

First of all, I would like to say that it is my great pleasure to be performing for all of you tonight. All of us actors and crew have worked extremely hard for this production; it is something my family is very proud of. Seeing that this is my stage debut, it is obvious that my nerves are getting the best of me. My father, Charles Kemble, has told me not to worry since all actors endure this nerve-wracking experience. He certainly did, when he starred in King John.



Wednesday April 6th, 1829

However, he has taught me one valuable lesson- an actor must place passion into every performance. Once he or she focuses primarily on that, there is nothing left to fear. The company has been honoured by the attendance of her Majesty Queen Victoria on opening night, Monday April 4th, 1829. In her words, the production was “one of the most magnificent works of art.” We pay thanks to her Majesty and hope you will share the same view! Please remember to keep all noise at a minimum. There will be a brief intermission where tea and cucumber sandwiches will be served. Enjoy the show!

Sincerely,
Fanny Kemble



Wednesday April 6th, 1829

Covent Garden is proud to present



Shakespeare readings by Fanny Kemble

July 19th, 1846

Miss Kemble will be reading for the character of Lady Macbeth



“Never have I seen such a haunting performance.”

“A true veteran of the theatre, Kemble has possessed the evil genius of the character.”

July 19th, 1846
“I was expecting to see her read for Lady Macbeth only, but she exceeded expectations, reading for the three witches as well! Kemble has the talent to play four characters at once.”



“She had us all chanting, ‘Fair is foul and foul is fair. Hover through the fog and filthy air.”

“Double, double toil and trouble. Fire burn, and cauldron bubble. My ears still ring with the cackles and shrieks of Kemble’s voice.”
Please be advised the reading is not suitable for young children for disturbing scenes. Coven Garden thanks you for your understanding.



July 19th, 1846


Fanny Kemble



Frances Anne Kemble aka Fanny Kemble was born on November 29th, 1809 in London, England. In 1829, she began her theatrical career with her appearance in Romeo and Juliet, portraying Juliet. This established her icon status and she became a well known actress. The situation between Fanny and the theatre was interesting. Acting was not her true passion, yet she acted to support her family. According to audiences, she was magnificent onstage, being born into a family of actors known for their contributions to theatre. Not only an actress, Fanny was also a writer, a public reader, and a musician. Kemble performed throughout the United States in 1832. After attending one of her performances, a man named Pierce Butler repeatedly watched her. She was so amazing, he attended performance after performance. In June 1834 Fanny married Pierce and discontinued acting. Instead, she became a writer with her 1835 success of Journal of Frances Anne Butler, a controversial book particularly with Americans because of its views on the United States.
Pierce Mease Butler was born in 1806 in Philadelphia into a prosperous family. His grandfather, Major Pierce Butler, was in the Revolutionary War. Major Butler was the owner of two plantations, one rice plantation in Butler Island, the other in St. Simon’s Island. He resided in Philadelphia in a mansion and country home. In 1812, he held 638 slaves. All this was passed down to his grandson.
Pierce and Fanny’s marriage was troubled because both of them did not agree on the issue of slavery. Pierce wanted Fanny to agree with pro slavery, while Fanny had hoped he would follow her view of anti slavery. She tried to publish a treaty disallowing ownership of slaves, but this did not happen under Pierce’s authority. In March 1836, Pierce became the new owner of his grandfather’s plantations. Fanny longed to go to the plantations; however, her proposal was rejected by her husband. In December 1838, he gave way and he took his wife, two daughters, Sarah and Frances, and their governess Margery O’Brien on a journey consisting of nine days spent on train, stage, and steamboat. Fanny lived on the islands for four months, having numerous accounts of life there in letters. These writings became her Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation, which painted an accurate portrait of plantation slavery.
At the time of return to Philadelphia, Pierce and Fanny were no longer getting along. Fanny was neglected, abused, and imprisoned from her children. She tried to get her marriage back on track many times, but failed. Overwhelmed, she moved back to England where she continued in theatre, reading works of Shakespeare to the public. She was enjoying success when she was informed that Pierce was taking legal action against her for divorce. He claimed she left him and the family, deciding to walk out one day on September 11th, 1845. On April 7th, 1848, it was established the couple would be divorcing. Determined to clear her name, Fanny journeyed back to America to endure tedious, everlasting court sessions. The divorce was finalized in September 1849, granting Fanny custody of her children two months a summer and $1500 per year as alimony from Pierce.
Kemble progressed with her Shakespeare readings in America and Europe. Pierce, on the other hand, was far from progression. His inheritance was all lost on gambling and stock market speculation. In 1856, he was at the brink of having no money, and as a result, three trustees were placed in charge of looking after his finances. Under the trustees, the mansion as well as other possessions to pay off debts, but they still were not paid. The plantations were considered for sale. Slaves were sold to pay the remainder in February 1859. This selling of slaves later became America’s greatest sale of human beings in history, “the weeping time.”
The Civil War occurred in the United States in 1861. Fanny and her daughter Sarah were on the side of the North, Pierce and Frances were on the side of the South. In the beginning of 1861, Pierce and Frances were in Georgia. August was their journey back to Philadelphia where Pierce was jailed for treason. After the war Pierce and Frances lived on Butler Island where he retraced his former slaves and decided they would be his share-croppers. Taking care of the plantation proved to be hard work. Frances moved back to Philadelphia; Pierce did not listen to disease warnings and stayed on the island. In August 1867, Pierce Butler died from malaria. Frances was then placed in charge of the plantation.
Fanny was now living in Philadelphia. She dedicated the rest of her life to traveling, writing, and performing. Fanny Kemble died of natural causes on January 15th, 1893.

