Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Catching up on classics the miniseries way

Arriving this week in my mailbox,courtesy of Netflix,is The Buccaneers,a BBC miniseries from 1995 which aired on Masterpiece Theater as well. It's based on an unfinished novel by Edith Wharton and tells the tale of four young American women(one of whom is played by Mira Sorvino)husband hunting in Europe during the 1870s.

This is prime Wharton material and I'm glad to be seeing this,especially since it will give me an idea of what the book is like. Yes,even tho I am an admirer of Edith Wharton(except for Ethan Frome-way too depressing),I haven't yet read The Buccaneers. There is some advantage to that;for one thing,the twists and turns of the plot will be a true surprise to me. As much as I love seeing how books I've read before come to life on screen,it's also fun to discover something new from the realm of classic lit this way:

And I must confess that this is not the only miniseries adaptation of a book that I have yet to read. It's not for lack of trying,believe you me-somehow,certain classic novels are able to catch my eye better as a made for TV movie than on the printed page.

Some of that is due to the excellence of the screenplay translation. Andrew Davies,who is the master of this genre,did the script for Wives & Daughters,based on another unfinished novel written this time by Elizabeth Gaskell.

It's a multi-character story that centers around Molly Gibson(Justine Waddell),the daughter of the local doctor whose remarriage to a flighty former governess of the neighborhood nobility brings alot of extra drama to town. The cast is a merry mix of fresh new faces and old school performers who make this series compelling and charming all at once :

Davies also put his hand into the telling of The Way We Live Now,which is from a completed title from the works of Anthony Trollope. The plot focuses on the arrival of a newly made financier named Melmotte(David Suchet) in 1870s London,whose influence is sort after by all kinds of dubious society folk and ultimately leads to their mutual ruin. Sort of the Victorian version of the Bernie Madoff story.

Other soap opera elements crop up such as the unexpected arrival of a former fiancee from America(Miranda Otto) that mucks up the romantic plans of Paul Montague(Cillian Murphy),an ambitious young man hoping to do well enough by Melmotte's latest venture in order to be with the woman he truly loves:

I'm starting to think this is all about Andrew Davies,since the next item on my list here is Thackeray's Vanity Fair which was shown on A&E back in 1998. Yes, Davies is once again the man accredited with the screenplay.

However,I've also seen the big screen version of this story starring Reese Witherspoon made in '04 and own the DVD as well but haven't gotten too far with the actual novel itself. I must try again at some point,since Becky Sharp is too delightfully wicked to be ignored:

Since The Buccaneers is not from a Davies adapted script,the cycle can be broken. However,I can't really blame him for my lack of literary concentration. Perhaps it's just that not every classic author on the shelves are meant to be in my mental library. After all,the saying "so many books,so little time" has held on there for a reason.

Don't get me wrong,I'm not throwing in the towel just yet. The best solution is to take things as they come and get to those books in my own sweet time. In the meanwhile,there's plenty of new miniseries on the horizon for next year such as a brand new take on Jane Austen's Emma.

While it may not live up to my favorite version of the book(yes,it's the Andrew Davies one-I am such a fangirl),it'll be worthwhile,if not familiar viewing. Then again,this upcoming adaptation may be an eye opener to others the way The Buccaneers will be to me. Only one way to find out,folks-join me,won't you?:


vvb32 reads said...

i remember watching part but not all of the buccaneers when it was on tv. that trailer sure is jam-packed with all i missed. i have to netflix it sometime as you've reminded me how much i enjoyed the little that i saw. as for classics in movie form, i just got a set of george elliott stories on dvd that i'm excited to watch after going through the jane austen dvd set i got along with it. happy watching ;-D

lady t said...

Thanks,WB-George Eliot is another one of those authors that I haven't caught up. I did read Silas Marner(not in school)and Daniel Deronda but Middlemarch and Mill on the Floss still elude me.

PBS had a great film version of Mill on the Floss,with Emily Watson as the leading lady-hope that's in your set:)