Bright Star – Day Seventeen – #40movies40days

bright_star09Bright Star starts a bit slowly but builds and burns with a growing intensity.  The longing, the loss, the passion and the separated lovers make it a classic Power of Idealism film with two young Power of Idealism lovers.

Since it is a Saturday I am taking a bit of the easy way out by quoting from two of the many lush, poetic and enthusiastic reviews this Jane Campion film received on it’s release.

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Both articles are beautifully written and part of much longer reviews.  I’ve provided the links to the original discussions of the film.

Dana Stevens writing in Slate – http://www.slate.com/id/2229522/
Bright Star (Apparition), Jane Campion’s new film about the brief love affair between John Keats and his neighbor Fanny Brawne, is a thing of beauty: the rare film about the life of an artist that is itself a work of art. Campion’s inspiration was Sir Andrew Motion’s massive 1997 biography of Keats, which attempted to supplant the popular image of Keats as a Romantic martyr who died of consumption at age 25 with a portrait of the poet as a vibrant thinker and citizen, engaged in the debates of his time. But Keats proves as tough to demythologize as Marilyn Monroe: He died so young, his life was so tragic, and the small body of work he left behind is so incomparable, that any depiction of his short life is bound to be tinged with idealization.
That’s why Campion was smart to make her film less about Keats than about Fanny Brawne, the fashionable, flirtatious young woman who captivated him in the spring of 1818 and lived next door to him in Hampstead for the last two years of his life. Fanny, as played by the up-and-coming Australian actress Abbie Cornish, is a curious heroine. She’s not a quick-tongued wit, like Pride and Prejudice’s Elizabeth Bennet. She’s grave-faced and a little stolid, skeptical of flights of fancy. (“Poems are a strain to make out,” she tells her little sister after sending her to a bookstore to buy Keats’ Endymion.) Fanny is inordinately proud of her gifts as a seamstress, and she dresses herself in homemade finery that’s outrageously ornate for the simple village life she leads. (Meeting Keats at a party, she brags, “This is the first frock in all of Hampstead to have a triple-pleated mushroom collar.”) Campion’s insistence on Fanny’s sewing skills is a feminist gambit, yes, but one that’s entirely consistent with the character. By emphasizing sewing as Fanny’s creative outlet, Campion shows the social constraints on women in Regency-era England and also gives the poet’s muse an art form of her own: When Fanny presents Keats with an exquisitely embroidered silk pillowcase, it’s a kind of sewn poem.
By A. O. SCOTT writing in The New York Times– http://movies.nytimes.com/2009/09/16/movies/16bright.html
Fanny, the eldest daughter of a distracted widow (Kerry Fox), has some of the spirited cleverness of a Jane Austen heroine. A gifted seamstress, she prides herself on her forward-looking fashion sense and her independence. She is also vain, insecure and capable of throwing herself headlong into the apparent folly of adoring a dying and penniless poet, something no sensible Austen character would ever do.
If it were just the poet and his beloved, “Bright Star” might collapse in swooning and sighing, or into the static rhythms of a love poem. And while there are passages of extraordinary lyricism — butterflies, fields of flowers, fluttering hands and beseeching glances — these are balanced by a rough, energetic worldliness. Lovers, like poets, may create their own realms of feeling and significance, but they do so in contention with the same reality that the rest of us inhabit…
Ms. Campion is one of modern cinema’s great explorers of female sexuality, illuminating Sigmund Freud’s “dark continent” with skepticism, sympathy and occasional indignation. “Bright Star” could easily have become a dark, simple fable of repression, since modern audiences like nothing better than to be assured that our social order is freer and more enlightened than any that came before. But Fanny and Keats are modern too, and though the mores of their time constrain them, they nonetheless regard themselves as free.
The film is hardly blind to the sexual hypocrisy that surrounds them. Fanny can’t marry Keats because of his poverty, but Brown blithely crosses class lines to have some fun with (and impregnate) a naïve and illiterate young household servant (Antonia Campbell-Hughes). That Fanny and Keats must sublimate their longings in letters, poems and conversations seems cruel, but they make the best of it. As does Ms. Campion: a sequence in which, fully clothed, the couple trades stanzas of “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” in a half-darkened bedroom must surely count as one of the hottest sex scenes in recent cinema.
The heat of that moment and others like it deliver “Bright Star” from the tidy prison of period costume drama. Ms. Campion, with her restless camera movements and off-center close-ups, films history in the present tense, and her wild vitality makes this movie romantic in every possible sense of the word.
Dana Stevens writing in Slate says:
