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Sticky - Reading Group Posts - Spoiler Warning

Feb. 21st, 2007 | 12:45 am

I've been doing more and more writing on several reading groups. So I'll use this Journal to post some of my slightly more cogent thoughts. Where they're scattered over long threads, I'll try to consolidate my remarks and tidy them a bit for coherence.

WARNING: Because I usually look at topics across a particular work, virtually every post on this Journal will contain spoilers.

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GoK/LC -- Endings and Beginnings

Feb. 10th, 2007 | 10:35 pm

I was finishing up Game of Kings and about to start Queens' Play when I came across this great post by matociquala on first lines in novels and all the heavy-lifting they can do in just a few words. Not surprisingly, that got me going on that famous opening of GoK, "Lymond is back." Here's the central bit from her post.
[quoting princejvstin]: The first line in a book is the second most important line. (The most important line is the last line.) I like the idea you mention, of reading a book with that first sentence as a lens through which the whole thing can be focused.

For me, I have a list of oughtas. (I don't do shoulds, in writing, but I do do oughtas.)

A first line oughta do all these all things:

1) illuminate the theme of the book. This justifies its existence.

2) raise a question. This provides narrative momentum, and brings the reader into the story through the hook of his curiousity. (I theorize that this is the actual mechanism through which a "hook sentence" works. It gets you asking something. Please note, this does not have to be a direct question.

3) begin to develop setting, character, and/or tone.

4) hold the keys to resolution. By which I mean, provide the foundation for circularity or closure.

Poster child in my genre: the first line of Dhalgren which of course is famously also the last line, or a portion thereof.

My pick for the best first line in recent English fiction:

"The primroses were over."

That's from Watership Down, by Richard Adams. It does all of the above--illuminates a primary theme of the book, asks a question (in this case, establishes an ominous air, due to literary associations with primroses and the end thereof, alerts us to the fact that we're in a pastoral setting and what the time of year is and that tiny details of the season and nature will be important to development of the book, and also links up to the end of the book. Boom.

In four words.

Not too shabby.

And then she quotes and comments on opening lines from things she's written. My favorite, I suppose because I find it full of intriguing possibilities -- this one from an unpublished work -- is "Nothing made him hate himself more than waiting for the elevator." Somehow, and I can't explain why, I can relate to that.

Anyway, back to Dorothy Dunnett and "Lymond is back." I think it accomplishes a great deal of Bear's "oughtas." It's like a herald announcing the hero -- but we don't know whether it's a triumphant proclamation or a warning of danger. Those punchy three words launch us with a burst of energy straight into the middle of a story that's going to have action. The opening line is not a description, it's a line of dialogue -- the social setting and dynamics are going to be important.

Using Bear's #2, just look at all the questions embedded in the opening line, how they lead us quickly into the novel (story, character, setting, etc). Some of questions that immediately spring to mind:
  • "Who is Lymond?" -- that's the mystery GoK will "solve": "a tired and passionate mind"; but it also will be the subject of intense study for the entire six novels.

  • "Who is speaking and why do they care?" -- lots of people from different classes or stations in life, both men and women; he's infamous; he's perceived as dangerous by some and attractive by others.

  • "Where are we?" -- place is going to be important

  • "Where has Lymond been?" -- from the opening line we know his backstory is going to be critical.

  • "Why has he come back?" -- in terms of story/plot, that's the initial mystery and then, as his goal is revealed, it becomes the plot driver.

"Why has he come back?" is also central structurally and thematically to both GoK and the LC. Both GoK and the LC can be seen as Lymond's odysseys -- going further and urther away from "home" and then returning; becoming increasingly isolated, alienated, estranged from country, family, friends and himself, and then achieving reconciliation; in psychological terms, becoming increasingly fragmented and then reaching the prospect of re-integration. So as with Ulysses, we enter the story during his wanderings and follow him as he overcomes various obstacles, threats, diversions and finally makes his way home.

But ironically, Lymond isn't "back" at the start of GoK/LC, except in the strictly physical sense of having returned to Scotland. "Lymond is back" would be more fully true as the last line of both GoK and CM. In that way, the opening line suggests the dominant structure and theme of "coming back". It is also the way the first novel and the entire series will be resolved.

