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"Becoming Jane"

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The Jane Austen bandwagon keeps on rolling. A new movie called "Becoming Jane" starring Anne Hathaway as the writer, opens this week:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/conte...7072700707.html

These fanciful wishes for Austen might explain why the British press was mostly kind to the film: The Daily Mirror called it "delightful and nicely made"; the Times deemed it "giddy as champagne bubbles" despite the "few liberties" taken.

And there are some Austen scholars who welcome the movie.

Leading the pack is Spence, who was tsk-tsked for suggesting in his book a deeper romance between Austen and Lefroy than had previous scholars. (Not nearly, however, as passionate as the film implies; read: Frenching in the courtyard!) "The film captures Jane Austen's spirit and her values," Spence says. "I think she would have rather liked it. Besides, could you really make a movie where Jane flirts with a man and then never sees him again? What kind of a movie is that?"

Recent article from the NY Times speculating on the sources of Austenmania.

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/29/movies/29jame.html

She has entered pop culture more thoroughly than other writers because she is almost spookily contemporary. Her ironic take on society is delivered in a reassuring, sisterly voice, as if she were part Jon Stewart, part Oprah Winfrey. Beneath the period details, the typical Austen heroine offers something for almost any woman to identify with: She is not afraid to be the smartest person in the room, yet after a series of misunderstandings gets the man of her dreams anyway. It doesn’t take a marketing genius to spot a potential movie audience for that have-it-all fantasy.

And while Austen’s era, with its rigid code of social rules, must have been repressive if you lived in it, when prettily depicted on screen it can seem positively peaceful and stable, a respite from today’s fraught, slippery world of quick hook-ups, divorce and family counseling.

The topic of Jane Austen and adaptations of her work has arisen on different forums and threads in the past. What do you think of this project, Janeites?

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I think it is an interesting idea, and I am hoping that the film will be entertaining, but I hold almost no hopes for historical accuracy or realism.

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It's an inspired casting choice with Anne Hathaway as Jane. She looks the part from the neck up at least. From the neck down she's too thin and tall to be believeable as Austin. Wasn't Jane very short? Plump rounded shoulders were also very much in voque during The Regency.

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perky, I assume that the casting directors were aiming for someone who looks the way a contemporary audience imagines Elizabeth Bennet rather than someone who 'really' looks like Jane Austen. :tiphat: Also by contemporary Hollywood standards, Anne Hathaway is not particularly thin. Compare her to Keira Knightley - the most recent Elizabeth Bennet.

More on topic, I'm not sure I'll see this. I can live without a fictionalized life of Jane Austen. Austen lives on in her books. :rofl:

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perky, I assume that the casting directors were aiming for someone who looks the way a contemporary audience imagines Elizabeth Bennet rather than someone who 'really' looks like Jane Austen.

Just so.

More on topic, I'm not sure I'll see this. I can live without a fictionalized life of Jane Austen. Austen lives on in her books. :wink:

She lives on in other places, too. The chick lit shelves are strewn with Austen-related topics and titles, books with names like "Mrs. Darcy," sequels, prequels and the like. There are also slightly higher-browed efforts such as the "Jane Austen Book Club," if I am recalling the title correctly.

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I just came from the movie theatre...and to tell the truth, i'm not realy impressed :bow: . Yes, the movie keeps a nice , light and easy to digest atmosphere. Anne Hathaway plays the most of the time a very young Jane Austen still living with her parents , being the object of desire of 2 prospective husbands and having a truncated love affair with a charming young man . But still, the thing is that i remember when studying Jane Austen in college our professor would always enphazise on the deep pshychological connotations of her writings, making her appear to our eyes as an extremely sophisticated and larger than life persona , way beyond society's norms and standards . I, personally, didn't get that feeling from Ms. Hathaway's characterization. On the other hand, locations are beautiful, costumes are lovely and british accent is accomplished. The best of the movie ?, with no doubt a little role played by Dame Maggie Smith :wink: an always delightful actress who completely steals the show during her brief appearences...

:tiphat:

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I just came from the movie theatre...and to tell the truth, i'm not realy impressed :dry: . Yes, the movie keeps a nice , light and easy to digest atmosphere. Anne Hathaway plays the most of the time a very young Jane Austen still living with her parents , being the object of desire of 2 prospective husbands and having a truncated love affair with a charming young man . The thing is that i remember when studying Jane Austen in college our professor would always enphazise on the deep pshychological connotations of her writings, making her appear to our eyes as an extremely sophisticated and larger than life persona , way beyond society's norms and standards , and I didn't get that feeling from Ms. Hathaway's characterization. On the other hand, locations are beautiful, costumes are lovely and british accent is accomplished. The best of the movie ?, with no doubt a little role played by Dame Maggie Smith :) an always delightful actress who completely steals the show during her brief appearences...

