Primum non nocere
Warm days, scented gardens, glorious views... looks like a good show for Spring. I should have it by tonight!
What a delightful show. In many respects it is very subtle, and a number of questions come to mind for the pondering kind of person. Let's not ponder. Let's just run in the grass with our shoes off, and embrace it as the warm, encouraging and delightful show that it is. London. Dark, dreary, cold and rainy. With dark dreary characters living dark dreary marriages. All until Lotty catches a glimpse of an advertisement for a villa in Italy, and becomes taken with the idea of making an escape - not to discard her marriage, but to rejuvenate her own life. And she is filled with a certainty, a faith, that it could make a world of difference. Her unguarded comments strike one as so fanciful that she seems to have lost whatever good sense she ever had, or worse she is making game of people. But no, it is the result of a deep seated appreciation of the emptiness that most people live through, and a hope to pull back the drapes and let the sun burst through with all its brilliance, warmth and vitality. Two women, alone together on a long journey to a far away place, and the rain pours down upon them in great buckets. Finally, they arrive at their destination, groping their way through the dark, dimly perceiving the meaning of the words their Italian house staff are saying. The next day they awaken to a gloriously beautiful day, in a villa surrounded with lovely gardens, a shimmering sea and all bathed in the warm, soothing sun. Beautiful.We are definitely in for a good one here!
Dotty was filled with life and love just being at the villa in sunny Italy, but it isn't long after being there that she makes the realization that she has had a part in making the world a dreary place:"It's quite true. It seems idiotically illogical. But I'm so happy, I'm so well, I feel so fearfully wholesome. This place--why, it makes me feel flooded with love."Rose was silent a moment. Then she said, "And do you think it will have the same effect on Mr. Wilkins?""I don't know," she said. "But even if it doesn't, there's enough love about to flood fifty Mr. Wilkinses, as you call him. The great thing is to have lots of love about. I don't see," she went on, "at least I don't see here, though I did at home, that it matters who loves as long as somebody does. I was a stingy beast at home, and used to measure and count. I had a queer obsession about justice. As though justice mattered. As though justice can really be distinguished from vengeance. It's only love that's any good. At home I wouldn't love Mellersh unless he loved me back, exactly as much, absolute fairness. Did you ever. And as he didn't, neither did I, and the emptiness . . ."And taking that realization to heart, she purposed in her heart to love everyone around her, and especially her half-baked husband, to love him without regard to her being loved back. She became a very generous lover of whomever was placed near her. And what do you know, but the brown paper-bag she was married to became a person who was considerate of others, who looked beyond their potential value to his career, and best yet a man who came to appreciate his wife. Is it enough to cause one pause? Well, the whole story is enough to cause one pause. It is the magic of the idea of going to a magical place.And you had to love this:Mellersh: "Lady Caroline, housekeeping for a party that includes my wife - you render me speechless! You do know she's the daughter of Lord Dester, THE Lord Dester?" Mrs. Fisher: "Ah! Well that accounts for it then. The botch-up her father made in his department during the war was a national scandal!" Mellersh: "They never could actually prove anything." That was good fun.But ahff, that Frederick Arbuthnot. I wanted to knock him into next week! And the humming!! Humming away while thoughts of spouse breach ran through his head. Self-centered, thoughtless fool of a man! To see things work out so swimmingly for him, and largely through his wife's misinterpretation of the reason for his presence at the villa, not in response to the note she wrote asking him to join her, but because he thought the sadly adrift Caroline might be there for him to grope and grab at aimlessly, it really was too much for me. Clearly I have yet to embrace the author's concept of love without thought to the fairness of things, and her encouragements to love whole heartedly and without thought to the rightness or wrongness of things is something yet to be realized......but well worth considering.
I must say I did enjoy Mrs. Fisher, waving about that cane when the ladies first met to interview her for their April trip to Italy, swatting about the bust of her now dead husband, the slow battle she fought against impropriety, the pull to life and love that she resisted, until she is finally smiling and wearing light, colorful dresses and even pulling out her childhood paints to capture a view of the flowers that grew there. And all the while the portrait of the little girl she once was stared back at her playfully. Oh, that could have been my little Bren, so cute. Yes, she succumbed to it all, so that by films end she has joined those that are there, and they in turn welcome her. Lovely.And my favorite line of the whole show? Had to be from Michael Kitchen (he was so good, so light a presence) when he is attempting to convince Rose that surely every place she goes must take on some of her essence:"I don't believe any place you lived in could be anything but exactly like you.""You're not going to pretend San Salvatore is like me?""Indeed I do pretend it... surely you admit that it is beautiful?!"You could not compliment one without drawing attention to yourself any finer than that. The absent, unpretentious quality of it, as it surely came from a heartfelt belief. And the belief itself seemed to grow the very thing he was speaking of.Very nice.
