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Tony Grist

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Signs Of Spring, Hamlet And Yet More Balzac [May. 3rd, 2008|10:28 am]
Tony Grist
1. Blackbirds (probably the same pair as last year) are nesting in the honeysuckle. I keep spotting dad, with a worm in his beak, perched on the back gate, checking to see that all's clear for his final hop home. Also- and this too is a sign of spring- we have a fat little mouse scampering around the kitchen.

2. Ailz is collecting Hamlets. Today Mel Gibson's popped through the letter-box. Yesterday she watched Branagh's; she thinks it's marvellous. Me, I'm still in love with John Gielgud's quiveringly sensitive 1948 performance (audio only). People who saw him on stage say he was the Hamlet of the century and I'm not going to argue.

3. I didn't watch Branagh because I needed to finish Balzac's La Rabouilleuse- due back at the library today. If it's less famous than Le Pere Goriot or Eugenie Grandet, it's because it's a bit rambly- starting off in Paris with one group of characters, then jumping to another set in Issoudun- though everything comes togaether in the end. I like Balzac when he's rambly because you never know what he's going to serve up next. La Rabouilleuse is about an obsessed mother with two sons- a bad boy whom she favours and a saintly artist- but it's also a proto-western about two amoral ex-soldiers (this town ain't big enough for the both of them) matching wits over an inheritance, then settling things with a duel to the death. It's a lovely book.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: ingenious76
2008-05-03 11:23 am (UTC)
I'm currently reading (and nearly finished) Pere Goriot. When I post a review, it'll be very interesting to hear (or should that be read?) your thoughts on it.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-05-03 02:48 pm (UTC)
Yes indeed. I'll look forward to that.
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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2008-05-03 11:27 am (UTC)
Also- and this too is a sign of spring- we have a fat little mouse scampering around the kitchen.

2. Ailz is collecting Hamlets.


I love you two.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-05-03 02:49 pm (UTC)
Love you, too :)
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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2008-05-03 11:30 am (UTC)
PS: Want you to know that Kate got a really fine job at a community college (two-year college, often transitional to four-year), where she will be working as a proctor, a tutor, and teaching English-as-a-second language classes--I'm a bit vague on her exact title, but she loves her job, the people, the view from her window, and her health insurance and pension plans!
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-05-03 02:48 pm (UTC)
That's wonderful.
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[User Picture]From: halfmoon_mollie
2008-05-03 12:27 pm (UTC)
Ailz is collecting Hamlets. Today Mel Gibson's popped through the letter-box. Yesterday she watched Branagh's; she thinks it's marvellous. Me, I'm still in love with John Gielgud's quiveringly sensitive 1948 performance (audio only). People who saw him on stage say he was the Hamlet of the century and I'm not going to argue.

A young Richard Chamberlain was the first Hamlet I saw, and his performance remains with me always. I've seen others and liked others but Richard was VERY good. Branagh to me is a little TOO much, but we all have our own favorites.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-05-03 02:52 pm (UTC)
We're booked to see David Tennant (Dr Who) have a shot at it this summer.

Hamlet is a role that is perennially fascinating. Every actor moulds it to his own persona and- because it's so malleable a part- I can't think of anyone who didn't have some measure of success with it.
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From: ex_redrain
2008-05-03 01:01 pm (UTC)
Don't forget the Olivier and Ethan Hawke Hamlets...
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-05-03 02:53 pm (UTC)
We haven't got the Hawke yet.