But we should also note the difference between the two endings of GoK and CM. In GoK, Lymond has only reached a resting place on his longer journey -- it's a "wild relief" to reach the presence of Sybilla, but it's only a temporary resolution that neglects the future that's facing him. He has five more novels that will send him further and further away from home and himself before he makes his way back! At the end of CM, along with Philippa, he has not only "come back" from his long journey -- "we are here" -- his odyssey has given him the support he needs -- mental and emotional strength, a philosophy and a partner -- as he turns his eyes to "the open sea... and the firmament."

In three words -- for both a single novel and a six-novel series.

Not too shabby!

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Author vs AUTHOR

Jan. 24th, 2007 | 05:10 pm

Since I can't figure out how to use or access the bl**y Memories function or page or list or whatever, here's an excerpt from some wise words from truepenny.

Her remarks are quite relevant to those reading groups -- whether of fans or scholars -- where "keepers of the flame" want to nail everything onto an immutable stated purpose of the author or the author's bio. Totally beyond them the notion that it's legitimate to talk about what a book tries to do or accomplishes in terms other than the historical Author.

Bios can be illuminating, of course. But there's also the author as an "organizing intelligence one feels operating behind a work of fiction" that's generated by the act of reading the narrative, and that act is going to vary by and depend on the reader/audience.

Anyway, this one's a keeper.

Christopher Tolkien has displayed to the world both the monumental quantities of material his father had to work with, and the fact that J. R. R. Tolkien was totally making shit up as he went along in writing The Lord of the Rings. So when I say, two paragraphs up, that "Tolkien" is doing something, I'm not talking about John Ronald Reuel, Oxford don. I'm in fact doing something incredibly sloppy: conflating the author as narrative construct with the author as historically-extant person.

This is what gets beginning literature students in trouble, time and time again. They talk about what Shakespeare wants us to learn from, for instance, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and are bewildered when told that they can't possibly know that. And I know why they're confused; it's because their professors are using the exact same language, talking about what "Shakespeare" "does" in this speech or that scene. And when you're using exactly the same signifier, how do you explain that you're talking about two diametrically opposed things?

This is the same problem I have with biographical criticism: this conflation between the historically-extant person and the narrative construct, the assumption that the latter can be used to deduce the former, and the assumption that that's a good or useful thing to do.

But wait! you cry, clutching your head. Dr. Monette, you're an author! Are you saying you don't exist? Or that you have no authorial intent?

And, of course, I'm saying no such thing. But I'm saying that deducing my authorial intent from my narrative products is an iffy proposition at best.

Let's do a smallish diagram.


The AUTHOR--the historically-extant person, like William Shakespeare or J. R. R. Tolkien or me--generates a NARRATIVE Which in turn gets read by a broad spectrum of other historically-extant persons (AUDIENCE). Now, it's easy to see that the narrative generates an audience (AUDIENCE1) which may or may not have anything to do with the individual historically-extant persons (AUDIENCE) who pick the book up and read it (I've posted about this in connection with James Bond, because I am not the audience Fleming's narrative generates.) But the thing is that the narrative, in the act of being read, also generates an AUTHOR1, that is the organizing intelligence one feels operating behind a work of fiction.


This is where students get in trouble--and professors, too, if they get careless or obsessive--in assuming that the AUTHOR1 which the NARRATIVE generates is identical to the AUTHOR who generates the NARRATIVE.

We don't know what Shakespeare meant. Or what he wanted us to learn. Or if any of the Cool Shit that modern scholars find in his work is in there because the historically-extant Shakespeare deliberately put it in. But that doesn't mean the Cool Shit isn't there (the other mistake students commonly make). Because the thing is, the AUTHOR is not inextricably yoked, wedded, or otherwise affixed to the NARRATIVE, any more than the AUDIENCE is. (AUDIENCES change.) But the AUTHOR1 and the AUDIENCE1 are, because they are part of the NARRATIVE.

When we talk about what Shakespeare does, in this speech or that scene, when we talk about what Tolkien is doing in The Lord of the Rings, we aren't talking about the AUTHOR. We're talking about the AUTHOR1--which could be described in a bunch of other ways, including the fact that, as a species, Homo sapiens has some seriously kickass pattern-recognition software. AUTHOR1 is shorthand, which gets shorthanded in turn down into "Shakespeare" or "Tolkien." Or, I suppose, "Monette."