Saw this for the first time a few months ago, chiefly because of the Italian locations. Content-wise it's the sort of thing I would once have avoided, but now - partly through my wife's influence, partly, I guess, because I'm of a better age to appreciate it - I find it enormously comforting.Not a great deal to say about it as a film, as such: basically just big tv; the only thing I would say in terms of construction is that the early scenes seemed to be a little rushed, so that we had to take certain developments and relationships for granted. I couldn't really believe that Josie Lawrence's character would hit on her scheme, approach the other woman, have it accepted and begins to make plans in so short a space of time, and with so few discussions. But I just accepted that as a kind of short hand to get to the main part of the story. Perhaps it might have better started already in Italy, with the character deep in reflection and recalling the first scenes as flashbacks. Then they wouldn't have seemed so starkly functional.But that is a very minor criticism of a delightful production: a feast for the senses, and one of those films where one can hear and taste the locations as well as see them. Beautiful cast.And that rarest of things: a film in which every single character ultimately proves themselves likeable, even the two boorish husbands. For most writers/filmmakers the desire to produce dramatic conflict through the inclusion of unpleasant characters is unconquerable. I'm always impressed by those which attempt to hold our interest without any recourse to mean-spiritedness. It's harder, and the results are finer. It's also, as I said, very rare.A film to lift the spirits.
More and more I find I don't know where to begin, commenting on these movies -- there is always so much to enjoy. But Matthew has said something with which I disagree (!) -- so off we go!I think that the prologue-like scenes in London are critical to really appreciating the changes in the characters, and and the significance of the changes in the relationships between them, during the stay at San Salvatore. They let us see not just that Lottie is unhappy, but the nature of her unhappiness; the distance between herself and her husband, a modestly successful man with both eyes on the prize of enlarging himself professionally, who seems to only consider his wife beyond the successes and failures of her household management when he needs her to play a supporting role for his comfort or convenience. They let us see the confines of Lottie's life, its bleakness, its loneliness, its absence of possibility, so that we san also see the courage that required for her to break free, even temporarily. And so for Rose, whose London life is equally bleak and lonely, even though the flavor of the unhappiness in her marriage is quite different. While Lottie still admires the "very handsome" husband she doesn't seem to care for, and accepts that he is her superior in some matters, some part of the distance between the much more independent Rose and her husband is due to Rose's dislike for how Frederick makes a living. She tries to persuade him to leave behind the novels of sinful acts and scandalous characters, while he betrays the pain and bitterness he feels at her rejection of his talents and his work. We see that Rose has been rebuffing Frederick's romantic overtures, and that Frederick has been indulging in an infatuated flirtation with a beautiful, much courted, younger woman.In a few brush strokes we get a picture of Mrs. Fisher, convention-bound and rigidly superior, but so lonely in the absence of not only those sages who numbered among her father's friends, but her own husband and friends, that she looks to a holiday among strangers to break up the bleakness of her life. The sketch of Lady Caroline gives us less insight -- we see mostly the effects of her privileged upbringing and the valuation the world has long placed on her beauty. We aren't being short-changed -- we learn about the inner Caroline as she does herself, at San Salvatore.No, we have to have the scenes of those London lives before we can feel the glorious freedom of Italy. One of my favorite moments in the movie is Rose and Lottie leaving Mr. Briggs', with Lottie looking like she's in shock, until exhilaration begins to take over, and she cries,"Rose! Rose, we've done it! We've done it!"And Rose, in response, breaks out a huge grin, and pulls Lottie into a great joyous hug. The magic of San Salvatore has already begun to work on them.More later. :)
"..a feast for the senses, and one of those films where one can hear and taste the locations as well as see them."Yes, very true indeed. Thanks for your comments, Matt. "And Rose, in response, breaks out a huge grin, and pulls Lottie into a great joyous hug."Yes, that was a great moment. Were you not impressed with how capable Rose was in helping to accomplish their goal of getting themselves to San Salvatore? In both her handling of the stiff and uncompromising Mrs. Fisher, and with Mr. Briggs? She was key to making Lottie's dream come true. Once there it was Rose who was out of pace, and Lottie who helped direct her to what she really wanted most. But I still have not come to terms with that hapless, shiftless Mr. Arbuthnot, whereas you have already offered him a modicum of grace.Well, enough of my interrupting. You were saying, Cathy...?
