Volume 17, Issue 5: Ex Imagibus
Reviewed by All Sorts
Pride and Prejudice
directed by Joe Wright.
reviewed by Peter J. Leithart
Pop quiz. Which are you likely to find in an Austen novel?
a) During their first ballroom dance, the crowd
disappears, leaving Darcy and Elizabeth to dance and
b) While Jane is lying sick at Netherfield, Mr.
Bingley visits her bedroom.
c) At the climax of the movie, Elizabeth takes an
early morning walk in her night clothes and Darcy comes to
meet her, walking across the misty heath with his shirt open.
d) As Elizabeth explains her love for Darcy to her incredulous father, she giggles and says, "We're
so much alike. We're both so stubborn."
e) On a shelf on the other side of my library is a
Jane Austen action figure, holding a book, a portable writing
table, and a quill pen. (According to the packaging, her weapon
of choice is "the character sketch.")
It's a trick question, and the correct answer is
"f"none of the above. Society never melts away for Austen or
her characters. Misty heaths and open shirts are Bronte,
not Austen, whose male characters remain well-buttoned.
No Georgian gentleman would enter a lady's bedroom and
she would never have let him in. Austen respected her
heroine too much to let her fall into triteness.
Joe Wright, in his directorial debut, manages to
capture some of Austen's wit, and the film is entertaining.
Keira Knightley is lively and endearing as Elizabeth,
Matthew MacFadyen as Darcy less so. Judi Dench as Lady
Catherine glares imperiously from under her impossibly
high-stacked wig, and Tom Hollander's Mr. Collins is so base that
you wish someone would stomp on him.
Austen's virtues as a novelist cannot transfer intact
to film. As soon as the carefully chosen gaps in
Austen's narratives are filled in by visualsas they must
beher novels lose their magic. That is an unavoidable difficulty,
a sin of inadvertency. But the filmmaker changed
Austen's novel into something else when he decided to tell the story
of Pride and Prejudice in a romantic idiom that Austen mocked
at every opportunity.
Now, an action figure armed with a character
sketchthat's a bit closer.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
directed by Andrew Adamson
reviewed by Douglas Wilson
C.S. Lewis worries somewhere about margarine as a
substitute for butter. He understood the need for such things
in wartime, but his worry was that young children growing
up with margarine might actually come to prefer it over
butter. And that would be a travesty in the world of condiments.
This movie presents the thoughtful parent with the same
kind of dilemma. For those children who are steeped in all
things Narnia, this movie is a welcome adaptation of the
LWW. For those whose introduction to the books is through the
movie, the possibility exists that their taste will come to prefer
the margarine to the butter. But margarine is really okay,
especially when you look at the dry toast titles of the other movies at the theater you attended.
In the most important ways, the movie stayed faithful
to the lines of the story written by Lewis. Aslan was done
very well. The Stone Table scene was just right. The
talking animals were effective, particularly the wolves. The
casting was great. This was nothing like the BBC farce of a few
years back, where for Aslan they used a couple of guys in a
vaudeville lion suit.
Some changes or additions to the book were welcome
or effective. This would include little touches like the
White Witch wearing Aslan's mane going into battle, or
increasing the scope and breadth of the battle. They were cutting
with the grain.
Other changesparticularly the ones made in
deference to current filmmaking dogmaswere less welcome.
Gotta have dramatic tension every seven and half minutes, darn
it! Or whatever it was they were doing. To do less would
violate Orthodoxy. And while the witch was suitably creepy,
she wasn't the right kind of creepy.
But to sum up, in no way did this movie wreck the
book. And to some, that may be unexpectedly high praise.
Walk the Line
directed by James Mangold
reviewed by Douglas Wilson
Time for a little John R. Cash.
This biopic, like Johnny Cash's life was, is carried by
the music. The choice that someone made to make the
music pervasive throughout the movie was the right one, and
the additional choice to have Joaquin Phoenix and
Reese Witherspoon learn how to sing and/or play the guitar
so there wouldn't be any lip-synching was the right choice
as well. The music here was the genuine stuff, and there is a
of it in the movie. Many viewers will probably leave
thinking they hadn't heard that tune in a whileand why
haven't they?and go out to find a Greatest Hits CD.