Works Cited

“Fanny Kemble and Pierce Butler.” PBS. 5 April 2008

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4p1569.html

Clinton, Catherine. “Fanny Kemble.” 22 Jan 2003. New Georgia Encyclopedia. 5
April 2008 http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/nge/Article.jsp?id=h-792

All images and excerpts from:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/55/Romeo_and_juliet_brown.jpg

http://www.canadiantheatre.com/images/theatre/kemblef.jpg

http://cache.eb.com/eb/image?id=84691&rendTypeId=4

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f3/King_John.jpg

http://www.newzionist.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/01/Lady%20Macbeth.jpg

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d5/Macbeth3.jpg

http://clicknotes.twelfth-night.info/macbeth/T41.html

http://www.clicknotes.com/macbeth/Fairandf.html

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/7/77/TheQuarrelOfOberonandTitania.jpg

http://www.mhs.vic.edu.au/home/library/titasimm.jpg

http://uregina.ca/~starkc/john_atkinson_grimshaw_the_lady_of_shalott.jpg

http://pollocks.trishymouse.net/newviclarge2.jpg

http://gfisher.blogspot.com/uploaded_images/fanny-745494.jpeg

http://www.deathreference.com/images/medd_02_img0128.jpg

North and South (2004)



My obsession with period films lead me to find North and South as I was searching through www.Amazon.ca to add to my extensive period drama collection. After waiting patiently for a few days, my package finally arrived with the movies I had ordered. It was then time to sit down with a big bowl of popcorn and enjoy the show!


The 2004 BBC miniseries adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskells beloved novel North and South proves to be a timeless classic. North and South is Victorian novelist Elizabeth Gaskells love story of a middle class southerner, Margaret Hale, who moves to the northern town of Milton because her nonconformist fathers who is a minister makes a haste decision to leave the Church of England and take up a job as a tutor. Upon entering the fictional town of Milton, Margaret realizes that the north is far more pretentious then the down to earth south. Margaret and her family struggle to adjust to the customs of the industrialized town, especially after coming into contact with the mill owners, whose proud attitudes take the Hales by surprise. One of Mr. Hales pupils is mill owner John Thornton who gets off to a rocky start with Margaret hale after she witnesses him beating up a worker for smoking in the mill. Margaret sympathizes with the local mill workers and forms an alliance as she speaks out against the mill owners and does her best to help those in need. Through her determination to help the mill workers, Margaret meets and forms a close friendship with the Higgins, who are a working class family struggling to survive in industrial England.