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Bright Star (Apparition), Jane Campion’s new film about the brief love affair between John Keats and his neighbor Fanny Brawne, is a thing of beauty: the rare film about the life of an artist that is itself a work of art. Campion’s inspiration was Sir Andrew Motion’s massive 1997 biography of Keats, which attempted to supplant the popular image of Keats as a Romantic martyr who died of consumption at age 25 with a portrait of the poet as a vibrant thinker and citizen, engaged in the debates of his time.
.
But Keats proves as tough to demythologize as Marilyn Monroe: He died so young, his life was so tragic, and the small body of work he left behind is so incomparable, that any depiction of his short life is bound to be tinged with idealization.
.
That’s why Campion was smart to make her film less about Keats than about Fanny Brawne, the fashionable, flirtatious young woman who captivated him in the spring of 1818 and lived next door to him in Hampstead for the last two years of his life. Fanny, as played by the up-and-coming Australian actress Abbie Cornish, is a curious heroine. She’s not a quick-tongued wit, like Pride and Prejudice‘s Elizabeth Bennet.
.
She’s grave-faced and a little stolid, skeptical of flights of fancy. (“Poems are a strain to make out,” she tells her little sister after sending her to a bookstore to buy Keats’ Endymion.) Fanny is inordinately proud of her gifts as a seamstress, and she dresses herself in homemade finery that’s outrageously ornate for the simple village life she leads. (Meeting Keats at a party, she brags, “This is the first frock in all of Hampstead to have a triple-pleated mushroom collar.”)
.
Campion’s insistence on Fanny’s sewing skills is a feminist gambit, yes, but one that’s entirely consistent with the character. By emphasizing sewing as Fanny’s creative outlet, Campion shows the social constraints on women in Regency-era England and also gives the poet’s muse an art form of her own: When Fanny presents Keats with an exquisitely embroidered silk pillowcase, it’s a kind of sewn poem.
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The full article is here:  http://www.slate.com/id/2229522/
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539wA. O. Scott writing in The New York Times continues the analysis:
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Fanny, the eldest daughter of a distracted widow (Kerry Fox), has some of the spirited cleverness of a Jane Austen heroine. A gifted seamstress, she prides herself on her forward-looking fashion sense and her independence. She is also vain, insecure and capable of throwing herself headlong into the apparent folly of adoring a dying and penniless poet, something no sensible Austen character would ever do.
.
If it were just the poet and his beloved, “Bright Star” might collapse in swooning and sighing, or into the static rhythms of a love poem. And while there are passages of extraordinary lyricism — butterflies, fields of flowers, fluttering hands and beseeching glances — these are balanced by a rough, energetic worldliness. Lovers, like poets, may create their own realms of feeling and significance, but they do so in contention with the same reality that the rest of us inhabit…
.
…Ms. Campion is one of modern cinema’s great explorers of female sexuality, illuminating Sigmund Freud’s “dark continent” with skepticism, sympathy and occasional indignation. “Bright Star” could easily have become a dark, simple fable of repression, since modern audiences like nothing better than to be assured that our social order is freer and more enlightened than any that came before. But Fanny and Keats are modern too, and though the mores of their time constrain them, they nonetheless regard themselves as free.
.
bright_star09The film is hardly blind to the sexual hypocrisy that surrounds them. Fanny can’t marry Keats because of his poverty, but Brown (Keat’s friend) blithely crosses class lines to have some fun with (and impregnate) a naïve and illiterate young household servant (Antonia Campbell-Hughes). That Fanny and Keats must sublimate their longings in letters, poems and conversations seems cruel, but they make the best of it. As does Ms. Campion: a sequence in which, fully clothed, the couple trades stanzas of “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” in a half-darkened bedroom must surely count as one of the hottest sex scenes in recent cinema.
.
The heat of that moment and others like it deliver “Bright Star” from the tidy prison of period costume drama. Ms. Campion, with her restless camera movements and off-center close-ups, films history in the present tense, and her wild vitality makes this movie romantic in every possible sense of the word.
.
The link to the longer article is here:  http://movies.nytimes.com/2009/09/16/movies/16bright.html
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On a side note one of the things I noticed was how simple the entertainment choices were in that period– and how much personal engagement these choices demanded.  Dancing, choral singing, word games, reading aloud, blind man’s bluff, hide and seek (all played by adults as well as children) required everyone to interact personally with each other on a physical and emotional level.  There was something incredibly charming about this very direct social connection and a sense of personal presence missing from much of modern types of entertainment.