Back to not knowing where to begin! Jim has commented already on some of my favorite bits, like Mrs. Fisher's losing battle against happiness. And Mr. Briggs' innocent appreciation of Rose's "inner beauty" -- and her resulting bloom in this gentle warmth. And the moment we really see the generosity of Lottie's loving nature, when she says that Mellersh -- who couldn't love her back -- should have a share in all the beauty they are enjoying.But I also loved watching Rose indulge her long denied ability to relax, to just exist, outside the duties and responsibilities and good works that have sustained her for so long. To allow herself to fully feel her sadness, and to find that hopefulness is stronger than sorrow.I loved seeing Frederick's reaction when he discovers that his wife still loves him. His joy then is equal to Rose's joy at his apparent response to her invitation. She is passionate where before she was cold, and Lady Caroline has instantly become no more than a liability that must be prevented from damaging this glorious reunion.Mellersh Wilkins makes his own discoveries about his wife. He believes he knows the value of the people surrounding her, enjoying her, valuing her, and he begins to look at her differently. He begins to see the loving, laughing, playful, inner-beauty-full Lottie -- and has the great joy of falling in love with his wife.And Lady Caroline. So lovely, so rich, so wooed and courted -- and so unhappily weary. We learn about her through her conversations with herself: pleading with the universe to give her this time she needs to sort out her emotions, scolding herself for having lived uselessly for so long, calling herself out for blaming her shortcomings on her grief for the love lost in the war. We see the sadness she has hidden from the world, and we see the woman behind the affectations. And we see her learn to trust these new friends, who love her only for herself.I most whole-heartedly second Matthew's praise for this as that rarest of things: a film in which every single character ultimately proves themselves likeable. It is a delight; every character grows; every character loves and is loved; every character receives a happy ending.What could be better than that?
Plus, it's Italy. :)
Well said. Well said! Hear her!!
Yes -- Rose is the capable one, the one who can keep the focus where it needs to be. But it was also funny watching her and Mrs. Fisher trying to out-host each other, the first morning at the castle. Round 2, the first round having been the negotiation, in London, over the references!
I saw that as Rose being pushed aside and diminished. Afterall, it was the girls that invited Mrs. Fisher to join them, and the interaction, particularly at the sitting room seemed to set Rose off, whereas Lottie was no longer looking at things in her old way, and was looking to love poor old Mrs. Fisher as much as she could, and extend to her whatever grace was required. Mrs. Fisher certainly had a knack for putting one on the defensive. Anyone would be offended. Lottie just chose not to be.
But Mr. Arbuthnot! Truthfully, its just too much! Am I really required to warm to him?: )
I saw that as Rose being pushed aside and diminished.It absolutely was. Mrs. Fisher was accustomed to being the Supreme Arbiter of All Things Appropriate, and by gum, she was going to rule as hostess of the establishment. And it would have been just one of any number of increasingly painful scenes, if Rose had not begun to remember that she had value as herself, not just for the positions she occupied. (I probably didn't think it was funny the first time I saw it.)It really is good to step outside of your real life every so often, even if it's only to figure out which habits to keep and which to throw away. (Boy, do I need a vacation! :) )
Oh I certainly didn't mean to imply that the opening scenes were unnecessary, or that I wanted to get rid of them. I completely agree with you, Cathy, about the job they do and their importance to the film as it unspools.I just meant that they seemed rushed, as if the filmmakers were anxious to hurry throught them and get to the countryside, and as such I felt that I was being told things about the characters rather than being allowed to find them out for myself at an even pace. If anything, I wanted this section longer, and slower, and more of it.By saying that they might be better used as flashbacks I meant only in their present form: phrased as partial recollections, their somewhat hurried/sketchy nature would be less obtrusive. The parts in England seemed a bit like a 'last week on Enchanted April...' round-up from a previous episode. But this was a tiny, tiny criticism: it certainly didn't spoil my enjoyment of an absolutely gorgeous film. I love Italy! I love Polly Walker!
If anything, I wanted this section longer, and slower, and more of it.Yes, yes, yes! Wouldn't you have loved to have seen the first encounter between Mrs. Fisher and Lady Caroline?
Oh, Matthew, I almost forgot!For most writers/filmmakers the desire to produce dramatic conflict through the inclusion of unpleasant characters is unconquerable. I'm always impressed by those which attempt to hold our interest without any recourse to mean-spiritedness. It's harder, and the results are finer. It's also, as I said, very rare.A film to lift the spirits.I love this. If other movies you've liked that meet this standard come to mind, would you let me know? I'd love to have a new soul-soother or two on tap!
"And it would have been just one of any number of increasingly painful scenes, if Rose had not begun to remember that she had value as herself, not just for the positions she occupied. "This is what I am really enjoying. It is a bit of a subtle film I would say, and it is so fun to look at the subtle changes the characters are going through.Very nice.
This was good fun! Now I am to choose I suppose. Matt, do you have anything that you enjoyed and think would be fun for us to watch here?
How about either The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) or Portrait of Jennie (1948)?
The Magnificent Ambersons! Very good. A couple of days.