Tuesday, November 9, 2010

'Cold Comfort Farm' Open Thread

What did you think?

With a major hat tip to Darrell for the photos!!


  1. With cows that are named Pointless, Feckless, Graceless and Aimless, I think we are into some fun here!

  2. Mighty suspicious... My copy is expected to arrive tomorrow...

  3. Big city folk making fun of rural folk and customs. Where have I seen that before?

    Lucky we have Kate Beckinsale and Joanna Lumley.
    I hope Seth doesn't involve them in his mollocking. There are consequences.

  4. If there is one thing you all should keep in mind, it's THIS: There's no butter in hell!

  5. But lots of Banquet Pot Pies. Just saying. . .

  6. I think it is more the curious adventure of a confident young woman. Charles Fairford is London society, and is looked down upon as readily as the next, by Mary (Joanna Lumley) if not by Flora. And Mr Meyerburg, or Mybug if you prefer, is well educated enough, with his curiosities over whether or not women have souls, and his distinct pleasure in eating with a ssPoon. And am I to take Dr. Mudel seriously...seriously?

    Flora had equally appalling choices to live with relatives in the city, but Cold Comfort Farm gave her the opportunity to be at a place that was interesting and appalling, and certainly any sensible girl would prefer that, particularly if she is collecting material for her novel, which will be at least as good as Persuasion, and completed by the time she is fifty-three. Charles will have to wait. Flora has got to get about setting things to right, Emma like, and wouldn't you know everything turns out splendidly (though she never does write her novel).

  7. Cathy, we like to argue. That's just the way we are.

    We're funny like that. : )

  8. Mr Meyerburg? Oh, yes, D.H. Lawrence.

    Is Cathy here? Where is she hiding?

  9. There'll be No Butter In Hell!"

    One of my absolute favorite lines! That, and

    "I'd take her, too, but she's glooomy."

    Oh, I'm going to have the loveliest evening! (happy sigh)

  10. All together, now:

    There have always been Starkadders at Cold Comfort Farm.

  11. I must say, when Amos turns to his wife and says as an aside:

    "The Lord sees your lustful eyes."

    it was a good moment for me. That, and when he announced that he was leaving to preach the Word from a Ford van, leaving this reassurance for her:

    "The Lord will provide...

    ...or not."

    It was so opposite of what you would hope for from a man of God, it was just perfect.

    : )

  12. And the 'spoon' comment.

    Actually, after Flora took in a bit of the Church of the 'Quivering Brethren', and chose to slip out the back and take a bit of respite with tea and cakes in a delightful little shop, and Meyerburg, walking by, saw this as his opportunity to press forward his willingness to work past Flora's repressions and inhibitions... ahfff. That whole scene. So damn presumptuous. So foul.

    So perfect.

  13. Yes, you are to take Dr Müdel seriously. There is an umlaut, afterall.

    Poor Mrs.Hawk-Monitor of Hautcouture. She never saw that coming.

  14. "Cathy, we like to argue. That's just the way we are."

    Not that I've ever noticed.

  15. Boys! ;)

    I think Mrs. Hawk-Monitor was rather like Flora, in her openness to something that was both interesting and appalling.

    Dr. Müdel von Umlaut should be taken as seriously as anyone else! I actually quite like the notion of going to a nice rest home for a while and having my energy turned right-side out.

    And did you love the "American" movie czar!! Oh, and the perfection of the moment when Seth is getting ready to leave with him, the perfect lighting and camera angle, that perfect expression of inner struggle, sorrowfully resolved, under that hat at just the perfect tilt. Priceless.

    I love Cousin Judith --- I thought Eileen Atkins was extraordinary -- and I loved that she was still capable of hopefulness and joy. (Although she is so deliciously tragic about losing Seth -- the only sliver of light in her dark world. Nothing left but to pick out a tombstone and wait. Atkins's "I'm a dead woman" is wonderful -- she gives such a matter-of-fact-ness to the melodrama.)