It's the same thing I do when I talk about genres "wanting" things or "believing" things or "asserting" things. I'll talk about narratives in the same way, if you watch me real close. The genre is just as much a construct generated by a group of narratives as the author is a construct generated by a single narrative. It's just easier to talk about them if you give them intentionality. And it points to the uneasy gray cloudy no man's land between the constructor and the thing constructed. Because the current does flow both ways. And you don't do yourself any favors if you forget about that, if you try to divorce them entirely, any more than you do yourself a favor by conflating AUTHOR and AUTHOR1.

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Dunnett - Different journeys require different narratives

Jan. 23rd, 2007 | 12:23 am

I think part of reason for the difference in the way Dunnett handles drama and tension is that Lymond is always Lymond -- his journey is to become increasingly lost and to find his way back with a little help from his friends. The young man we meet in GoK has certainly been through hell and back by the end of CM, and the lessons he's learned allow him to come to terms with himself and the world. But at the end he's still the man we first met in terms of values, moral code, and the talents he brings to facing the world. So the tension leading up to reveals and the reveals themselves concern changes -- what he does or feels and what happens to him -- that can occur suddenly with a huge impact on him and others, but Lymond remains himself. Dunnett's narrative techniques build the impact of the blows (good and bad) that Lymond experiences, and that send him further and further away from himself and home and then bring him back.

By contrast, Nicholas is always in the process of becoming, always evolving. Nicholas has to invent all those things Lymond already has: his sense of self, his values and moral code, his family, his homeland, etc. Most of the things that are revealed in HoN, and the events through which each reveal occurs, are merely stages in the process of Nicholas' own self-creation. So Dunnett chooses narrative techniques that reflect that "coming into focus" of the character, both for himself and for readers.

The overriding question for Lymond is whether he will find himself again. The overriding question for Nicholas is who he will become. So might we say the drama in HoN comes less from the focused theatrical intensity of moments and their aftermath as in LC, and more from the process of Nicholas's self-definition. The tension comes less from the build-up to pivots in a linear plot line of going and returning as in LC, and more from how Nicholas is sent down a variety of new paths, whether by his own choice or by others' actions, along his journey to a new place.

From post on Claes at Yahoo!Groups.

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Dunnett -- Narrative tension and reveals

Jan. 23rd, 2007 | 12:14 am

First in a (hopefully) series of musings on differences in narrative approach in Dorothy Dunnett's Lymond Chronicles and The House of Niccolò.

In her two historical series, the Lymond Chronicles and The House of Niccolò, Dorothy Dunnett takes quite different approaches to dealing with emotional epiphanies or plot reveals (disclosure of important facts that change the reader's or characters' understanding of what's been going on). LC and HoN use distinctive story-telling techniques or plot mechanics with quite different effects. Let's see if I can articulate the difference, and then apply it to a comparison of the Nicholas/Gelis and Lymond/Philippa love stories.

In the LC, the big reveals and emotional epiphanies are sudden and are instantly transforming. It's like a 3-dimensional jigsaw puzzle, and one of the pieces is put in a different place at a different angle. Suddenly the entire shape of the puzzle takes on a totally different appearance for both the readers and the characters. Philippa learning the true identity of Lymond's father at Hotel des Spheres. The "anvil" moment on the Thames for Lymond. The end of the Lyons chase for Philippa. The marriage document at the end of Checkmate.

In HoN, these sorts of moments aren't revolutionary in the same sort of way. They're more like bringing into focus things that already are swimming around in the field of vision. When Gelis reads the letter to Thibault, she's not suddenly learning something she never considered before. It's more that she can no longer deny the evidence that's been before her since Nicholas returned to her from Timbuktu. There are many reasons why she put up emotional barriers to acceptance of the bond that ties the two of them, but by now many of those barriers have been eroded, especially after Treves. Nicholas's letter breaks down what's left of those barriers.

The HoN's more gradual, accumulative, evolutionary approach to changes in the perceptions of the characters (and of the readers) works especially well for the relationships, particularly the Nicholas/Gelis love story. That's why I've come in some ways to prefer it to the Lymond/Philippa love story, which is more of a classic "romance" that's less complex and, might I say, less adult.