:(

Thank you for the review, cubanmiamiboy. I'll probably see it if timing and location are convenient, but I'm not rushing out the door.

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Well, the Jane Austen bandwagon knows no geographic boundries either. A new Hebrew translation of 'Pride and Prejudice' is in the works, replacing the existing 20-30 year old translation which is out of print. Interestingly, the translator will be Irit Linur, the very first 'chick-lit' Hebrew writer. Her first novel 'The Siren's Song' was material in revolutionizing the Israeli literary world and creating a bestseller driven market. Sounds promising... :) On the other hand, Linur is a self-professed Janeite and she has experience in translating. :lol:

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Has anyone ever choreographed a Jane Austen ballet? WHAT would/could that look like? Which novel would be best suited for such (mis?)treatment? My vote, if there was a gun to my head, would be for Northanger Abbey.

Hey if they choreographed The Great Gatsby, anything's possible!

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I think that Anne Eliot's extended sadness in Persuasion might look a bit like some of Jerome Robbins' choreography for Stephanie Saland, maybe from Ives Songs.

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There is social dancing in (almost?) all of Austen's books and at least the period clothes can be easily adapted for ballet dancing.

I think either Boris Eifman or Maurice Bejart would do a good job of chereographing a ballet 'loosely' based on the life of Jane Austen and including ALL Austen's heroines too as manifestations of her sub-conscious. Ooh, I like it!!!

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Has anyone ever choreographed a Jane Austen ballet? WHAT would/could that look like? Which novel would be best suited for such (mis?)treatment? My vote, if there was a gun to my head, would be for Northanger Abbey.
Interesting question. There's a problem with Northanger Abbey, though. Catherine Morland's fantasy's about horrible Gothic secrets at the Abbey -- which would make for wonderful theater-ballet -- turn out to be a young girl's fantasy. It's a case of "less here than meets the eye." (As opposed to "La Sonnambula," for instance, where mystery and menace are slowly revealed.) It would be hard to create dramatic interest out of the situation, and the characters may be a little unfamiliar for the audience.

Why not go for the big one? Pride and Prejudice. You could reduce it to the stories of 4 couples:

Elizabeth and Darcy,

Jane and Bingley (without his sister),

Mr. Collins (untimately with Charlotte),

and Lydia and Wickham.

Each represents a distinct character type, as well as a unique way of resolving individual aspirations and differences into a viable relationship.

I'd actually have all the action take place at the country ball. Or, rather, 2 acts at two country balls. I know; I know: in the novel several of these characters have not been introduced at the time of the first ball. But think of the opportunities for dancers.

The 2 act =2 ball format allows for development as in "Liebeslider Walzer."

In Act I You introduce each group of characters (the Bennett party, Darcey/Bigley, etc.) as they arrive -- you establish what and whom they like and don't like -- you pair them off, re-pair them, and pair them off again. Pas de deux, pas de trois, moving on and off stage amid the dancers, tete a tetes among the corps: lots of opportunities. There's also a chance for character dancing by Mr and Mrs. Bennett and Lady Catherine de Bourgh (minus her daughter). The Act I dancing can reveal the illusions/delusions and the resolution as well.

The Act II finale -- perhaps at another ball -- would allow us to see (briefly) what has happened (or will happen by the end of the novel) to each couple:

Mr. Collins, whose character does not develop at all, despite his repeated failures and humiliations, continues to dance self-importantly around a stable, resigned, but altimately supportive Charlotte. (I can see her actually promenading him, as he does elaborate port de bras in a strange arabesque.)

Lydia finally becomes the boss in a strained by ultimately companionable relationship with Wickham. (Image: keeping him on a short leash.)

Lydia and Bingley have a sweet little Ashtonian pas de deux of domestic happiness. It's short, sweet, and just a bit smug.

Elizabeth and Darcey have the big dramatic/romantic pas de deux (not without some flashes of brief disharmony).

All ends happily, or at least in a kind of resigned, cosmic resolution, as all the couples join in a waltzy country dance. Just before the end, Elizabeth and Darcy leave the dancing, slowly mount a central staircase, look down at the dancers, smile at each other, and quietly depart. Curtain falls as the others continue swirling around the stage.

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Ray writes:

Hey if they choreographed The Great Gatsby, anything's possible!

