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poliphilo: (Default)
OK, so I'm a convert. It was thrilling TV.

The gimmick was they were doing it as a soap. Only they weren't. Soaps go on forever and this was a mere 7 1/2 hours. Lots of charming minor characters had to be cut. Pity.

There wasn't any poetry (yes, Dickens is a poet) but the plot was nicely sharpened up. It was if the story had been rewritten by Dickens' good mate Wilkie Collins.

I was sorry about Skimpole. He's one of Dickens' greatest creations. A bastard, certainly, but a fantastically charming bastard and not the slimy piece of goods they reduced him too here. It was a bit like playing Falstaff as a sad old boozer.

The not very interesting central characters- Esther, Jarndyce, Rick, Ada and the noble doctor were brought to life by some first-rate acting. We cared about them. Here, as in the adjustments to the plot, the original was improved upon.

I remember Pauline Collins as a soubrette. Now she's playing old lady roles. Lawks-a-mercy!

Alun Armstrong was never going to be a star. He's just too ugly. But he has grown into his looks. His turn as Inspector Bucket was mesmerizing.

And who'd have thought that Gillian Anderson had it in her to play an English aristocrat? Her Lady Dedlock proved she's not just a star- she's a great actor. And I mean right up there with the Redgraves and the Riggs and the Denches. That great.

Next time they tackle a big Dickens (let it be Our Mutual Friend) maybe they'll allow themselves double the time. Triple the time. Quadruple the time. We can take it.

Little D

Aug. 10th, 2005 10:02 am
poliphilo: (Default)
I've finished Little Dorrit. Yes- I know- it's taken me forever. I'm a slow reader.

The ending is it's major flaw. There's a rush of confusing revelations about people we've never met and Blandois, the villainous stage Frenchman, who has skulked menacingly all though the action threatening murder and worse, gets swatted without ever having done anything more nefarious than poison an irritating dog.

Christine Ezzard's rather splendid film version of Little Dorrit (the best Dickens adaption ever?) cut Blandois completely and the story made perfect (perhaps better) sense without him.
poliphilo: (Default)
Little Dorrit is Dickens's best book.

It's the one in which he finally worked out how to structure a very big novel.

It's not as (fitfully) brilliant as Bleak House. But neither is it such a mess. In fact it's not a mess at all.

The centre holds. Amy Dorrit is the most convincing of Dickens's angelic child women. He is beginning here to see more deeply into the psychology of self-sacrifice- to get a whiff of its pathology, and his questioning (which is also a self-questioning) gives her depth. She is a very needy person, very repressed. Her growing relationship with the equally needy and repressed Arthur Clennam is delicately painted and not without a muted and all but strangled-at-birth eroticism.

It is a novel of disillusion. Everyone is in manacles- real or "mind-forged" and the old Dickensian nostrums of kindliness and good cheer are very nearly not enough. Victories are allowed, but they are small private victories and the gloom of the prison house is never lifted. Only Great Expectations among Dickens's other novels is as honest and unremitting and adult in its vision. The hero and heroine are given a moment in the sun, and then at the close "go down" to "a modest life of happiness and usefulness". "Go down"- Dickens repeats the phrase to be make sure we catch on- is what condemned prisoners do.
poliphilo: (Default)
Bleak House is a tremendous novel. There is, however, a problem. It doesn't have a centre. Or, rather, it doesn't have a satisfactory centre.

John Jarndyce, Esther Summerson, Rick and Ada just aren't interesting enough. The tragedy of Richard Carstone- which ought to be the emotional heart of the book- simply registers as one of its many incidents.

Dickens' decision to write as Esther Summerson is an interesting experiment. Esther's voice is largely convincing- if a little irritating at times- but to make it convincing Dickens has to dumb down.

As if to compensate for the constraints of vocalising Esther, Dickens cuts loose in the sections of omniscient narration. These contain some of the most sustained, the most gorgeous, the most brilliant writing he ever did.

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