Nicholas and Gelis really have to work their way through a lot of their own identities and feelings about each other to define the sort of love they have for each other which will support the relationship they enjoy at the end. Neither Lymond nor Philippa have doubts about what they feel for the other -- once each falls in love, the love itself is never questioned or threatened by the other's actions or feelings. They each question their own ability to adequately meet what their beloved needs from them, but the tension is over whether they will get together in the end, not over whether they love.

By contrast, when we compare the way the two series handle the sudden reveals of "facts", those plot points in LC are, for me, both more important and more effective dramatically than those in HoN. The reveals in LC are total head-snappers, which Dunnett achieves by using mystery-style techniques to create and sustain tension or suspense leading up to each reveal. By contrast, in HoN the tension about key plot questions isn't maintained as tightly. The more gradual, diffuse,
coming-into-focus style of HoN isn't as suited for 180-degree plot shifts, which depend on sustaining and heightening tension.

So when a key plot line gets resolved in HoN -- Treves, Anna, Julius -- I find the reveals to have far less dramatic impact than similar sorts of plot devices in LC. For example, when we learn about Julius it comes as a surprise (at least for most of us). Thinking back, it explains some episodes we either didn't pick up on or we thought we understood differently. But the tale as a whole doesn't suddenly pivot on its axis as it does, for example, when we learn that Francis Crawford, Lymond's grandfather, was actually his father or when the "mystery" in Game of Kings is resolved at the trial.

Dunnett certainly didn't write the two series the same way. Different stories, different characters, and different thematic material required different techniques -- prose style, style and use of dialogue, ways POV is used and manipulated, plot mechanics, and so forth. Both series are certifiably page-turners, but the ways she drives you to turn the page (and grab the next volume as soon as you finish the last one) are different in the two series, and so are the experiences we have when we reach those key epiphanies or reveals.

From post on Claes at Yahoo!Groups.

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Line of direction

Jan. 22nd, 2007 | 01:01 pm

Nice useful definition from matociquala:

What it means is the sustained line of the reader's attention; the subtle way the director (in film) or the author (in text) uses craft to guide the focus of the reader smoothly through the narrative. It encompasses a lot of tools: in film, cuts, closeups, focus, reaction shots. In writing, transitions, paragraph and sentence hooks, rhythmical and metrical tricks, bits of linking dialogue. In other words, when done well, it guides the reader safely through the shoals of reading, and when done poorly, it can cause him to get left behind in the starting gate, bumped coming out, or stumble and go down under an avalanche of hooves.

And she gives a neat little example.

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Lymond Chronicles - Wikipedia

Jan. 21st, 2007 | 08:43 pm

Here's my first crack at the section titled Overview and Francis Crawford of Lymond in of the Wikipedia article for Dorothy Dunnett's Lymond Chronicles without the wikilinks.

The Lymond Chronicles -- six historical novels by Dorothy Dunnett -- are set between 1547 and 1558 in Scotland, England, France, Malta, Russia, and the Ottoman Empire, particularly Constantinople and the Mediterranean coasts and islands of North Africa and what are now Greece, Syria and Turkey.

The historical setting, which provides many plot elements and prominent characters for the novels, is the incessant jockeying for position through treaties, alliances of convenience, political marriages, wars, and even piracy, among the English Tudors, the Holy Roman Empire of the Habsburgs, the French Valois, the Ottoman Empire of Suleyman the Magnificent, and their respective secular and religious allies, including the Stewarts of Scotland, the Knights of St. John, the corsairs of North Africa, and even Tsar Ivan the Terrible. Each of the six books has several theatres of action with the exception of the first, The Game of Kings, which takes place almost exclusively in the Scottish Lowlands and the Borders with England.

The novels examine the high politics and culture of each court and its nobility as monarchies centralized their power; the intensifying controversies over the Reformation; implications of the Age of Discovery for political and economic power and knowledge; and the blurred boundaries between faith and reason in religion, esoterica such as alchemy and astrology, and science. In addition, the large number of women in positions of political power during this period -- as rulers in their own name, as regents, as strong wives or mistresses of kings, or as heirs to thrones -- offers fascinating female historical characters for the exploration of women's roles.

