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March 24, 2012: Writhing About On Moors

March 24, 2012

"Jane Eyre" 2011 What's up with the Brontes and moors anyway?

For a while, I’ve been toying with writing an article on Japanese writers and directors telling classic English stories. When I found a new version of “Jane Eyre” (2011) and saw that the director with a Japanese name, yet one that I was unfamiliar with, I thought I had a score! It was only after watching the movie, that I did my research on the director, Cary Fukunaga, and found out he is actually American, raised in California, so I shelved my original idea for the time being.

I found I was stuck in another way also. Sometimes I see a film which has everything I could possible ask for and somehow it still falls flat. I often attribute this to “mood” and it’s usually not worth pursuing, but “Jane Eyre” was different. It got such solid high marks on just about every aspect, that I just couldn’t figure out why I just didn’t LOVE it!

So, all that is good: I thought Cary Fukunaga did a very good job directing. I have never read Charlotte Bronté’s original, but I admire the courage of a newish director taking on a much-loved (and often produced) classic. I’ve seen his “Sin Nombre” at the library and will snap it up the next time I’m there. I’m also looking forward to his “No Blood, No Guts, No Glory” about a spy and Union soldiers as they try to pull off a heist that will put an early end to the Civil War. His commentary on “Jane Eyre” was a tad dry as he focused on the technical (although he warned us he was going to, at the beginning.) I was more interested what drew him to this particular story. Fukunaga’s story of the stallion that had a…ahem…crush on Michael Fassbender was worth any of those parched moments. I believe this makes Fassbender the only actor I know to have his appeal cross not only genders, but species!

Next: production value was top-notch! Really good cinematography using realistic light sources (like candlelight and fire) a la “Barry Lyndon.” Excellent costumes, makeup, and locations set the mood very well. Dario Marianelli who picked up the Oscar for “Atonement” did the music. The story was well done and had a blend of genres: romance, gothic horror, action, drama, with a tiny bit a humor thrown in.

Next: acting. This movie had a pretty much dream-team for me. Michael Fassbender (300; Inglourius Basterds) plays the male lead, Edward Rochester. Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland) played the female lead of Jane. Dame Judi Dench plays Mrs. Fairfax and Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot) plays St. John Rivers. Fassbender as Rochester is the ultimate bad-boy. He will get no high marks on his “daddy” scores but other than that, he is the guy every girl wants to turn around. His rough good looks seems to work just fine as many female reviewers praised him as choice eye-candy. I bet he takes that rugged lopsided grin to bed each night with reviews like that (lucky SOB!) Mia Wasikowska was a bit of surprise, for me. I thought her as a choice of “Alice” in Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” was…well…unique, but outside of her looking just like the original Tenniel illustrations of the vorpal warrior, I couldn’t really see her as Alice. But, she was just wonderful as Jane. Strong-willed, self-possessed, intelligent, a very strong female lead. Judi Dench…well…if there was a film called “Dame Judi Reads the Back of the Cereal Box”…I’d watch it. She adds some good background and some light humor, then graciously allows the leads to take over.

Of course, all the fans of the original story have some criticism of the film: largely that pieces of the story were left out. But, c’mon folks, film-makers have to get films down under two hours so the ones of us who don’t know the original will go in the first place! But, I had no pre-conceived notions, never having read the original, so I was still plagued: liking every single piece, I still did not like the sum total! Why?!!!

After, mulling it over, the part I liked the least was the tortured love story. Too much writhing about on the moors! It was…just so…Heathcliff-ish!!! “Oooooooh!” was my next thought. “Waitaminute…Heathcliff…moors..Oh, yeah, that’s another Bronté story, isn’t it?” A quick fact-check away confirmed “Wuthering Heights” is Emily Bronté’s story!

So, I figure the movie is fine…it’s just my personal Bronté issue that gets in my own way. Someday, maybe some kind female will explain three things that just don’t permeate through my bachelor noggin: purses, curtains, and the Bronté sisters!

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