    Stephen Fry is fabulous as "Mr. Mybug" -- his oversize physicality combined with that tremendous, if unfounded, self-assurance. He can't get thrown out for gate-crashing! Flora, tell them who he is! And that scene in the tea room is wonderful, "spoon!" and all. Warning Flora that he's "susceptible" -- a hint of braggadocio that is more about his back-to-nature shedding of inhibitions than about making conquests, while at the same time he is so outlandishly enamoured of Flora's romanticized innocence.

    And Great Aunt Ada is so magnificent, the Grande Dame reemerging to bless the nuptials and take leave of her subjects. (But I'm pretty sure Jane Austen didn't say that stuff.) Talk about your Extreme Makeover.

    One of the things that make this movie so great is that the inhabitants of Cold Comfort Farm, as much as they seem caricatures at the beginning, are not completely farcical, so the low key honest-conversation moments fit the story. I really like the later scenes between Rueben and Flora, where there is trust and friendship between them as he sees his life turning around. And the first time Flora tempts Seth away from his women-are-wicked pose, and he's suddenly a boy proudly exhibiting his prized possessions and talking about something he loves. And the moment when Aunt Judith turns over that "Sun" tarot card, and looks up with the idea of possibility on her face, and the first suggestion of a smile we've ever seen.

    Some movies are wonderful like a complicated dessert with layers of flavor and texture that makes you think about the bite you're experiencing and wonder about the next. Cold Comfort Farm is the kind of movie that is more like a box of confections where each character, each scene, is a bite that makes you say "Oh, no this is the best!"

  16. Oh, I've got to stop. I am sorry Cathy, but I could only get half way through this comment of yours before it was just too much. I can't be reading this at work! It is just too rich.

    Okay, I will come back to it, but sooo funny! "Flora, tell them who I am!", and her look of distracted annoyance and embarrassment. It was funny!!

  17. Yes, I don't know. Some say it was intended to make fun of DH Lawrence and some say it was aimed at some of the other great British works of literature from Austin to the Bronte's to Eliot..and so forth. Very interesting, but those that would confine our enjoyment to such understanding are forgetting that the work as a novel was written thirty years before this adaptation was performed, and are giving no allowance to the screen writer, the director, the actors and the audience, you and I, to take what is presented and interpret it and enjoy it as we wish. Once it has left the artists hand it is no longer theirs alone, but is ours, and that is the fun of it.

    Now, if I may be so bold, the question of the movie club isn't so much 'What did you think', but really 'What did you like about it' - or if you really hated every last bit of it, then the question is what is it that someone else liked about it, as they thought it worth sharing with the rest of us.

    I just happened to have seen this once before perhaps ten years ago, and thought it somewhat enjoyable. Having seen Ms. Beckinsale in Emma I was rather hoping for another similar experience. Well, no indeed! But really a delightful show and an excellent choice.

    I saw it as the story of a curiously confident young woman who took hold of a grim situation, and without the least bit of trepidation set herself to the task of making a go of things, and enjoyed herself immensely in doing so.

    Here is a touch from Flora's journey to the farm, and after being carried off in a manure stained cart, she asks the elderly Adam Lambsbreath "What is the farm like?", and in a rather poetic response she hears :

    "The seeds whither and the earth will not nourish 'em. The cows are barren. The sows a farren. All is turned to ruin."

    "Oh dear! Is there no money?"

    "T’aint money. There’s a curse on the place, Robert Post’s child. T’is the Starkadder’s doom!"

    To which she responds:

    "Well, I’m sure it’s not as bad as all that."

    Bless me, if that is not the start of a very fun show!

    This is exactly what I was hoping for - movie's like Zero Effect and The Searchers and Cold Comfort Farm, that I would not ordinarily watch left to my own choices, but that have a value that I might appreciate with a commitment to see the good and the benefit of another person's perspective.

    Thanks so much for sharing this one with the rest of us, Cathy. Excellent choice!

  18. I take it you liked Kate Beckinsale's Emma? I haven't seen it, but I guess I'd better put it on my list! I am intrigued, at least partly because I thought Flora's own story was quite weak in Cold Comfort Farm, and in some patches, Beckinsale herself was a little lacking.