Over the course of the six volumes, readers follow the life and career of the charismatic Francis Crawford of Lymond, the younger son of the Crawfords of Culter, members of the landed aristocracy of the Scottish Lowlands. Brought up according to the Renaissance ideal of an educated autodidact, he is a polyglot, knowledgeable in literature, philosophy, mathematics and the sciences, a practitioner of all the martial arts, a spell-binding musician, a talented thespian, and a master strategist with a genius for imaginative tactics.

An intensely private but very public man, he is a non-conformist who is suspicious of causes, political or religious. He is driven by his demanding personal code of behavior and responsibility regardless of whether he meets society's expectations or rules. Though a cosmopolitan military leader, diplomat or spy, he has an abiding feeling for his home country of Scotland. Despite his reluctance to relinquish his cherished independence and align permanently with any nation's ruler, Lymond's professional reputation increasingly makes him a sought-after ally, or a foe to be avoided, by most of the crowned heads of Europe. Still, it is only for goals he believes in strongly that he will deploy his glittering and commanding persona, quicksilver mind, talent for dissembling what he thinks or feels, and rapier tongue; and once he dedicates himself to a goal, his will is implacable.

In his personal life, Lymond has an unusual ability to inspire intense loyalty and even love in those who are attracted to him. But the Crawford family's history begins to produce more and more tensions, and these conflicts are exacerbated by the weakness, shared by Lymond with most of his family, of immense pride and a stubborn refusal to explain the reasons for their actions.

The Lymond Chronicles is a dramatic and suspenseful tale of adventure and romance. It is also an odyssey: the story of how an arrogant, brilliant, but troubled individualist, though increasingly successful professionally, becomes alienated and isolated as a result of searing experiences in battles with forces he can't control as well as with himself; and how he ultimately becomes reconciled with his country, his family and friends, and himself. As the story proceeds, the interweaving of the intricate plot with the psychology of the richly developed, multi-layered characters becomes increasingly complex. Dunnett's prose is striking and often poetic, filled with allusions to literature, music, philosophy, religion and myth. She paints on a large historical canvas, with fine details based on meticulous research in hundreds of primary and secondary sources.

Although each of the six books has a distinctive structure and style, the six books together are a single story and are best read in chronological order to appreciate both plot and characters. However, each of the first two books can be read as a self-contained novel. The endings of the third, fourth and fifth novels have no real resolution; they are quasi-cliffhangers that lead directly to the story taken up in the next book. Later books also contain major plot spoilers for earlier books.

The six parts of the Lymond Chronicles are part of what Dunnett viewed as a larger fourteen-volume work, which includes the eight novels of The House of Niccolò series. The House of Niccolò, which was written after the Lymond Chronicles, tells the tale of Lymond's ancestors in the previous century and includes allusions to events in the Lymond Chronicles. Dunnett recommended readers begin with the Lymond Chronicles and then read The House of Niccolò.

As with the Lymond Chronicles, the The House of Niccolò features a number of historical persons, many as important characters. Both the historical and fictional characters are, however, taken from a wider variety of occupations and social classes than in the Lymond Chronicles -- if the Lymond Chronicles is history from the top down, The House of Niccolò is history from the bottom up. There are significant differences in narrative approach and writing style between the series, reflecting in part the very different personal journey taken by the central character in each.

The whole thing needs a bit of tightening, and the last para comparing the LC to HofN still needs some work. Update: Last para slightly revised Jan 22 2007.

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Trollope's The Bertrams - The Narrator's Voice

Jan. 20th, 2007 | 10:07 pm

It's been at least 15 years since The Bertrams made its way onto my shelves, and I find I'm returning to it as if I were reading it for the first time. It is, however, a great pleasure to hear Trollope's familiar voice.

I'm wondering about the extent to which we're hearing Trollope's own voice versus his putting himself into, and speaking through, a quasi-fictionalized or invented Narrator character or persona.

The reader's reaction to the Narrator's voice is so pivotal to The Bertrams -- especially for the opening chapters. The novel's structure and narrative techniques certainly don't comply with the "rules for writers" we've become familiar with for getting readers involved in a story. The early chapters are one huge "info dump." Rather than "show, don't tell," Trollope luxuriates in page after page of "tell, don't show." The "action" doesn't really launch until "Jerusalem" (Ch 6). Everything before that is either backstory, setting the stage for the action to begin, or Arthur's tale. Most of the early "action" is limited to what are fairly minor episodes that help introduce characters or illustrate the points he's making about society.

