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The Right Way: "The Wings of the Dove," 1997.

The Wrong Way: "The Golden Bowl," 2000.

I've been on a period movie kick - blame the Splenda-like "Downton Abbey" (no nutritional value, but weirdly, it makes you crave similar, more highly caloric things).  Thanks to the plethora of Henry James adaptations available via Netflix, hours of viewing pleasure are mine for the asking!

Of course, the concept of "viewing pleasure," ranges from the sumptuous visual feast that is "The Wings of the Dove" - Helena Bonham Carter! the turquoise tiles of a place that looks like Leighton House's long-lost architectural cousin! indigo velvet embroidered with peacocks!  VENICE! - to the laff-riot that is "The Golden Bowl."

I genuinely believe that "The Wings of the Dove" was a present the universe gave me for my high school graduation.  It contains just about everything I adore.  On the other hand, "The Golden Bowl" can only be a posthumous slap in the face to Henry James.  From the costuming to the performances, it is perhaps the worst period piece I have ever seen.  Uma Thurman wear what appears to be a sleeveless blouse at one point.  I ASK YOU.

Wait, I lie.  There was that one incredibly trippy thing I caught on late-night television in Sweden, featuring Ed Harris (of all people) as the leader of a biker gang who thought they were the Knights of the Round Table (while doing porn: seriously, I think the writers on Season 2 of "Sons of Anarchy" had this on in the background one night when they fell asleep and when they woke up they thought "...trippy ...." and happily lifted the least most plausible bits).  That might have been worse.  Though, that crossed the line into being so bad it was good, whereas "The Golden Bowl" is just a terrible mockery of all that is good and right in literary realism.

Next up: "The Portrait of a Lady," back from when Nicole Kidman had facial expressions.  Could go either way.

February 2013

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