Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Movie Log: Carrington

The Wife and I watched this on Sunday night; it was her current Netflix choice and I'm willing to see just about anything with Emma Thompson in it. (In the mid-90s I used to joke that Thompson would be my fourth wife -- I had a whole long list of future wives at that point -- but I seem to have stopped doing that somewhere along the way. Perhaps all of the blows to the head by my actual wife had something to do with it.)

Carrington is a 1995 British movie that I'm not even sure I knew existed before The Wife put it into her Netflix queue. It's a double-biopic, with Thompson as the painter Dora Carrington and Jonathan Pryce (in a very authentic, but quite fake-looking, gigantic beard) as the writer Lytton Stratchey. Stratchey was gay and Carrington was both married and had many lovers, but this movie claims that they were the true loves of each other's lives.

I'm not sure if I entirely buy that, from the evidence. It's a nice movie, and being in large part about sex it avoids the tediousness of most minor pseudo-Merchant-Ivory period pieces (though it does move at a deliberate pace, as it covers over fifteen years in just over two hours). And all of the actors are believable as their characters. But Stratchey is such a stereotypical poofter (this is probably authentic; I don't know much about him) that it's distracting. And Carrington gives Thompson too many opportunities to put on her full-blown sullen mode, which I don't think is the best weapon in her acting arsenal.

Other minor points:
  • At least twice, Carrington rides a white horse up to her house and then runs inside. The incredibly useful horse then walks off, presumably to rub himself down and take off his own saddle.
  • Relatedly, we never see any of the servants that we know are buzzing around our main characters this whole time. And once one realizes this, it's hard to see them as quite such romantic figures.
  • In general, the movie takes place in the unfortunately typical low-budget period-movie depopulated world. The action focuses on just a few characters, and there aren't many others who even have speaking roles.
Some people may be interested in this as a look at the Bloomsbury set (which Stratchey was associated with), but I must warn you that, though Virginia Woolf is mentioned once, no other writers appear as characters in the movie, and the action is set mostly in a series of country houses where Carrington and Stratchey lived together (with various others).

All in all, this is a perfectly acceptable movie for Merchant-Ivory fans looking for a fix, or for people who particularly like Thompson or Pryce. But it's slow-moving enough that most American viewers without an interest in the characters (or, perhaps, in the embedded gender politics) will be bored.

No comments:

Post a Comment