I'm very fond of Olivier's version- eccentric though it be.
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From: ex_redrain
2008-05-03 03:02 pm (UTC)
There's another one with Anthony Hopkins and directed by Tony Richardson.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-05-03 03:11 pm (UTC)
Ah yes, we've got that: Nicol Williamson as Hamlet and Marianne Faithfull as Ophelia. It's a filmed version of a production at the London Roundhouse. (According to Faithfull, she and Williamson had a bit of a thing going on in the intervals). I like it.
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From: ex_redrain
2008-05-03 03:18 pm (UTC)
Cool!
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[User Picture]From: pondhopper
2008-05-03 01:38 pm (UTC)
I just watched a nest full of baby blackbirds fledge. I think ours nest two months ahead of yours. Do you let the mouse live peacefully in your kitchen?
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-05-03 02:57 pm (UTC)
I'm fond of mice. I've never killed one and I'm certainly not starting now. I used to hate it when our cats brought us their little corpses as offerings.
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[User Picture]From: wyrmwwd
2008-05-03 01:57 pm (UTC)
I really liked Branagh's version, too. I am surprised that any Brits liked it at all. It seemed very Americanized to me.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-05-03 03:00 pm (UTC)
I haven't seen it yet so I reserve judgement, but I've no problem with Americanizing Shakespeare. He doesn't belong to us. And Branagh plays the full text- which is rarely done, even on stage- and I applaud him for that.
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[User Picture]From: wyrmwwd
2008-05-03 03:53 pm (UTC)
That was probably the biggest reason I liked it... the full text version. Plus, I like Branagh in general. I liked him as Victor Frankenstein as well.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-05-03 04:10 pm (UTC)
I'm a bit picky about Branagh. I loved and hated his Much Ado in about equal measure. I hated that reincarnation movie he directed. I think his Henry V is pretty good. And so it continues. I never know in advance whether I'm going to like or dislike a performance or production of his.
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[User Picture]From: solar_diablo
2008-05-03 03:01 pm (UTC)
I know many people turned up their nose at Gibson's Hamlet, but I enjoyed it. It's been awhile since I watched Branagh's, but I remember not caring for his approach to it (there were times it felt too tongue in cheek for such an iconic tradegy - was he trying to give the material some levity?). Maybe I should give it another shot.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-05-03 03:16 pm (UTC)
I caught a glimpse or two of Gibson while Ailz was watching him this morning. I don't much like the guy, but I was quite impressed. It was very un-Mel. By which I suppose I mean it wasn't much like the character he plays in the Lethal Weapons franchise.
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[User Picture]From: wyrmwwd
2008-05-03 03:56 pm (UTC)
I also really liked Gibson's Hamlet. That, I am sure, was way too Americanized. I liked it because some friend of mine did a condensed version of Hamlet at the Renn Fairre one year, and the guy they had playing Hamlet played him in much the same way. I liked the over-the-top madness coming through. Gibson plays "crazy" well, although I am not sure he has to act much to do it.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-05-03 04:15 pm (UTC)
But why does Gibson put on an English accent to play Shakespeare when the evidence suggests that Elizabethan pronunciation was closer to contemporary American than contemporary English?

I don't like the man- and find it hard to put this personal dislike aside when I'm viewing the work.
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[User Picture]From: wyrmwwd
2008-05-03 06:42 pm (UTC)
I don't like him much, either. But I do think he is a nut-case.
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[User Picture]From: qos
2008-05-04 01:12 pm (UTC)
My icon notwithstanding, I don't much care for Branagh's Hamlet. It always feels very mannered and self-conscious: Look at me! I'm directing and starring in the first-ever un-cut film of Hamlet! And look at all these big Hollywood stars I got to be in it!! There's a brittleness to it.

I do like Gibson's Hamlet, which I didn't expect. The whole production seemed closer to the raw vigor of the supposed setting, and I thought Gibson did a surprisingly good job. I especially liked his "To be or not to be" and his scene with Polonious ("Words. . . words. . . words").

Two other Hamlets I like are Kevin Kline's and one with Derek Jacobi as Hamlet and Patrick Stewart as Polonious. Or, I should say, I really liked the scene I saw, which was "The Mousetrap" and I'm waiting to borrow my Dad's copy so I can see the whole thing.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-05-04 02:10 pm (UTC)
The two I've seen are Olivier's- too virile- and Nicol Williamson's- too scruffy.
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[User Picture]From: daisytells
2008-05-04 08:55 pm (UTC)
I did not care for Kevin Kline's Hamlet(funny it's about the only thing of his that I did not care for), I liked Mel Gibson's very much, and I had some mixed feelings about Brannagh's (again, I loved most of his Shakespeare, and also his other movies, but Hamlet did not quite make it for me). Gibson was just zany enough for the scene where Hamlet plays at being mad. Brannagh did the entire play, which I appreciated.
I also saw the Olivier, which was too melodramatic for my taste.
When I was taking the Shakespeare class in college, we watched videos of the BBC productions, which were excellent, not only of Hamlet, but of many others of Old Will's plays as well.
I fell in love with Shakespeare while taking that required class in college. He was so far ahead of his time - or is it that he was always timely - so that what is really true is always true?
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[User Picture]From: daisytells
2008-05-04 08:56 pm (UTC)
Ailz, you have just given me an idea. I too shall collect Shakespeare videos/DVD's, and add them to my "keepers" video collections.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-05-05 11:26 am (UTC)
"What is really true is always true": that's it, I think. Shakespeare was a popular dramatist, writing for his audience in Elizabethan/Jacobean London. He was very much of his time.
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