#MondayMusings – Thousands of Historic Books Online

LibraryIf you’re a writer of historical fiction, a fan of genealogy or need to do some history research for a writing project– Here is a treasure trove of content recently scanned and available online from the Library of Congress.  Even better news is that it is free!

Nearly 60,000 books prized by historians, writers and genealogists, many too old and fragile to be safely handled, have been digitally scanned as part of the first-ever mass book-digitization project of the U.S. Library of Congress (LOC), the world’s largest library. Anyone who wants to learn about the early history of the United States, or track the history of their own families, can read and download these books for free.

Full article at America.gov Check out the Library of Congress Catalogue for free.  Here is the Library of Congress Internet Archive

The Cynic’s Guide to Film and Literary Criticism

critic-cynic-etbscreenwritingHere is a cynic’s guide to film and literary criticism.  It’s actually quite funny and often true:

Enchanting : there’s a dog in it.

Heartwarming : a dog and a child.

Heartrending : they die.

Coming-of-age story : child lives. Dog dies.

Thoughtful : tedious.

Thought-provoking : tedious and hectoring.

Haunting : set in the past.

Exotic : set abroad.

Prize-winning : set in India.

Perceptive : set in NW3.

Epic : editor cowed by writer’s reputation.

From the pen of a master : same old same old.

His/her masterpiece : Eye-watering advance

In the tradition of : shamelessly derivative.

Provocative : irritating.

Spare and taut : under-researched.

Richly detailed : over-researched.

Gripping: No characters

Fast-paced: No story

Shocking: Awful

Lyrical: Keep a dictionary handy.

Lyrical and poetic: Keep a bucket handy.

Expertly crafted: We have no idea what it’s about.

Digital Rights and Publishing

movable_type-etbscreenwritingThis just in from Cynopsis Digital

The Gutenberg revolution continues. Google is now enabling authors and publishers who sign off under various Creative Commons licenses to distribute their works for free using the Google Books platform.

Creative collaboration, mash-ups, remixes and reuses is this a good or bad thing for writers?  You decide. Full article is below.

The Creative Commons organization has been busy this year launching programs like the Attribution-ShareAlike agreement with Wikipedia that enables interoperability between Wikipedia licenses. This new alliance allows independent writers, artists and publishers, both existing Google Partners and non-partners, to distribute, commercialize and protect the reuse of their works.

It’s a flexible license built for the digital age, with settings that authorize creative remixes and mash-ups that give credit where credit is due. Books that have been made available under a CC license have been marked with a matching logo on the book’s left hand navigation bar, allowing users to download the books and share them freely. “If the rightsholder has chosen to allow people to modify their work, readers can even create a mashup – say, translating the book into Esperanto, donning a black beret, and performing the whole thing to music on YouTube,” writes Xian Ke, Associate Product manager, Google Books in a blog post.

Google says representatives of the Book Rights Registry intend to allow rightsholders to distribute CC-licensed works for free, pending court approval of a settlement. In the meantime, Creative Commons proponents such as Lawrence Lessig have make their works available on Google Books using the CC licenses.”

Check out the videos on creative collaboration on Creative Commons and take a look at the Books Rights Registry on Google.

John Updike – Writing Routine

john_updike-etbscreenwritingOn Friday I wrote about the difficulty of adapting John Updike’s books to the screen. I thought I’d do a little research to find out how this prolific author maintained his workflow.

An interviewer asked Updike, about his writing routine: You’ve said that it was fairly easy to write the Rabbit books. Do you write methodically? Do you have a schedule that you stick to?

John Updike answered: “Since I’ve gone to some trouble not to teach, and not to have any other employment, I have no reason not to go to my desk after breakfast and work there until lunch. So I work three or four hours in the morning, and it’s not all covering blank paper with beautiful phrases. You begin by answering a letter or two. There’s a lot of junk in your life. There’s a letter. And most people have junk in their lives.

“But I try to give about three hours to the project at hand and to move it along. There’s a danger if you don’t move it along steadily that you’re going to forget what it’s about, so you must keep in touch with it I figure. So once embarked, yes, I do try to stick to a schedule. I’ve been maintaining this schedule off and on — well, really since I moved up to Ipswich in ’57.”

“It’s a long time to be doing one thing. I don’t know how to retire. I don’t know how to get off the horse, though. I still like to do it. I still love books coming out. I love the smell of glue and the shiny look of the jacket and the type, and to see your own scribbles turned into more or less impeccable type. It’s still a great thrill for me, so I will probably persevere a little longer, but I do think maybe the time has come for me to be a little less compulsive, and maybe (slow down) the book-a-year technique, which has been basically the way I’ve operated.”

The interviewer commented:  “We’ve spoken to a number of writers who said they wrote a certain number of pages every day. There’s a lot to be said for having a routine you can’t run away from.”

Updike answered: “Right. It saves you from giving up.”

This interview is from the excellent website Daily Routines. I think this interview is incredibly instructive. Updike was a full time writer and only wrote three to four hours a day (including doing what he terms administrative junk). Consistently working, even only one hour day, will make you incredibly productive. It doesn’t seem like much, but over time it adds up.

That’s why my book The One Hour Screenwriter is so useful. It shows you exactly how to structure those writing hours to get the most out of them and move your script along. Like Updike, don’t give up! Just keep writing!