The film takes us through Johnny Cash's boyhood,
the tragic death of his older (and good) brother, his first
marriage, his addiction to amphetamines, and his final
stabilizing marriage to June Carter Cash. His conversion to Christ is
far more understated than it actually was in Cash's life, but it
is still clearly and definitely there. One good effect of
this understatement is that Cash's conversion comes across
clearly as a covenant movementhe is returning to his
peoplerather than as a bolt from the blue.
One of the things our culture needs desperately
to recover is what might be called masculine charisma. Cash
had it, and this movie portrays it well. That charisma does
not mean sinlessness, as the movie makes very clear. But the sin
is shown to be destructive of all good things, including
the charisma. This portrayal of Cash's life includes an
effective painting of the sins of
bitternessthat ran deep in the Cash familydrugs, adultery, parental neglect and ambition.
It might be beneficial to our souls to look at a movie full of
all this, but without the music, I still wouldn't have done it.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
directed by Mike Newell
reviewed by Nathan Wilson
This film was one of the kickoff points for the holiday
movie season. It was also the first of the really fat books from
the Harry Potter series to go through adaptation. Because of
the thickness of the volume, translation to film was supposed
to be more difficult. The same difficulty exists for the next two.
I was not too terribly thrilled about sitting through
this film, primarily because the pubescent irritability attributed
to Harry in later books drives me absolutely bonkers, and
also because this book was the weakest of the series. While
pages exist in great number (734), editors apparently didn't.
Or, more cynically, they did and they knew full well that
the thicker volume would retail at thirty dollars while the
shorty third book (448 pages) only coverpriced at twenty-three.
The fans aren't complaining. The more additional
pages of escapism the better. The only problem is that most of
those additional pages don't move the narrative, feel like stalling,
or cause hiccups in the suspension of disbelief. When the
film adaptation got underway, a great deal of this stuff had to
be removed. As a result, I can say that which is not often
truethe movie is better than the book, and I enjoyed myself
through most of it.
Sure, there's lots of stupid. Prom at Hogwarts was
about as fun to watch as the National Scrabble Championships
I encountered on ESPN this morning. Nothing there but a
lot of tired cut-and-paste personal conflict, and the wizardy
brit rock jerks us right out of the atmosphere of magic entirely.
The film functioned as an editor. Narrative gaps
and loose ends are removed or slightly more hidden. The pace
is quickened, and we don't have time to question the
superficially contrived tension.
All the usual morality questions remain, but at least
the narrative is less insulting.
The Family Stone
directed by Thomas Bezucha
reviewed by Nathan Wilson
A review is not deserved, but therapy is necessary. Like
the other poor saps I shared the theater with, I was suckered in
by false advertising. The preview promised a Christmas
comedy, a date film. There was going to be a raucous, goofy,
but lovable family razzing a blue-blooded potential addition.
This was like watching a liberal version of
Left Behind or Tribulation Force. This was storytelling at its worst. It
wasn't funny. It wasn't a comedy. If you saw the preview, you
saw every amusing line in the script. Mom's dying of cancer.
Gay guy. Not sympathetic enough. Gay deaf guy. Gay deaf guy
in interracial relationship. Gay deaf guy in interracial
relationship trying to adopt. This is a little technique we in the
writing business call "subtlety." The unitarian sermon didn't stop,
but it didn't present coherent thought eitherjust
repetition, looping redundant, puritanical, judgments. And you
the viewer better not question the writer's authority to
manipulate characters. You are nobody. Bow to your sensitivity sensei.
I didn't dislike the characters. I pitied them.
Every emotion was false, imposed from above by
hyper-calvinistic, determinist gods. Honestly, I haven't seen characters
so abused since Ayn Rand was busy voodoo-dolling the
humanity out of hers.
March of the Penguins
directed by Luc Jacquet
reviewed by Nathan Wilson
Now on video, this "nature film" is phenomonal. But not
as phenomonal as actual penguins. These
three-and-a-half-foot-tall birds are the ultimate triumph of comedy over
tragedy. Given what they go through, and the complexity of
behavior necessary for survival, not a single one of them
should rightfully be alive. Watch, and remember: these birds
(and every other bird) were once dinosaurs who slowly adapted
to fit their enviroment.
Back to top
Back to Table of Contents
Copyright © 2012 Credenda/Agenda. All rights reserved.