I don’t want to reveal too much about the film, but I will say this; the story takes on many twists and turns with the introduction of dynamic characters such as Mrs. Thornton who creates many hardships for Margaret and John throughout the film. Also, like any good film there is a great love story holding it together. Like Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice, the love story between Margaret Hale and John Thornton is much the same. It starts out dry and ends up slowly but surely blossoming into a great ending full of passion and love.

What I liked most about Sandy Welch‘s adaptation of Gaskells novel is that it not only does it show a great love story, but more importantly it creates a realistic look into the harsh conditions in which working class people had to live in. The film is able to dig deep into the problems of everyday life and shows the real life issues between the mill owners and their workers. Most novelists of this time (excluding Dickens) fail to show the true conditions of the Victorian era, as they focus on creating an idealistic view of the Victorian life. Also, as the title suggests, North and South presents a contrast between the old agricultural lifestyle of the South of England and the new industrialists of the north. The film is also able to show the different mindsets people of that time had depending on whether they were from the south or the north. This adaptation of the film is able to get to the heart of the victorian problem and is able to communicate with viewers on not only the issues concerning the upper class people, but also those of the



On a final note. for those who are interested in learning more about the Victorian culture, then this movie is a great one to watch for a quick crash course in the middle class lifestyle. The movie adaptation is able to beautifully illustrate the Victorian lifestyle of the middle and lower class people of the time. Also, those who have also read Gaskells novel, will know that the film has done the book great justice and will be loved not only by myself, but by many Victoriana fans around the world. All I can do now is sing the movies praises and encourage everyone to check out this Victorian cool film!

Rating: 5 Stars *****

Victorian Cool: 10/10

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Crowley's Discourse

By the way, here’s what Crowley says about the murders in Whitechapel:

"Technically, I digress; but I cannot refrain from telling her favourite story…. Mabel had … divided her career with a very strange man whose career had been extraordinary. He had been an officer in a cavalry regiment, a doctor, and I know not how many other things in his time. He was now in desperate poverty and depended entirely on Mabel Collins for his daily bread. This man claimed to be an advanced Magician, boasting of many mysterious powers and occasionally demonstrating the same. [somewhat in the ilk of Crowley himself.]

“At this time, London was agog with the exploits of Jack the Ripper. One theory of the motive of the murderer was that he was performing an Operation to obtain the Supreme Black Magical Power. The seven women had to be killed so that their seven bodies formed a ‘Calvary cross of seven points’ with its head to the west. The theory was that after killing the third or the fourth, I forget which, the murderer acquired the power of invisibility, and this was confirmed by the fact that in once case a policeman heard the shrieks of the dying woman and reached her before life was extinct, yet she lay in a cul-de-sac with no possible exit save to the street; and the policeman saw no signs of the assassin, though he was patrolling outside, expressly on the look-out.

“Miss Collins’ friend took great interest I these murders. He discussed them with her and Cremers on several occasions. He gave them imitations of how the murderer might have accomplished his task without arousing the suspicion of his victims until the last moment. Cremers objected that his escape must have been a risky matter, because of his habit of devouring certain portions of the ladies before leaving them. The lecturer demonstrated that any gentleman in evening dress had merely to turn up the collar of a light overcoat to conceal any traces of his supper.

“Time passed! Mabel tired of her friend, but did not dare to get rid of him because he had a packet of compromising letters written by her. Cremers offered to steal these from him. In the man’s bedroom was a tin uniform case which he kept under the bed to which he attached it by cords. Neither of the women had ever seen this open and Cremers suspected that he kept these letters in it. She got him out of the way for a day by a forged telegram, entered the bedroom, untied the cords and drew the box from under the bed. To her surprise it was very light, as if empty. She proceeded nevertheless to pick the lock and open it. There were no letters; there was nothing in the box, but seven white evening dress ties, all stiff and black with clotted blood!”

Now you know the story of From Hell as reconstructed by Aleister Crowley. Go out and by the graphic novel. It's huge and expensive, it's graphically sexual, and extremely gory, but it's thrilling, and intelligent.

