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Seen last night with big_daz at The Light.

I haven't read the book of Brideshead, but I fairly regularly catch bits of the classic Granada TV adaptation on ITV3. In fact, over the last couple of weekends, I've been watching it systematically, since - in a fairly obvious scheduling move - they have been re-broadcasting it from the beginning on Sunday afternoons to coincide with the release of the film.

Pretty much every review of the film I've seen has said the same thing, and I can't help but agree - it's slavishly indebted to the TV series, but doesn't manage to improve upon it. Sebastian in particular seemed the weak link to me - whereas in the TV series, he comes across as complex and tragic and fantastically enticing, here he just seemed like your average petulant teenager. Perhaps because the development of their relationship wasn't given sufficient screen-time, it was hard to understand why Charles Ryder was particularly interested in him; and despite the fact that they actually kiss on screen, the chemistry between them remained far less homoerotically-charged than the one which Jeremy Irons and Anthony Andrews created.

Still, that said, Emma Thompson and Michael Gambon as respective matriarch and patriarch of the Flyte dynasty did an excellent job - as, indeed, did Diana Quick (oops!) Hayley Attwell as a self-possessed yet vulnerable Julia. And as for the location footage! Between Oxford, Venice and Castle Howard, the only place I hadn't visited was whatever anonymous London street they used to house the Ryders of Paddington - and really, I have walked down enough London streets to get the general picture. It was like a tour of some of the richest and most cherished parts of my life.

Tom Wolfe famously dubbed the Granada TV series (along with Upstairs Downstairs) 'sheer plutography', but it seems to me that this is only true on a superficial level. Fundamentally, the story of Brideshead is about a (relatively) normal person becoming fascinated and seduced by a close-knit group of individuals who are utterly different from him, and whom he can never quite connect to or integrate with, no matter how hard he tries. The divisions between him and them in this case happen to be wealth and Catholicism - but they could equally well be poverty and Judaism, or any other combination of strong social identifiers. The story, and the tragedy, would be the same.

Consider the book to have moved up a notch on my 'to read' list.

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( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 10th, 2008 07:25 pm (UTC)
I'm seeing this tomorrow - I haven't seen the series, but I have read the book, and it'll be interesting to see the differences.
Oct. 10th, 2008 07:49 pm (UTC)
Cool - hope you enjoy it! And I would thoroughly recommend the TV series.
Oct. 10th, 2008 07:54 pm (UTC)
Cheers - I'm really glad I've started writing more in depth reviews of the films I've seen this year, as it means I'm more focused when watching it - does that make sense?
Oct. 10th, 2008 07:57 pm (UTC)
Oh, totally! That's half the reason I do it, too. I get a lot more out of them if I'm half-composing a review in my head as I watch.
Oct. 10th, 2008 08:00 pm (UTC)
Yeah, even if in the case of some of the ones I've seen this year, its to write "seen it, don't bother!"
Oct. 12th, 2008 07:02 pm (UTC)
it's slavishly indebted to the TV series

Though not quite, I think, to the extent of casting the same actress as Julia ...
Oct. 12th, 2008 08:45 pm (UTC)
Well, in all cases except Sebastian and Lord Marchmain, they do seem to have gone out of their way to cast actors who look like their equivalents in the Granada TV production, and then to help matters along by giving them nearly-identical costumes, hair-styles and make-up. So they aren't actually all that far from doing so after all...

Compare and contrast - and sorry the one of Diana Quick sucks. It was the best one I could find without spending the whole night on an image hunt.
Oct. 13th, 2008 07:34 am (UTC)
Yes, indeed, but what you have written is "Emma Thompson and Michael Gambon as respective matriarch and patriarch of the Flyte dynasty did an excellent job - as, indeed, did Diana Quick as a self-possessed yet vulnerable Julia". So i think you've got a bit of a Freudian slip there!
Oct. 13th, 2008 08:03 am (UTC)
Ah, so I have! I did wonder why you had picked that character in particular as a matter of comment. Shall go in and edit now...
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )

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