True, but you would lose more than you gained. Even 'straight' adaptations of Austen, which can retain much of the dialogue, plot, and mood, lose that all-important narrative voice. It wouldn't stun me if some company tries a Pride and Prejudice one day, though - well known story and title, built in appeal to women, etc.

Well, the Jane Austen bandwagon knows no geographic boundries either. A new Hebrew translation of 'Pride and Prejudice' is in the works, replacing the existing 20-30 year old translation which is out of print. Interestingly, the translator will be Irit Linur, the very first 'chick-lit' Hebrew writer. Her first novel 'The Siren's Song' was material in revolutionizing the Israeli literary world and creating a bestseller driven market. Sounds promising... On the other hand, Linur is a self-professed Janeite and she has experience in translating.

Thanks, GWTW. I didn't know that. The connection between the vogue for Austen and chick lit is an interesting one and this is another example of it. As for the bestseller driven market....well, I suppose it was inevitable that the disease would spread.

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For my money, the only really successful Jane Austen Novel - to - Movie effort was Clueless. Others have been "truer" to dialogue and period detail, but Clueless was somehow truer to the novel's moral center (the novel in this case being Emma). It's an example of "updating" really working for once.

Edited to add this quote from a Barnes and Noble interview with Edward Gorey:

Edward Gorey: There are all sorts of classics I could possibly illustrate if asked, but as I have over the years accumulated too many of my own texts to have any chance of doing drawings for but a few of them, I would only do something by someone else if I was offered an outrageous sum of money, and maybe not then.

barnesandnoble.com: Any classics you would refuse to do?

Edward Gorey: For example, Jane Austen and the Marquis de Sade, although for different reasons.

perhaps Eifman will go where Gorey feared to tread ... :smilie_mondieu:

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Bart, you should get this on stage--perhaps if not as a choreographer (although for all I know you are Christopher Wheeldon writing in disguise) than as a dramaturg!

I can see your point about NA being just "a young girl's fantasy," but so, one might argue, is most of Nutcracker. In that sense, NA is not unlike the Gothic authors it parodies, who operate all on the surface, dragging us through many pages just for sensations' sake (i.e., nothing about character is "revealed" in most gothic novels in the late 18th-early 19th Cs). An oversimplified reading is that NA wants to tell us that the surface of life is just fine, not full of barely concealed horrors.

Actually, I didn't imagine that any Austen could be balleticized until I read Bart's scenario of P&P! And I'm with Katherine on Clueless.

Has anyone ever choreographed a Jane Austen ballet? WHAT would/could that look like? Which novel would be best suited for such (mis?)treatment? My vote, if there was a gun to my head, would be for Northanger Abbey.
Interesting question. There's a problem with Northanger Abbey, though. Catherine Morland's fantasy's about horrible Gothic secrets at the Abbey -- which would make for wonderful theater-ballet -- turn out to be a young girl's fantasy. It's a case of "less here than meets the eye." (As opposed to "La Sonnambula," for instance, where mystery and menace are slowly revealed.) It would be hard to create dramatic interest out of the situation, and the characters may be a little unfamiliar for the audience.

Why not go for the big one? Pride and Prejudice. You could reduce it to the stories of 4 couples:

Elizabeth and Darcy,

Jane and Bingley (without his sister),

Mr. Collins (untimately with Charlotte),

and Lydia and Wickham.

Each represents a distinct character type, as well as a unique way of resolving individual aspirations and differences into a viable relationship.

I'd actually have all the action take place at the country ball. Or, rather, 2 acts at two country balls. I know; I know: in the novel several of these characters have not been introduced at the time of the first ball. But think of the opportunities for dancers.

The 2 act =2 ball format allows for development as in "Liebeslider Walzer."

In Act I You introduce each group of characters (the Bennett party, Darcey/Bigley, etc.) as they arrive -- you establish what and whom they like and don't like -- you pair them off, re-pair them, and pair them off again. Pas de deux, pas de trois, moving on and off stage amid the dancers, tete a tetes among the corps: lots of opportunities. There's also a chance for character dancing by Mr and Mrs. Bennett and Lady Catherine de Bourgh (minus her daughter). The Act I dancing can reveal the illusions/delusions and the resolution as well.

The Act II finale -- perhaps at another ball -- would allow us to see (briefly) what has happened (or will happen by the end of the novel) to each couple:

Mr. Collins, whose character does not develop at all, despite his repeated failures and humiliations, continues to dance self-importantly around a stable, resigned, but altimately supportive Charlotte. (I can see her actually promenading him, as he does elaborate port de bras in a strange arabesque.)

