Sunday, November 20, 2005

Two for the ages

I saw two of my favorite stories depicted this weekend:

First, Friday night, the Puccini opera La Bohème in the famous Franco Zeffirelli production at the Met, starring Ruth Ann Swenson, Paul Plishka and Frank Lopardo, among others. Such great music! Such wonderful lines. Two of my favorites: "To be alone in the winter is like death" and later "I wish winter would last forever." (They stick in the mind because of the context.)

Second, Saturday night, the latest movie version of Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice, starring British starlet Keira Knightley, who still has four whole months before she can legally drink in the States. The filmmakers did add a sappy and un-Austen-like smoochy scene at the end (see more in this Times article), but I thought it was earned. The film is a quick, satisfying adaptation that manages to sustain the spirit of the author's work while condensing it and, as the English might say, "sexing it up" a bit. I especially liked the way the camera roved around certain scenes, whether dress balls or evening chats, in a way that evoked the peering-in upon another world.

The characters in the story are so vivid, and there are qualities to admire (despite the obvious vices in the title) in the two main protagonists (Elizabeth and Darcy) as well as in Mr. Bennet. And this time around, I found myself with a strange sort of affection for "plain" Mary Bennet and her individuality, who at one point in the original narrative says, "Far be it from me, my dear sister, to depreciate such pleasures. They would doubtless be congenial with the generality of female minds. But I confess they would have no charms for me. I should infinitely prefer a book." I think, perhaps, she was played for more sympathy than usual this time around.

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