Crowley, Aleister, et al. The Confessions of Aleister Crowley. Grant, Kenneth and John Symonds, eds. Arkana Press: London, 1979. 691-692.

Of Doctors and Whores

What can one say about From Hell? It is an intensely cerebral, thoroughly engrossing book which attempts to reconstruct the events of history using all available information and some conjecture in between. Very little has been fabricated, and much care has been taken to examine critically the secondary sources available on the subject. The subject is, of course, the gruesome Whitechapel murders of 1888. Few serial killers have been so bold and public about their clear misogyny.

One of the most intriguing things about this books is its quixotic portrayal of the killer. Many people might interpret the murder of prostitutes as a crime of sexually repressed passion mixed with some perceived slight made by prostitutes on the whole because of their liberal sexual natures and world views. In this way, to many people, Jack the Ripper is similar to Robert Pickton, who should have been called the “Vancouver Ripper” or “Robert the Ripper” or some other dehumanising name by the press. Writers Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell beg to differ. While the subject of sex is certainly dealt with in a very explicit fashion in From Hell, it becomes quite apparent that the murderer’s motives run far deeper than mere sexual frustration. However, sexual frustration does enter into the mixture of the question “what makes a murderer?”. One of the most clear pieces of conjecture in the piece is the size of the murderers … weapon, shall we say, which is conjectured to be so enormous as to have completely ruined his wedding night. (Yes, boys, size does matter.)

The goal of From Hell is to examine the Whitechapel murders. As Dr. Gull – the anticipated killer – puts it, “A GREAT work must have many sides from which we may consider it.” The most potent side, in my opinion, from which this illustrated penny-dreadful-cum-serial-novel would examine this “great work” is that of its occultic motives. Dr. Gull, like many men in London and indeed around Vancouver today, was a Freemason, and was therefore privy to the mythic/symbolic history of the world from which many of us have hidden our faces. (I could write at quite a length on the foolishness of thinking astrology has any less significance than physics or psychology. There is nothing more humanly powerful than symbol, as the Third Reich will attest, and it does us no end of harm to deny that.)

Anyway, as a result of Dr. Gull’s involvement with the Masons, he is privy to much more information about the construction of London than would be, for example, a coach driver or a police chief without having been inducted into the guild. It is this history that is the subject of chapter four, entitled “What Does God Require of Thee?” which is written almost entirely in verse.

One difference between the film and the book is that the film actual depicts some progress on the part of the police. The book does no such thing. The police are as stumped at the end as they are in the beginning. Everyone who knows exactly what is happening (i.e. all the Masons) knows exactly what is happening, and everyone who hasn’t been informed does not.

The reason for such secrecy is this: it seems Queen Victoria had a rather errant grandson who liked to spend his time on sweet-shop girls and brothel boys. He was married to a sweet shop girl who bore him a daughter, and was later implicated in a male brothel scandal, both of which needed to be quickly covered up. Because the sweet shop girl was acquainted with one of the whores in question, the knowledge of the child could easily have been passed about, if – for example – there were someone in her circle of friends in desperate need of money.

As a result, it is conjectured that Queen Victoria ordered the murders, the Masons covered them up, and that Dr. William Gull – the royal physician – performed the rituals. I find this thinking in astounding coordination with history and architecture. The moral here is clear: learn everything you can, because someone else is already using it against you. The theory of black magick is hammered home in the narrative by the appearance of Aleister Crowley at age fourteen in chapter nine. The lad is sucking on a candy cane (something Crowley was known for himself, if I’m not mistaken) and berates Inspector Abberline for ignoring the possibility of black magick. On page four of chapter nine, the center panel is wholly reminiscent of Crowley’s own photograph appearing on page 768.4 of The Confessions of Aleister Crowley taken just prior to his death. In addition, one of the quotes which opens chapter nine is from this self same book. It is with this kind of referential treatment that Moore and Campbell construct their story, and masterfully.

You know, one thing I noticed in reading this and watching Sweeney Todd is that no one who lived in London at the time seems to have had anything to say regarding the rancidness that was London. I think the closest literature we’ve got to describing the squalid conditions of London at the time in our anthology might be contained in Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s “The Burden of Nineveh.” I guess it just goes to show you what a democratic society can produce. Royals have a habit of killing their detractors.

