The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux

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Title: The Phantom of the Operaby Gaston Leroux

Premise:

The Paris Opera House is haunted by a phantom who seems to hold sway over all that happens there.  Unfortunately, the Opera Ghost becomes enamored of a young lady named Christine, who falls under the spell of the phantom — her “Angel of Music.”  Will Raoul, her true love, be able to save her from the phantom’s spell before tragedy strikes?

My thoughts:

I was already familiar with this story from having seen the movie, so reading this book was not an entirely new revelation to me.  Nevertheless, it was still enjoyable and worth my while.

The whole love triangle between Christine, Raoul and Erik is very intriguing.  These poor young lovers have to defend themselves against this seemingly omnipotent villain who will do anything to procure the lady he’s obsessed with.  I was struck with just how much genius Erik was blessed with.  Was there anything this man couldn’t do?  Any skills he didn’t have?  He seemed superhuman to me, and perhaps that was the author’s intention.

I’m going to be perfectly honest here and tell you that I wasn’t as impressed with Christine’s character as I thought I’d be.  She was a little too wishy-washy for my taste, never seeming to know what she wanted. While the author tried to explain her shifts in mood and intentions, it seemed like perhaps our heroine was a trifle simple-minded.  This was a girl who needed to get out of that darn Opera House, have a stroll around town, and start to think for herself.  A lesson to all the young ladies out there: Never let a man have control over your mind.  Ahem, back to the book.

The storytelling doesn’t flow quite as seamlessly as I expected, but that could be in part because of the translation from French.  Also, it seemed like there was a lot extraneous information contained in the book.  I think that I prefer the way that the movie took away some of those bits that didn’t seem to add anything to the narrative (to my mind).

I was really captivated with the description of the Paris Opera House, and after I finished the book I sought out a little more information about it.  Just let me say that it is a fascinating building and well worth studying.  The pictures alone will blow your mind!

I recommend The Phantom of the Opera to those who enjoy a good Gothic novel or to fans of classic literature.  I don’t think that it would greatly appeal to the average reader.

Possible Objections:

  • Some violence

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

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Northanger Abbey – Movie 1987

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I’m trying to catch up with these movies!  The pile of Jane Eyre adaptations really threw me for a loop!  Well, today we’re talking about Northanger Abbey.  This version stars Katharine Schlesinger as Catherine Morland, and Peter Firth as Henry Tilney.

I was not wowed by any of the characters in this movie.  They all seemed lacking in one way or another.  Catherine was young, naïve and happy.  At times her emotions were not nuanced enough and came across as shallow.  Henry Tilney didn’t get a lot of screen time, and when he did it was difficult to discern his feelings and motivations.  I think they wanted him to come across as somewhat of an enigma, and in that they thoroughly succeeded.  Isabella Thorpe was silly, simpering, flirtatious, shallow, and constantly seeking flattery.  Her method of speaking was inane.  John Thorpe was creepy and lecherous.

There were a couple of characters whom I liked.  Elinor Tilney’s acting was natural, which made it a wonderful relief.  General Tilney’s character was strange, but well-played.  I like how Robert Hardy gave him a very distinct manner of talking and behaving.  He was more eccentric than forbidding.

This adaptation added a character who was a bit strange–General Tilney’s friend from France and her young servant.  If you watch the movie, you’ll see exactly what I mean about her being like a neon light stuck in a film about table lamps.  You just want to say, ‘Huh?’

The look of the movie was alright, but there were a few things that were off.  Look closely at the ball scenes–there is a profusion of tall feathers.  I think it was a little overboard.  You can also see the 80’s style enter into some of the hairstyles and clothing.  And please don’t get me started on the cheesy 80’s music.  Oh Mylanta–saxophone music and mermaid singing!  Are you kidding me?

The beginning of the film is rather strange–starting with Catherine’s daydream of a Frankenstein-like villain preying on a young, helpless heroine.  Catherine’s dreams continue throughout the movie, changing as she meets new characters.  They are melodramatic and feed right into her overexcited imagination, which has been fueled by sensational gothic novels.  The end of the film is not quite to my liking.  I take issue with Henry and Catherine having a make out fest before he has even proposed to her.  Not realistic at all.

In closing, I don’t recommend this film to anyone.  View it at your own risk and be prepared to laugh heartily or groan as appropriate.

I’m curious now to get my hands on an authentic gothic novel to see if they are really that sensational.  Let me know if you have any recommendations!

Possible Objections:

  • The d-word is said several times.
  • Mrs. Allen is shown sewing through her fingers in one of Catherine’s dreams.

