Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Bleak House |
Actors: Anna Maxwell Martin, Denis Lawson, Carey Mulligan, Gillian Anderson, Tom Georgeson
Genres: Drama, Television, Mystery & Suspense
It has always been recognized as one of Charles Dickens's literary masterworks, but this Bleak House is now fast moving, daring, gripping television. Here is the murder mystery, the love story, the comic genius and the tan... more »
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Actually better than the earlier version
F. Behrens | Keene, NH USA | 02/14/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"For once, I am happy to find a remake of a fine old Masterpiece Theatre offering that is as good as the original. "Bleak House" is currently available on an DVD with Diana Rigg as the most familiar name; and except for some incomprehensible line readings by a young character named Joe, it is a very good account of the Dickens novel. Having already appeared on Public Television, the remake has Gillian Anderson (yes, the one from "X-Files") as Lady Dedlock, and a cast of 80 speaking roles, many of which are played by actors that will send you searching the cast listings that go by too quickly at the end of each episode.
The eight parts will be shown so that the first and last will run two hours and the four in between an hour each. I found the complex plot actually easier to follow in this version than I did in the earlier one. And while I prefer Rigg to Anderson, I think I can easily recommend this new adaptation over the other.
The story--lawyers will hate it--involves the infamous Court of Chancery in which disputes over estates can be buried for years until the lawyers' fees make further legalizing unnecessary. Against this background, the case of Jarndyce vs. Jarndyce being a major part of it, we have the story of John Jarndyce (Denis Lawson), his ward Ada (Carey Mulligan), her companion Esther (Anna Maxwell Martin), and Ada's beloved Richard (Patrick Kennedy).
The latter becomes obsessed with the case, while Esther becomes involved in the mysterious past of Lady Dedlock, who happens to recognize the handwriting on some legal documents delivered by the utterly immoral family solicitor Tulkinghorn (Charles Dance). I will not reveal any more of the plot, lest it spoil your enjoyment. You will wind up guessing much of it, but it is a lot of fun--unless you are a lawyer.
Peripheral to the plot are the usual cast of Dickens "characters": Krook the junkman (Johnny Vegas) who finds some incriminating letters (and dies the strangest death in all fiction), Smallweed the moneylender (Phil Davis) who cannot walk by himself and must be "shaken up" by his weird niece every few minutes and who gets the letters, and Miss Flite ( Pauline Collins) who looks forward to "judgment day" when her case will finally be settled and she can set her birds free.
Most interesting of all is the policeman Bucket (Alun Armstong), the first real detective in English fiction. Although he looks like a toady for the rich, he does his job and does it well, solving a murder case and being considerate to a certain lady who would suffer if her connection with the case should come out.
Of course, the arm of coincidence in Dickens is a long one; and while a good deal of the plot does strain credulity, the acting and period ambience are of the highest level. The only thing that annoyed me was the director segmenting his "establishing shots" (exterior views of buildings to let us know where we are) into two or three rapid cuts with some electronic "whoosh" for each one. Pretentious and irritating after the first dozen or so.
Michael Kim | Elk Grove, CA | 01/24/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I caught the first two hours of this adaptation of Dickens Bleak House on Masterpiece Theatre on Sunday night and I was immediately hooked. If you love dark Victorian mysteries this is a must see. I remember hearing promos for the show stating its starring Gillian Anderson but I thought it was some English actress with the same name as Scully from the X-files. What a shock when I realized I watched Scully for I did not realize it at the time it was her. Ms. Anderson becomes Lady Dedlock replacing her FBI professional pant suits outfits for a Victorian frock. Although common elements to both characters are repressed emotions and icy personalities. I have not read the novel but the show is emphasizing the mystery aspects of the story with Lady Dedlock trying to hide a secret from her past, how everybody's fate is somehow bound into the Jarndyce case over disputed wills and what role if any Esther plays in all of this. Also, the series focuses a sharp eye on the byzantine legal world of Victorian England that makes the US legal system seem the epitome of efficiency. Charles Dance is great as the ruthless barrister Tulkinghorn who sets his sights on uncovering Lady Dedlock's secret. Anne Maxwell Martin is great as the innocent and virtuous Esther Summerson. Besides Ms. Anderson some might recognize Mr. Dance who has seen roles in various movies and TV series including the villain in the Eddie Murphy Buddhist action-adventure movie The Golden Child, and Denis Lawson, who plays the benevolent John Jarndyce, was Wedge Antilles in the original Star Wars movies. Like any Dickens novel this TV series is filled with interesting often eccentric secondary characters from the young law clerk Mr. Guppy to Miss Flite.