  19. I beg to differ, Jim. Stella Gibbons set out to parody a certain type of novel popular in London around the turn of the Century, particularly some of the most successful of these by writer
    Mary Webb (The Golden Arrow, Gone to Earth). Gibbons is quoted as saying " The large agonised faces in Mary Webb's book annoyed me ... I did not believe people were any more despairing in Herefordshire [sic] than in Camden Town." Her name for these novels was "Loam and Lovechild." Perhaps the scandalous romances and "involuntary" "pairings" explain Londoners' fascination with them?

    Gibbons has some fun in Cold Comfort Farm--published as a serial in the London Evening Standard in 1928-- throwing in a few more parodies along the way. Like making Mr. Meyerburg a thinly disguised parody of DH Lawrence and setting up the basic structure from the Bronte sisters' Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre. Elfine is Cathy? Seth is a Heathcliff? Judith, a Bertha Mason' type? Not exact copies but "under the influence." Some of the other characters, the Quivering Brethren, and the house itself are references to other known authors of the time. I suspect this all evolved as installments of the serial were published--perhaps with readers offering suggestions.

    Since the premise of the parody is that Flora, a level-headed and flawed (self-centered, flighty) urban woman can come in and simply apply modern common sense to the problems she sees that have existed for decades and everything will magically turn out right--in very short order.
    From what I see, Beckinsale nailed the part, Cathy. She captured the character as written and intended.

    One aspect of the newspaper serialization was ignored--the story is set in the near future (1946) after "The Anglo-Nicaraguan" War and Gibbons has some fun predicting video phones, air mail home delivery, and changes in London neighborhoods and trends.

  20. Since Gone to Earth (1950) [Jennifer Jones, David Farrar] is available on film,
    maybe we should make that the next feature? Maybe a double feauture along with A Matter of Life and Death (1946) [David Niven and Kim Hunter]--something that I was playing around with nominating anyway.

  21. Gone to Earth is extremely hard to find
    here, so I'm going to scratch that choice. David O. Selznick 1952 US version retitled The Wild Heart was butchered beyond recognition,e.g., removing scenes he thought weak, but were major plot points, and not replacing them.

  22. That's excellent detail on the background of the book.

    I absolutely loved the lightening in Seth's fair-well, and the "Gone With The Wind" score in that scene, so melodramatically over the top. Good stuff.

    I loved the A&E version of Emma with Kate Beckinsale. Of particular delight was her interactions with the gentlemanly Mr Knightly, played very nicely by Mark Strong. I recall lending a VHS copy to some young women in their twenties, who returned it complaining as they did not feel Mr. Strong was strikingly handsome enough to suite their fancy. But they may have missed the great pleasantness of the story, of his long standing feelings of affection for her, his decidedly purposeful restraint out of care for her, and desire for her best good and best happiness. Mr. Frank Churchill was played by a handsome devil by the name of Raymond Coulthard, and he was absolutely perfect. He was so pleasant and so charming it just made me cringe. And the music was very nice. It was a very nice story and there was much I loved about it.

  23. Hey, Darrell, how find-able is the other one, A Matter of Life and Death? (It is the same as Stairway to Heaven, right?) It sounds intriguing, and I always like David Niven.

    That doesn't mean you have to pick it. I can just add it to my list, and watch some other time. All by myself. That would be fine. Really.


  24. Jim, that A&E Emma sounds wonderful. (It's on my list.)

    You know, I'm getting so lazy about this cultural stuff. I used to whine the old "So many books, so little time," but lately it's more "So many great movie adaptations of books..."

  25. You should probably find the A Matter of Life and Death version, just for consistency. There are always subtle differences. Besides Hollywood going crazy with the word "Death" in the title. I'll formally make it my pick. Just remember that Kim Hunter is Dr. Zira from the Planet of the Apes films.

  26. (That's OK. I never saw them, either.)

  27. I'l help you out, then, Cathy, without spoiling.
    She is a lot hairier in the latter films. Her enunciation remains flawless, though.

  28. That sounds fine, Darrell. It's at the top of my netflix list. I should have it up in a couple of days.

    And Darrell, if you happen to find some good photo sources, it would make the posting a lot easier! Thanks!