Rated: NR

Rating: 1 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

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Emma – TV Mini-Series 1972

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It took me two nights to finish the last Emma movie in the stack.  It stars Doran Godwin as Emma, and John Carson as Mr. Knightley.  This one is not for the faint of heart–it’s over 4 hours long!

Godwin was technically a decent Emma.  She recited all of her lines well and had great enunciation.  She also had the air of a lady about her.  However, there was an aloofness to her character which I thought didn’t fit Emma well.  The numerous instances where she was downright rude to her father were so out of character.  It also seemed like Godwin was a bit old to play Emma.  Carson was a respectable Mr. Knightley.  His behavior, language and manner all fit.  I just wish his character had been a little more charming, or something that would make the viewer care about him.  He also seemed a little old to me.

I don’t know why this should bother me, but I thought Harriet was much prettier than Emma.  For some reason I think that Emma should be quite pretty.  Emma’s sister was downright annoying–there really is no nice way to put it.  Her voice was grating and I couldn’t take her character seriously.  In fact, there were several characters who just didn’t seem to fit their intended role, including Mrs. Weston and Frank Churchill.  Jane Fairfax was quite an enigma.  Most of the time she seemed to fit, but there were a few instances when she had major emotional outbursts that were mystifying and ridiculous.  Jane’s piano playing and singing were subpar, as well.  I suspect that some of these acting issues stemmed from the use of stage actors who were perhaps unused to acting for TV.

Mr. Woodhouse was an interesting character in this version.  He was quite active and sprightly, though worrying about everybody’s health all the while.  Something that I thought didn’t fit is that he was largely ignored by Emma and Mr. Knightley.  That simply isn’t true to the book at all.

The costumes were alright, though some looked chintzy.  There were a few frocks trimmed with white feather boas that caused me some consternation.

The overall plot of the story was fairly faithful to the book, with only a few scenes left out or changed.  The dialogue was also very similar to the book, though I did notice some additions.

Probably the biggest letdown was the scene in which Mr. Knightley declares his love to Emma.  It was so devoid of real emotion that he could have been talking about what he had eaten for dinner that day.

So, I would not recommend this version unless you are one of the most stalwart Jane Austen fans on the planet.  You’ll be bored.  😦

Rated: NR

Rating: 1 Star

 

Until next time…

Lori

 

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Jane Eyre – Movie 1973

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I never thought I’d be so glad to be done watching Jane Eyre (though I discovered that there is still one version I haven’t seen yet). Last night I finished the version that stars Sorcha Cusack as Jane, and Michael Jayston as Mr. Rochester.

The film quality is very good, especially when you consider how old it is.  There was something amiss in the look of the movie, however.  The 70’s intruded in clothing and hairstyles, and even some props.  In one of the scenes at Lowood, all of the girls are distinctly seen wearing dresses with long zippers down the back.  In the pajama scene when Rochester’s guests assemble in the hall because of the nighttime scream, the 1970’s take over.  The women’s robes are all shiny fabric and gauzy necklines.

The dialogue is mostly true to the book, however, there were a few parts that were added or changed.  If you’re looking for an adaptation that is most like the book, this would be the movie for you.  It is very long and hits on all the major points of the book, sticking quite faithfully to the original plot.

The characters were mostly well done.  Adele was charming and likable, and her accent was believable.  Rochester was surly, impatient, and commanding.  Jayston did a great job in his role as Rochester, and it was easy to see his interest in Jane throughout.  Cusack was a fairly good Jane, but I felt there was something lacking in her performance.  Maybe it was a flatness in expressing emotion at times.  For some reason, I was particularly gratified by the kitchen scene between Jane and St. John’s servant, Hannah.

There were only a couple of things that really bugged me about this movie.  The first would be Jane’s somewhat shallow evidence of her attachment to Mr. Rochester.  Nothing in her performance really made me believe that she felt strongly about him.  The second thing is very trivial.  For some reason I couldn’t take my eyes off of Sorcha’s eyebrows.  You’ll know what I’m talking about if you watch the movie.  It was a distraction to me.

Rated: NR

Rating: 3 Stars

 

Until next time…

Lori

 

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Emma – TV Mini-Series 2009

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Wouldn’t you know it, I watched another version of Emma?  This one stars Romola Garai as Emma, and Jonny Lee Miller as Mr. Knightley.

Garai was a superb Emma!  She was self-assured, lively, full of wit, charming, and knew how to get her way, as only Emma could.  Miller was a very good Knightley.  He was mature, thoughtful, warm, and genuinely concerned for the welfare of Emma and her father.  In relation to Emma, Miller acts like a concerned older brother for much of the movie.