The atmosphere is dark with lots of mist, fog and rain as one would expect in a Victorian novel. You have the contrast of the romantic elegant world of Lady Dedlock's estate and the cozy feeling of Bleak House estate with the grim, mud and muck that the lower classes lived in. The period costumes and sets are top notch. The series for me captures the essence of the Victorian period. Can't wait for the series to play itself out.
Deadlock. Debtor's Prison. Dickens!
J. Kara Russell | Hollywood - the cinderblock Industrial cubicle | 02/20/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A simply magnificent production of Dickens. Read the Amazon editorial review above, I agree with all of it.
Dickens can be difficult to translate to film. His cartoonish drawings of his characters, both literal and literary, are the stuff of political lampoon. And he IS interested in politics; the politics of class, culture, the legal system, and how his characters are trapped in them, by situation, and by their own human choices. His characters and story lines are so intricate that they must have been manna for the readers of his (no tv, no film) time period, but they can sometimes be dry and dull for a modern audience.
Enter the skillfull writing of THE MASTER ADAPTOR Andrew Davies, and a production that careens and slams prison doors from one story to another, and we are briskly carried along... in this story of secrets, blackmail, and the endless wait for the legal system to do... something... anything.
As with most BBC casting, it is excellent... every single character not only LOOKS as they should, but can really act. Nice to see Gillian Anderson break through and prove that yes, american actresses really CAN run with the best of them, if they get the chance to. Anna Maxwell Martin as our lead protagonist is simply wonderful. She has the kind of looks that we do not get to see in the hollywood casting system. Her character does not rely on her appearance, because she knows she can not, but she becomes so dear to us, we care deeply about her, and her complexity and calm in the midst of chaos reveal her true inner beauty. Through her we see the souls of others as they respond to her.
Dickens is VERY interested in the devastation of the Brittish class system, and the costumes and sets bring this all darkly to life, from the filth and disease of the street urchins, the tattered foppishness of a dance instructor, the soldiers barracks and stark sleeping compartments, to the cluttered new money oppulence of Bleak House and the old dusty money feel of the house of the local aristocracy.
The beginning is slow... neccessary to introduce the whole population of characters, and just when you think the train will never take off, it speeds into overdrive, and you scream with dizzy joy like a roller coaster ride. We get all the benefits of todays cinematic language and style in telling, while losing none of the story and atmosphere. A really masterful, very modern production of an old Dicken's tale.
No end in sight for English theatre tradition
J. Anderson | Monterey, CA USA | 03/17/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The one Dickens novel I never read turns up in a brilliant realization from Andrew Davies, with mesmerizing characters and first-rate actors in another BBC success. Gillian Anderson refocuses her considerable acting chops to bring the luckless Lady Dedlock to perfect fruition. The relative scarceness of her scenes, and their critical importance to the story, makes her appearances even more tantalizing. The entire cast once again proves the English theatre tradition thriving, and is directed with consummate skill, and pride of detail. I love the redoubtable Pauline Collins as the quintessential Miss Flite, and Charles Dance is incendiary as the heartless Tulkinghorn. Anna Maxwell Martin (Esther Summerson) is a marvel to watch; she corners a self-assurance most actors only dream of, with ownership of every nuance of face and inflection - it's a huge performance of requisite Dickensian depth, perfectly tuned and delivered with the most gifted ease imaginable. It's worth every minute just to watch her copiously in her many scenes. Dickens' many minor characters never fail to justify their presence in his novels, however extravagant, and Bleak House has its profuse share. It's amazing how beguilingly the BBC has forged its remarkable history of mini-series of English literature; I can think of few, if any, failures. Bleak House is, bar none, one of its masterpieces. Nothing prevents an unqualified recommendation for an exquisite film experience more than worthy of the great Dickens."