Also, one wonders at the significance for twelve years after the 1900s that these grotesque rituals occurred twelve years before the beginning of the 1900s. Nineteen, after all, is the number of the Sun, as depicted by the Tarot. If Moore’s and Campbell’s discourse on sun deities is accurate (and believe me it is) then this could be extensively significant to 2012.

Anyway, keep watching the skis.

Ivy

Crowley, Aleister, et al. The Confessions of Aleister Crowley. Grant, Kenneth, and John Symonds, eds. Arkana Press: London, 1979. 768.4.

Timothy the Bloody



Oh my Gods! I just watched Sweeney Todd, and I think I'm going to have to go back to therapy. It is, without a doubt, the single most graphic, goriest film I have ever seen. There was red paint EVERYWHERE! My girlfriend gouged her eyes out and howled like the Bean Sidhe at the end ... or wait, was that me?

Anyway, with a cast like Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, and Alan Rickman it's hard to go wrong. Except that teaming Rickman with that guy who plays Wormtail is, and will forever be, a reference to Harry Potter. I'm not sure I understood the connection, and I'm not sure the casting director understood the connection, either.

Gothic master Tim Burton, of course, did the direction, and it's got his signature illness written all over it. I was shocked to see such gore from Burton who usually doesn't need to sensationalise his films. This is, on the other hand, opera (and opera of the very first order), and opera is expected to be sensational and spectacular.

Depp plays the part of Sweeney Todd so well, that you find yourself sympathising with him. He has been wronged, and is out for revenge, and because of Depp’s intense portrayal, you believe he should get it. His singing is rife with conviction and single-mindedness, and beautifully portrays the ardent passions of a man overthrown of reason and a slave to his own torment.

Rickman plays the lousy, perverted Judge Turpin a little shyly for my liking. I like my perverts to be dripping with licentious attitude and libidinously hunched, drooling, if possible, over the merest glance at a woman. We need a little something more, I think, to drive home the reality about his relationship with his charge, and I know Rickman is capable of it. But who knew that Alan Rickman could sing? And he does. In a growling bass-baritone that makes you ever more ashamed to have a crush on him. (And in the end, isn’t it the shame you feel over your crush on Rickman that makes it really hot?)

Pretty boy Jamie Campbell Bower (speaking of crushes on men, YUM!) plays the na├»ve and lovestruck Anthony Hope, and not only because we know the object of his affections is both in the charge of Judge Turpin and the daughter of Sweeney Todd do we really cheer for him, but also because Bower’s interpretation of wide-eyed heroism is so endearing and heartwarming in this blood chilling tale.

Finally, Helena Bonham Carter, who plays Mrs. Lovett so convincingly I never saw it coming. She’s sweet, she’s tender, she’s downtrodden but smart. The perfect Lovett.

Something I hadn't realised before watching this movie is that Sondheim fashioned the story on Moliere's (I think it's Moliere's) "Le Barbiere de Seville" which comes to us more commonly as the opera "Il barbiere di Saviglia" ("The Barber of Seville", in case you're still wondering) by Rossini. The significance of this is two-fold. First, it's why everyone thinks "The Barber of Seville" is a gothic opera, or that Sweeney Todd is the barber of the aforementioned Seville. Second, and much more important, the play by Moliere and the opera by Rossini were very controversial in their times, and were banned in parts of Europe for presenting the revolutionary ideas that the lower class was smarter than the middle class, and more capable in love than the upper class (a very disturbing notion to the aristocracy of Latin cultures). Sweeney Todd is a gothic extrapolation of this theme, whereby the lower class seeks revenge on the middle class for being such anuses.

Anyway, I'm about to fall into a cerebral discussion comparing the Rossini to the Sondheim, and if all else fails (including my mind) I may just do that in order to gloss over the memory of blood spurting from the throats of various London gentlemen. Let me, instead, give a brief overview of the highlights.

The cockroach in “The Worst Pies in London.”