This movie had some very strong supporting characters.  Mr. Woodhouse’s character was developed more than even the book does.  We are shown the reason for his overwhelming concerns for the health of his family and friends.  I also like how they added depth to Miss Bates’ character.  Though she prattles, she is delicate and thoughtful.  The suffering of both herself and her mother are shown, though subtly.  Jane Fairfax is very likable in this adaptation, in my opinion.  She is more warm and open, and enjoys a healthier relationship with Emma than in other versions (though opposed to the book itself).  Mr. Elton is humorous in his affected gallantry.  Miss Taylor/Mrs. Weston is wonderful in her ease and familiarity.  Okay, I’ll stop now.  I don’t really need to comment on every character, do I?

The overall look of the movie was fantastic–really nice scenery, furnishings, and costuming!  There were some dialogue changes, but I think they were meant to update the story a bit for modern audiences.  I noticed that in this version there is much more interaction between Emma and Mr. Knightley than in other versions.  I’m sure this is made easier because of the extended length of it.  The dance scene was nice and lively–much more spirited than generally seen in movies depicting this time period. The final thing I’d like to comment on is the believability of the relationships between the different characters.  It is easy to imagine their relationships and attachments to be real.  I love that in a good movie!

In case you couldn’t tell, this is my favorite version of Emma.  I would suggest it to all Jane Austen fans and those who enjoy a good romantic story.  Happy viewing!

Rated: NR

Rating: 5 Stars

 

Until next time…

Lori

 

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Emma – Movie 1996

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I watched another adaptation of Emma last night.  This one stars Kate Beckinsale as Emma, and Mark Strong as Mr. Knightley.

Emma comes across as conniving and underhand in her dealings with others.  She’s also thoughtless and unfeeling in how she treats Harriet.  Mr. Knightley is a correct gentleman, but a little lacking in friendliness and warmth.  He seems to be more of a taciturn and stormy character.  I’m not crazy about how these two characters were portrayed in this movie, but this may have been the director’s vision for them.

Frank Churchill does an excellent job of coming across as a playboy–charming and completely insincere.  I really like how John Knightley was portrayed in this film.  His dry wit and sarcasm come through loud and clear in the few scenes in which he takes part.  Mr. Woodhouse was also played excellently.

There were a couple of unique things in this version that I appreciated.  The beginning and ending of the movie are tied together by the machinations of poultry thieves!  It was also kind of fun to see a series of Emma’s daydreams about various people marrying, with the characters frequently changing.

The one thing that weirded me out was when Mr. Knightley was talking about holding Emma as a baby.  That’s just creepy when you think about it.

I enjoyed this movie, but it’s not my favorite adaptation of Emma.  I had a hard time connecting with Emma, which makes it hard to really enter into the story.  For me personally, her character wasn’t likable enough.  Because she has some major character flaws, there has to be something redeeming in her character to make me care about her.  That’s where I think the movie fell short.

Check it out if you are a Jane Austen fan or like a good romantic movie.  It’s probably a one-time view for me.

Rated: NR

Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

 

Until next time…

Lori

 

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Emma – Movie 1996

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Taking a break from Jane Eyre last night, I watched Emma.  This version stars Gwyneth Paltrow as Emma, and Jeremy Northam as Mr. Knightley.

I think Paltrow did a great job as Emma.  She was sufficiently self-assured, snobby, impetuous, and conniving.  At times her emotions seemed a little shallow, but it wasn’t awful.  Although Northam wasn’t present as much as I would have liked to have seen him, he was an excellent Mr. Knightley.  He is handsome, thoughtful and shows affection and concern for others.  Basically, he’s a guy that any woman would want as her own.  😉

The supporting characters were also great, adding a richness to the story.  Miss Bates, Harriet, Mrs. Weston, and Mr. and Mrs. Elton were all wonderful.

The movie follows the general storyline of the book, keeping all of the major events the same.  I’d say it’s a very good representation of the book.  They did, however, change a good bit of dialogue, making it seem more updated.  For me personally, it wasn’t a big issue.

This adaptation has a very professional overall look.  I’m not surprised by that, but after seeing some movies recently that looked less than professional, I appreciated the polish on this one.  Another thing that I liked was that many of the shots were set up in unique ways, some adding humor to the situation, such as when Mr. Elton sits between Emma and Mr. Knightley to talk about Harriet’s sore throat.

The proposal scene between Emma and Mr. Knightley was very good.  It started out awkward, then moved into an interview that was driven by care and friendship.  I think that’s what is so satisfying about the relationship between Knightley and Emma–it is based on mutual affection and friendship which has spanned years.  It’s lasting and based on a thorough knowledge of the other person.

I would highly suggest this movie to all the ladies out there!