Lydia finally becomes the boss in a strained by ultimately companionable relationship with Wickham. (Image: keeping him on a short leash.)

Lydia and Bingley have a sweet little Ashtonian pas de deux of domestic happiness. It's short, sweet, and just a bit smug.

Elizabeth and Darcey have the big dramatic/romantic pas de deux (not without some flashes of brief disharmony).

All ends happily, or at least in a kind of resigned, cosmic resolution, as all the couples join in a waltzy country dance. Just before the end, Elizabeth and Darcy leave the dancing, slowly mount a central staircase, look down at the dancers, smile at each other, and quietly depart. Curtain falls as the others continue swirling around the stage.

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Bart, you should apply for an AD job at at a ballet company somewhere :shake: It would be a blast to choreograph for all those grotesque characters Austins wrote about so well including Mrs. Bennett, Lady Catherine and Mr. Collins.

I think Persuasion would lend itself well to a Antony Tudor type ballet on the order of The Lilac Garden. Emma would make a nice Ashton ballet, gently and affectionately poking fun at those characters and situations. It's been so long since I've read Manfield Park that I don't have a suggestion for that one. Need to re-read it.

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[ ... ]for all I know you are Christopher Wheeldon writing in disguise)
I wish! Unfortunately, my choreography would probably be limited to an entire evening of tombe/ pas de bouree/ gllissade/ pas de chat/ jete, with a few pirouettes thrown in, repeated again and again and again. Even the richness of Austen's characters could not overcome that.

perky, the Lilac Garden idea may be the best of all. Don't get bogged down in plot. Instead, show us, in dance, the complex and changing relationships of Austen's most important characters: each with his or her own natures, desires, foibles, etc.

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For my money, the only really successful Jane Austen Novel - to - Movie effort was Clueless. Others have been "truer" to dialogue and period detail, but Clueless was somehow truer to the novel's moral center (the novel in this case being Emma). It's an example of "updating" really working for once.

Edited to add this quote from a Barnes and Noble interview with Edward Gorey:

Edward Gorey: There are all sorts of classics I could possibly illustrate if asked, but as I have over the years accumulated too many of my own texts to have any chance of doing drawings for but a few of them, I would only do something by someone else if I was offered an outrageous sum of money, and maybe not then.

barnesandnoble.com: Any classics you would refuse to do?

Edward Gorey: For example, Jane Austen and the Marquis de Sade, although for different reasons.

perhaps Eifman will go where Gorey feared to tread ... :shake:

Heaven forfend. :wink:

I also liked ‘Clueless.’ The adaptation of ‘Sense and Sensibility’ with Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet was very good, I thought. I liked the recent adaptation of ‘Persuasion’ less than many others did, but it was an honorable effort and has been influential – you could see it in the ‘Pride and Prejudice’ with Keira Knightley.

A family member wants to see 'Becoming Jane,' so it looks as if I'll be going after all. Will report back in this space if I do.

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Anthony Lane's review of Becoming Jane (New Yorker, August 13) has one of the most intriguing opening sentences in recent film writing. Warning: the following quotation contains spoilers.

Nobody studying the life of Jane Austen could easily confuse it with that of, say Ernest Hemingway. Or William Burroughs. There was, in the daily round of the English novelist, a marked lack of hallucinogenic drugs, and her skills at big-game hunting were notoriously poor. "Of events her life was singularly barren," her nephew James Edward Austen-Leigh wrote ...
http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/cine...rci_cinema_lane

Actually, it becomes quite an interesting and helpful review, if you get past that first bit.

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It's been so long since I've read Manfield Park that I don't have a suggestion for that one. Need to re-read it.

No you don't. Its dreadful.

I love Jane Austen and almost all her other writing (what I don't love, I still like alot) and still don't understand how she could have written it.

The main character is a milquetoast bore. The character you would normally like (spunky! independent!) turns out to be the bad guy and gets shown her place.

Its like Jane Austen gone topsy turvy, and I find it a huge disappointment.

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For my money, the only really successful Jane Austen Novel - to - Movie effort was Clueless. Others have been "truer" to dialogue and period detail, but Clueless was somehow truer to the novel's moral center (the novel in this case being Emma). It's an example of "updating" really working for once.

Heaven forfend. :wink:

I also liked ‘Clueless.’ The adaptation of ‘Sense and Sensibility’ with Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet was very good, I thought. I liked the recent adaptation of ‘Persuasion’ less than many others did, but it was an honorable effort and has been influential – you could see it in the ‘Pride and Prejudice’ with Keira Knightley.

the Keira Knightley P&P was fine, but nothing at all compared to the A&E version with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. I think it was largely due to time constraints...P&P is a short book, so with 5 hours A&E was able to really do it justice in its entirety.

