Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Monday, May 15, 2017

A passel of period films to unpack in the Movie Trailer Park

In the midst of the big summer movie season we have before, with it's focus on sci-fi spectaculars, contemporary comedies and all out action, it's good to take note of those few films set back a bit further in time and place.

 They seem like old fashioned fare but good story telling in any setting is never out of style.

First up is The Beguiled, a remake of a 1971 movie starring Clint Eastwood and Geraldine Page. Here, those roles are taken over by Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman, the latter playing the mistress of a girl's school in Mississippi during the Civil War.

When a Union soldier(Farrell) is found injured on their property, the ladies take him in, rather reluctantly, and tend to his wounds. During his stay, a seduction of more than one of the students leads to some very dire consequences indeed.  Director Sophia Coppola also wrote the screenplay, which is an adaptation of a novel by Thomas P. Cullinan and I suspect she might stick more to the source material than the prior version did, we shall see:

Next up is My Cousin Rachel, which is also a remake based on a novel. In this case, we have Rachel Weisz as the title character who is related by marriage to Phillip(Sam Clafin), a well to do young man willing to let his recently widowed relative visit with him.

Naturally, a lot of gossip and suspicion about the mysterious Rachel and her intentions are relayed to Phillip but he would rather judge for himself whether or not she is a dangerous lady. Trouble is, that judgement about her true character may arrive too late.

Roger Mitchell is the director here and as he directed one of my favorite Jane Austen adaptations,Persuasion(not to mention Notting Hill), I have no doubt about the period feel of the film being just right but do wonder how he'll handle a thriller like this:

Speaking of thrillers, Lady Macbeth offers a unique take on the classic Shakespearean character(and yes, it's based on a book). Florence Plugh plays Catherine, a young woman made to marry a much older man whose family keeps her on a tight leash.

During a business trip by the men, Catherine is able to experience a moment of freedom and meets Sebastian(Cosmo Jarvis), a local work man. The two of them start an affair, which leads to discovery and then to murder with more complications than any one involved could imagine.

This movie has been making the rounds on the film festival circuit and set to arrive in the US this summer. I hope that it doesn't become quickly overshadowed by bigger films as it certainly sounds like wickedly good entertainment:

 What may also be a late summer surprise is Tulip Fever, starring Alicia Vikander and Dane DeHaan as a pair of young lovers in 17th century Holland during the height of frenzy for the title flower.

Alicia plays Spohia, trapped in an arranged marriage whose portrait is being painted by DeHaan's Jan, a young artist hoping to make a substantial profit in the tulip marketplace in order to finance a better life for them both.

With such fine actors as Judi Dench and Christoph Waltz in the cast, along with a screenplay by Tom Stoppard(adapting Deborah Moggach's novel), this ought to be a grand story. No guarantees on that, of course, but perhaps by summer's end, this might be a welcome cinematic retreat:

You don't have to wait for summer to find a good period film, although you might have to search the smaller theaters near you for one.

 At the moment, A Quiet Passion is making a limited theatrical run and based on the excellent reviews, it's well worth looking out for. Cynthia Nixon stars as Emily Dickinson, the iconic poet who lived nearly in seclusion in order to focus on her amazing work.

 With a supporting cast made up of such marvelous folk as Jodhi May, Keith Carradine and Jennifer Ehle, not to mention being written and directed by Terence Davies(who gave us a beautiful version of The House of Mirth with Gillian Anderson back in 2000), this is a Classic Lit fan's delight.

Movies like this are gentle reminders that period placed stories are not merely an excuse to wear fancy costumes and have elaborate settings to film in. Instead, they are meant to give us a view of what life was like for fictional characters and real people in times that far from our own yet closer to us than we think, a good lesson that can be entertainingly taught:

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