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Watched this afternoon, all curled up on the sofa as part of my weekend of indulgence. I've seen it before, and indeed reviewed it before, but that doesn't mean I don't have new stuff to say about it, especially because I've also read the book since.

It seemed shorter than I remembered, but I suppose that's natural enough when you've seen a film before, and therefore know where you are in the story and how much remains at any given point. Now that I've read the book, I'm also less keen than I was before on the way the character of Edythe Dubarry is depicted in the film. In the book, she is a strong and self-possessed business-woman, who is nothing but supportive of both Miss LaFosse and Miss Pettigrew. But in the film she has been made into Miss Pettigrew's rival - the one who knows her secret, uses this as a hold over her, and has cynically entrapped lovely, honest, Ciarán Hinds-Joe purely for the sake of his professional status. It all makes her both more bitchy and more weedy than she is in the book - and definitely a lot less feminist.

Apart from that, though, I still absolutely love the film - both in its own right and as an adaptation of the book. I especially liked the way it is made so much clearer in the film how similar Delysia LaFosse's situation really is to Miss Pettigrew's, beneath all the glitz and glamour. This is touched on in the book, when we hear that her real name is Sarah Grubb, but the film makes it much more explicit by extending the name-confession scene to reveal that she also barely has any possessions that are really her own, and could be out on the streets herself in the blink of an eye. There's also a lot of good mileage got out of the impending outbreak of the Second World War, which adds a dark undertone to the otherwise-glamorous proceedings; and a running theme about Miss Pettigrew getting nothing to eat and no sleep for almost 48 hours over the course of the film, which has humour value and also helps to underline the severity of her position.

And of course, the film has all the benefits of sumptuous sets, costumes and cinematography, all of which are used extremely intelligently. Since I now own the DVD, I was able to cap a couple of my favourite scenes for your delectation.

Delysia LaFosse as Aphrodite

First we have Delysia LaFosse emerging from her bath, looking for all the world like Boticelli's The Birth of Venus. And that's an allusion which goes far beyond merely 'She is pretty and alluring, just like Venus', because Miss LaFosse has just been listing the various attractions of her three competing suitors, while at the precise moment shown in the cap she is saying something to Miss Pettigrew along the lines of "Haven't you ever been torn between more than one person at the same time?" So it flags up the way that the whole story is very much like a female Judgment of Paris with, I think, empty-headed hedonistic Phil as the real Aphrodite of the story, manipulative jealous Nick as Hera and honest straightforward Michael as Athena. In which case, Delysia makes a different choice from Paris, and a self-evidently better one, too.

Leaving pretence behind

Then there is this scene, which takes place towards the end. It's in an alley outside the Scarlet Peacock, and to get there Miss Pettigrew has left through a door labelled on the inside with 'Way Out', and, as you see here, on the outside with 'Stage Door'. In other words, she has left the 'stage' which she has occupied for most of the story - and, in keeping with this, it is precisely outside the stage door that she, Joe Blumfield and Edythe Dubarry all speak the truth to one another in their various ways for the very first time in the film.

Miss Pettigrew walks home in the early morning light

And, finally, this one, where Miss Pettigrew walks home alone in the early morning light, past milk-carts and under street-lamps which are still glowing, her hips swaying and her wonderful bias-cut gown swishing from side to side as she does so. She has left behind the night-club and the glamorous whirl of her wonderful Day behind, to return to her ordinary life and the troubles which accompany it. Indeed, she is not even returning to her own home, but to Miss LaFosse's flat to collect her coat and go and sit, alone, on the hard wooden benches at Victoria Station. I found this particular scene so beautiful that I simply had to iconise it - for those moments when I return to everyday normality after excitement and thrills, and for the hope that the party will turn out to be not quite over after all.

ETA: further thoughts on the deleted scenes included on the DVD release now posted here.

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( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 3rd, 2009 07:39 am (UTC)
You know how some people always watch films with their slash goggles on, and take away from it other meanings the creators never intended?

The version of Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day that I saw was a delightfully touching lesbian love story. As Delysia LaFosse begins to come to terms with why she can never choose a man, Miss Pettigrew waits patiently for her to realise this, finding solace in the only person who might understand, a friendly older gay man named Joe.

I mean, I KNOW how it ends and I love the film, but that's how I watched it.
May. 3rd, 2009 09:18 am (UTC)
Oh no, I totally agree - in fact, I mentioned the slashy sub-text in my first review of the film. I didn't go as far as characterising Joe as a friendly older gay man, but other than that I am right with you. Hell, Miss LaFosse kisses Miss Pettigrew slap bang on the lips early on in the film, and she looks thrilled about it! In fact, even in the book there are quite a few lines which can be read as subtly slashy. I think they played it up for the sake of the film, but it is there in the original, too.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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