The shaving contest between Pirelli (played by Sacha Baron Cohen) and Todd.

The triumph in the asylum. (I was screaming with joy!).

The extremely gory death of Judge Turpin. (Come on, you knew it was gonna happen.)

The extremely gory death of Sweeney Todd. (You also knew THAT was gonna happen, so don’t bitch.)

The Importance of Being Earnest (2002)


Viewing it as a continuation in the long tradition of 19th century literary adaptations featuring Colin Firth, Oliver Parker’s 2002 rendition of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest was a film I approached with a certain degree of measured scepticism. While I had no doubt that the film was well intended, the phrase “cash in” persisted in the back of my mind as I pondered whether this adaptation of Wilde’s most famous play could manage to justify its existence against accusations that its makers are simply appropriating a canonical literary work to make a quick buck. Now that the film has been viewed and I am able to arrive at a verdict on the matter, however, I’m disappointed to report that my findings remain inconclusive.

Let’s start with the good: one of the most fortunate qualities of Parker’s adaptation (one which he both directed and wrote the screenplay for) is that the lines of Wilde’s brilliant play are kept almost entirely intact. Although the opening scene develops quite differently in the film as compared with the play, the film version retains its charming banter while utilizing film’s potential to have the scene take place through various locations rather than fixing the characters within a single room. What is equally fortunate is that the film strikes a healthy balance between adapting the play for the film medium without compromising it in the process. This is in no small part due to the film’s all-star cast, who effortlessly navigate Wildean dialogue that would sound unnatural if delivered onscreen by less capable actors. Judi Dench’s Lady Bracknell is especially charming, and one can imagine Dench – beneath her character’s cold demeanour – beaming at the opportunity to deliver Bracknell’s lines, many of which rank among the play’s highlights.


As anyone who has read Wilde’s novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, will know, Wilde often wrote himself – or at least characters that bore an uncanny resemblance to his own personality and personal philosophies – into his works. Lord Henry from The Picture of Dorian Gray is one such example of this, and certainly Algernon is another. And there is no doubt that Rupert Everett was aware of this fact when delivering his performance as Algernon, as he channels the spirit of Wilde throughout every moment that Algy is on screen. Everett is aware of the mantle his character carries, and he reflects this with the wit and eloquence one expects of a classic Wildean character. It is worth noting that Everett has performed Wilde before, having appeared in a 1999 film adaptation of An Ideal Husband.



So, good performances, preserves all the good things about the original, should be a slam dunk, right? Not so fast. There are a few faults with this adaptation, and these lie primarily in the horrible flashback sequences that come sporadically throughout the film. To read about Jack Worthing’s origin in the play is implausible enough; to see it rendered on screen was laughable, and I think the attempt to do so was a clear oversight by director Oliver Parker. In fact, though there’s no dispute that Parker intended to make a comedy, one might almost accuse his version of being a tad too earnest: he should have been reminded that Wilde’s play was a farce whose resolution serves as the culmination of that farce. In Parker’s film, we leave with a Hollywoodesque reaffirmation that love conquers all, as the film takes a sudden serious turn towards the end as it attempts a satisfactory resolution from the light comedy that preceded it.

A final point I might make against the film is that, armed with acclaimed source material that is virtually guaranteed to self itself, Parker makes little if any attempt to make any personal mark of his own during the course of the film. This is a straightforward (vanilla, if you will) adaptation of a great Victorian play that I would recommend over other film versions of the play only because of the excellent cast this version boasts. It is unlikely to be a revolutionary experience for persons with even the slimmest of Victorian knowledge, and will do little to convert those who are not already interested in Victoriana. That said, the cast is indeed very good, and the play is still as enjoyable as ever. And while the cynic will question whether we need another adaptation of The Importance of Being Earnest, I myself will take this minor film as a welcome excuse to be reminded of Wilde’s skills as a playwright.

Rating: 3 stars
Victorian Cool factor: 5/10

- Kaleim

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Parody!!!



This is a great parody of Victorian poets and of Queen Victoria. Look out for some familiar poets! I hope you guys enjoy it! :)

From Hell: detective fiction Victorian style!