It is probably one of my favorite treatments of a book ever, up there with the A&E Tom Jones which has, in combination with actually reading the book, made it impossible for me to watch the 1960s movie of Tom Jones (a 2 hour movie can NOT to justice to a 1000+ page novel, too much is excised and when the book is that good it is painful!).

I kind of liked the movie of Mansfield Park, but that was because of the derivations from the text. they gave the main charater a character :shake:

Why didn't you like Persuasion? I thought it fabulous. I also liked S&S quite a bit. But with that cast, it would've been hard to go wrong.

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The main character is a milquetoast bore. The character you would normally like (spunky! independent!) turns out to be the bad guy and gets shown her place.

I understand your sentiments, aurora, and you’re far from alone, but I admire Mansfield Park, albeit from a distance. I thought Austen was deliberately playing with our expectations to make a moral point – that what’s attractive, clever, and vital on the outside may be rotten on the inside.

I kind of liked the movie of Mansfield Park, but that was because of the derivations from the text. they gave the main charater a character.

I kinda liked it, too, but not quite for the same reason. I don’t think it’s possible to do a version of Mansfield Park today that would be true in letter and spirit to the original – times have changed too much-- so I didn’t mind that they took huge liberties with the book. The conceit of turning Fanny into Jane, so to speak, didn’t work for me, though.

Why didn't you like Persuasion? I thought it fabulous.

I thought it was good, I just didn’t understand the hosannas it was greeted with in some quarters. (I’ll allow that Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds were not my idea of Anne and Wentworth.)

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Why didn't you like Persuasion? I thought it fabulous.

I thought it was good, I just didn’t understand the hosannas it was greeted with in some quarters. (I’ll allow that Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds were not my idea of Anne and Wentworth.)

I very much liked the movie, because of the secondary characters, and how they didn't make Anne Eliot a glamour-puss, nor prematurely happy. What I found missing from her performance was the "lost" happy girl that Wentworth and her late mother loved. I thought the Anne in the book had more of an internal struggle to give up Wentworth, the second great love and empathetic spirit that was taken away from her; in the movie, Root was a bit Cinderella-like. Ciaran Hinds was nothing like the self-made man of enthusiasm and self-confidence I envisioned from the book -- he was more Darcy-like -- and he didn't convince me that his interpretation was as valid as my impression.

I also liked S&S quite a bit. But with that cast, it would've been hard to go wrong.

I thought this one was over-cast. My reading of the book from many years ago was that Elinor, though just a few years older than her sister, had aged herself prematurely and pretentiously. In my opinion, Emma Thompson looked a decade older than Kate Winslet's Marianne. Elinor was not a spinster in terms of the standards of her period, just a young women whose suppressed adolescence came back with a vengeance. Thompson looked like one of the late-twenties women in Austen's novels who either settle for the pompous minister or make an almost miraculous love match, which subverted the theme of the book.

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I thought this one was over-cast. My reading of the book from many years ago was that Elinor, though just a few years older than her sister, had aged herself prematurely and pretentiously. In my opinion, Emma Thompson looked a decade older than Kate Winslet's Marianne. Elinor was not a spinster in terms of the standards of her period, just a young women whose suppressed adolescence came back with a vengeance. Thompson looked like one of the late-twenties women in Austen's novels who either settle for the pompous minister or make an almost miraculous love match, which subverted the theme of the book.

well thompson IS at least a decade older.

And you are totally right that this is not in keeping with the novel.

I guess you just had to make a choice here, which movies, with their close ups, generally choose not not ask us to make.

Accept a very good and believable actress as someone of an age, which she evidently is not, or not.

I chose to accept it, much the same way that I never had a problem accepting Ferri as Juliet, even as she entered her 40s.

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I'll pipe in to say that I liked Persausion the movie because it was the only one of the movies with subdued production values, and they seemed appropriate to the modesty of the novel. (The movie versions suffer from the Laura Ashley effect of the props taking on a dramatic value almost that of the characters.)

Persuasion--disagreeing a bit with Aurora here--Mansfield Park I would have to say are my favorites.

Mansfield Park, with a small character on the large horse of a novel, has all sorts of things to recommend it: one of Jane Austen's greatest cads, Henry Crawford; the great scene of Fanny Price not being able to pass through the turnstyle (a situation I identify with all too readily); and the device of having the last part of the novel told at a distance through letters, which sort of threw everything into another key. It's a novel Henry James could like (but probably didn't).

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