Possible Objections:

  1. In the gypsy scene the d-word is used a couple of times.

Rated: PG

Rating: 4 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

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Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Northanger Abbey

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Northanger Abbey is a relatively short and unique book by Jane Austen.  Though it’s not my favorite work of hers, I appreciate the wit and social commentary that went into it.  There are themes that are still applicable today.  In this story, Catherine Morland is a young lady who has no very special traits that would distinguish her from any other girl.  She likes to be outdoors; she dislikes serious reading and adores gothic novels; she is utterly naïve.

When Catherine’s close neighbors go to Bath, she is invited to accompany them.  She enjoys her introduction into city life, and meets a man whom she comes to admire.  His name is Henry Tilney and he has a sister, Eleanor, who befriends Catherine.  Catherine is invited to stay with Eleanor for a visit at the family’s home–Northanger Abbey.  The visit is encouraged by Henry and Eleanor’s father, General Tilney, because he believes Catherine to be a good match for his son.  When he finds out that Catherine is in fact not rich, he kicks her out of the house to make her own way home.

Woven throughout this narrative, there is almost continual irony used to criticize social norms.  We also see Catherine coming of age as she falls in love with Henry.  Finally, Austen comments on the silliness of being obsessed with gothic novels and all of the flights of fancy that ensue.

If you’re looking for an easier way to ease into reading Jane Austen, this would be the book to start with.  I highly recommend this book as a fun, quick read in the classical literature genre.

Rating: 4 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

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Jane Eyre – TV Mini-Series 1983

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This adaptation of Jane Eyre came out when I was a baby.  Strange thought.  Anyhow, I was going along at a good pace in reviewing Jane Eyre adaptations, when I came to this TV mini-series.  This one stopped me cold in my tracks for several days.  I started watching it with an inclination to like it, but I just couldn’t.  I finally worked up the gumption to finish it tonight.

Timothy Dalton was alright as Rochester, though he was overly dramatic at times.  And he is a bit too handsome to be cast as Rochester.  Whatever–I could forgive those things.  At least his performance was interesting and conveyed feeling.

I could not get over Jane, however, who was played by Zelah Clarke.  I don’t want to sound mean or anything, but I was bored by her performance.   There was so little variation in her facial expression, tone of voice, and movement that it was painful to watch.  In the rare cases when she does show anger or excitement, her loud exclamations are startling and seem out of character.  Also, there was precious little to make me care about her character or see anything that would attract Mr. Rochester in the first place.  The romantic chemistry was distinctly lacking.

I suppose I can’t blame my dislike of this video entirely on Clarke.  The lighting and shots were funny; most scenes seemed totally contrived and unnatural; it didn’t have a period look to it; the music was cheesy.  I felt like I was watching a soap opera that was trying to tell a classical story.  Not the best combination.

If you’re a Jane Eyre fanatic, you may want to watch this, otherwise I’d say steer clear.  As a funny side note, I checked out other people’s reviews after I had formed my own opinion and found that many people actually like this version.  I can’t understand it, but to each his own!

Rated: NR

Rating: 1 Star

 

Until next time…

Lori

 

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Emma by Jane Austen

Emma

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Emma is a romantic comedy of errors that revolves around the main character, Emma Woodhouse.  When Emma’s governess marries, Emma believes herself to have been highly instrumental in making the match.  She subsequently tries her hand at more matchmaking, which ends up going terribly wrong.  Her insight is not nearly as good as she thinks it to be, so she makes some terrible mistakes.  More than once, she steers her friend Harriet to make bad romantic choices.  Not only is Emma clueless when it comes to love, but she is rather neglectful in considering how her actions and words affect others.  When she slights an older lady of reduced means, she comes face to face with her own deficiencies of character.  At this point Emma embarks on a real journey of personal reform.  Mr. Knightley professes his love for Emma toward the end of the novel, so their romance doesn’t take up a lot of the story.

While Emma isn’t my favorite Jane Austen novel, I still enjoy it.  I suppose the reason that I don’t like it quite as much as the others is that this is probably her heroine who makes the most mistakes.  The many social blunders that Emma commits can make for some uncomfortable reading at times.  It’s not that there is anything really awful, it’s just awkward.  It is nice to see her character mature and learn a few life lessons.  The book is both a love story and a coming of age story.  I’d recommend it for advanced teens and adults.  The language and style are advanced.

Possible Objections:

  1. Towards the end, Mr. Knightley tells Emma that he’s been in love with her since she was about thirteen.  At the time the novel was written that may not have been a big deal, but today we call that pedophilia.  That creeped me out a little.

Rating: 4 1/2 Stars

 

Until next time…

Lori

 

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