Pride and Prejudice

Had a chance to go and see the new Pride and Prejudice yesterday. Before I talk about the movie, I should take a moment to discuss why I saw it in a theater. It strikes me that the majority of entertainment executives are on the coasts, and especially in LA and New York. Both these locals have movie theaters that rock. Yes, not all NYC theaters are cool, and not all mid-west theaters suck, but on the mean, if you go to see a movie, there is a good chance that the screen will be small and the floor sticky. When the sound, and often the picture, is better on a home theater system, is it really surprising that people don’t want to pay to go to the movies? Luckily, I got to see this at the Loews Lincoln Plaza, complete with giant screens, big cement palm trees, and consequently, full theaters.

Pride and Prejudice I was really looking forward to seeing Pride and Prejudice. I had heard that the fight scene between Mr. Darcy and Lady Catherine de Bourg recalled Ong-bak’s athleticism, with a certain John Woo flavor (though, naturally, with edged weapons rather than firearms). I was not disappointed. Dench carried off a flying head kick with accustomed aplomb. Much of this occurred, naturally, in subtext.

Some of the steamier scenes, no doubt, are being held up for the “directors cut” release on DVD. It is unfortunate, since it leaves some discontinuities to the “PG” rated version. I recognize the necessity of carrying this rating — clearly the film is intended to attract boys in the 12-18 year old range — but it is unfortunate that they had to cave to such self-censorship. It is done with some cleverness, though. A crane shot pans across the windows of the Bennet house (shortly after the proposal from Bingley) peering into each window in turn. We get a brief snippet of pillow talk between Mr. and Mrs. Bennet before the camera moves chastely on — and just in time, I suspect!

Knightly carries the film. I would go to see anything she was in (well, almost anything), but she shines as Lizzy. While she is certainly attractive in the abstract, in the still of a photograph, the film gives her leave to show a playful and charming spirit.

Mr. Darcy had at first scarcely allowed her to be pretty; he had looked at her without admiration at the ball; and when they next met, he looked at her only to criticise. But no sooner had he made it clear to himself and his friends that she had hardly a good feature in her face, than he began to find it was rendered uncommonly intelligent by the beautiful expression of her dark eyes. To this discovery succeeded some others equally mortifying. Though he had detected with a critical eye more than one failure of perfect symmetry in her form, he was forced to acknowledge her figure to be light and pleasing; and in spite of his asserting that her manners were not those of the fashionable world, he was caught by their easy playfulness.

The cast is superb throughout. I even liked Donald Sutherland (of whom I am not normally enamoured) as Mr. Bennet.

But the real stars of the film are the English countryside, the country estates, and the costumes. I mentioned to my companion when we left that I read Pride & Prejudice at too young an age, before having been to England, or having been exposed enough to the historical context and setting. It was difficult for me to picture. It is even more difficult now to remember how I saw, for example, the Bennet house. I think I had in mind the sort of large houses you see outside of Baltimore, with a small manicured lawn. It was always hard to picture a family in dire straights but with servants. In some ways, the film is now how I will “see” the book.

I always feel a bit sad that more people won’t see the “good stuff,” and because of the topic of this movie and that it is a period piece, it comes with an automatically limited audience, which is really too bad, because it is both an outstanding film, and very entertaining and engaging.

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