The golden age of detective fiction is often said to have occurred during the 1930s, a time when the genre surged in popularity and saw repeated bestsellers from prolific authors like Agatha Christie, a writer who to this day remains virtually synonymous with detective fiction as a whole. However, if the depression era’s need for escapism and a restoration of the principles of law and order paved the way for detective fiction’s success in the 1930s, then the Hughes brothers’ adaptation of Alan Moore’s graphic novel From Hell makes a compelling case suggesting that humanity’s increasing fascination with detective stories can be constructively traced back to the Victorian era.

In fact, the most immediately apparent and aesthetically pleasing aspect of the Hughes brothers’ cinematic representation of Moore’s graphic novel (no doubt helped by the fact that Moore was actually involved in this adaptation of his work: he is listed as having co-written the film’s script) is the gothic rendering of Victorian London’s infamous East end, specifically the Whitechapel district in which the majority of the film’s action takes place. Although possibly at the expense of claims to historical accuracy, the film goes to great lengths to construct Whitechapel as a region which highlights the obscene underbelly of the Victorian age: specifically, Victorian society’s displacement of crime and all vice to particular urban spaces. The film’s focus on the prostitution trade of the Whitechapel district is especially fitting for this purpose, as it further exposes the inherent hypocrisy of the Victorian upper class, who make public claims to moral superiority while indulging privately in corrupt behaviour, something which the Victorian society depicted in From Hell fully sanctions so long as such activities do not spill out from the Whitechapel district where they are expected to remain contained.

Continuing with the subject of urban geography, there are a number of stunning moments in the film where a sign takes on an entirely different connotation in one area of London compared with another. In Whitechapel, passing carriages and even a cluster of grapes are regarded suspiciously; the latter even comes in to play as a clue which allows the protagonist, Inspector Abberline (played by Johnny Depp), to conclude that the killer is a wealthy man who uses the luxurious fruit as a means of seducing his unsuspecting victims. Symbolically the grapes are a nice touch to the film, an enduring trace of the upper class’ trespasses in the Whitechapel area.


At this point I must permit myself to speak briefly about the film’s resolution, which attempts a fictitious imagining of the identity of the killer known as Jack the Ripper. Assuming that the film concludes the same way as the graphic novel, it is clear that Moore is no mere dabbler in Victorian lore. The film’s conclusion is both satisfying and very much to the point. The public atrocities committed by the Ripper are aimed at concealing a greater private shame, and while the Ripper’s victims appear to be random prostitutes, they are in fact aimed at several women who are privy to knowledge that the upper class interests the Ripper represents wish to conceal. Although the brutality of the crimes are attributed to the Ripper’s (played by Ian Holm) sinister nature, the notion that the crimes themselves are intended to suppress a personal scandal (which were all too prevalent during the Victorian era) is a fitting one which upholds the Ripper myth while simultaneously attempting to attach a sense of order to the otherwise chaotic and inexplicable serial murders. Holm’s portrayal of the Ripper recalls another Victorian character, specifically that of Doctor Henry Jekyll, whose irreducible “good” and “evil” personalities are recalled by Holm’s performance.

Ultimately the only fault I could lay on From Hell is the conspicuous absence of the London poor, who are always in the periphery but who one would think ought to be featured more prominently in any film attempting a delineation of the East end. However, perhaps this decision was a conscious one, as the poor’s lack of participation in events occurring in their own geographic space further highlights the Victorian upper class’ role in determining and overseeing East end life. Furthermore, I would add that the scenes in the mental hospital (if one can call it that) go a long way to make up for the absence of the lower classes throughout the rest of the film.

So in conclusion what we have here is a story that, despite being conceptualized nearly 100 years after the Victorian era (Moore’s graphic novel having been published in serial format between 1991 and 1996), is nothing shy of a classic Victorian story in both its concept and its execution. Though one might easily dwell at length about the film’s treatment of prostitution and other Victorian themes, the film’s handling of urban geography alone merits attention for anyone interested in the Victorian era.

Rating: 4 stars
Victorian Cool factor: 9/10

- Kaleim