The principal exception is Arthur's tale. But Arthur doesn't reappear in any meaningful fashion until hundreds of pages later. The main purpose of Arthur's early appearance is to create a telling contrast with George. George may be having his troubles, but by comparison to the pickle Arthur finds himself in, for talented George the world is his oyster. What befalls him is going to be seen as, in a great many ways, his own damned fault.

Yet for all the lack of "action," we're instantly engaged in Trollope's story. And the key is the Narrator's voice. We immediately feel we're on intimate terms with that sardonic persona. He's witty, sometimes catty or gossipy -- always an acute observer taking great pleasure in the act of observing. His occasional bitter tone, however, reminds us that this is not going to be a sugary tale when everything turns out for the best. There will be inimical societal forces that bring their full weight to bear on the characters. Still, his ironic humor and his obvious affection for his characters tell us we're going to enjoy the journey he's taking us on.

The Narrator revels in the act of telling the story and makes us sort of co-conspirators in the decisions he makes about what to tell and how. We share the Narrator's sense of superiority when he explains why his tale won't have any tricks like Mrs Radcliffe's. (Ch 13, p 161): "The age for such delights is, I think, gone." Or later, we nod wisely in agreement when he excuses a jump of two years in the tale: "It is a terrible gap in a story; but in these days the unities are not much considered, and a hiatus which would formerly have been regarded as a fault utterly fatal is now no more than a slight impropriety. " (Ch 16 p 195) Aren't we "modern" sophisticates, we congratulate ourselves.

The Narrator's sharing of his narrative strategies also creates lots of variety. He deliberately uses different techniques to introduce each of his principal characters. For example, his openly-declared decision not to describe Adela, his prima donna, and to give us extensive descriptions of his primissima donna, Carolina, is a delight. We become entertained by watching how he will tell us his story, not only by the story itself.

But it's also a distancing technique. Though we will develop considerable sympathies for the characters, and may at times get caught up in the emotional drama of the tale, we'll never lose a certain detachment that will be required for evaluating the moral dimensions of the story and the behavior of its characters.

Originally posted on Yahoo!Groups trollope-l list.

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Le Comte de Monte Cristo

Aug. 11th, 2006 | 09:01 pm

Made it through the first sitting of Le Comte de Monte Cristo (1998) French mini-series. Mixed reaction re story changes, casting and production values. A number of things I wasn't thrilled by are probably a function of Depardieu as Edmond Dantes and the "force of nature" he brings, which isn't the coiled watchspring of Dumas' Comte.

There are, however, some terrific scenes -- some with Depardieu but a number without him. Particularly strong -- they simply grab the screen -- are Pierre Arditi as Villefort and Christopher Thompson as Maxmillien. The rather wooden and fairly clunky opening segments to get the story launched are soon forgotten when they show up.

Pierre ArditiArditi especially drives the movie. The story has been pruned significantly to focus on the destruction of Villefort rather than the intricate subplots concering Danglars and Fernand. Villefort isn't a villain as much as a deeply complex and flawed man, with lots of levels that conflict with each other. Too bad they didn't make more of his relation with his father, though that would have demanded more "young Villefort," which was kept to a minimum. But the confrontation with the murderous Heloise (Helene Vincent) outdid Dumas in cutting emotions. And Stanislas Merhar is a breathtakingly beautiful and plausibly intense Albert (similarly gorgeous opposite Isabel Adjani in Adolphe (2002))

Thought I recognized Arditi -- he was with Depardieu and Nicole Garcia in Alain Renais' Mon Oncle d'Amerique. Looking through his bios, turns out he has been one of Renais' favorite actors. I'd like to try to get my hands on the adaptation of Alan Ackroyd's Smoking/Non-Smoking.

Given Christopher Thompson's presence and natural ease, I was surprised to find he hasn't done all that much in front of the camera -- in the past decade more as a screenwriter, often on films directed by or involving his mother, Daniele Thompson. Though he's appearing in a new film, Fauteuils d'orchestra, which he wrote with his mother, who also directed.

On the production side, the film suffered from my having spent the prior evening immersed in Kingdom of Heaven, which is a heavenly feast for eyes and ears -- the Directors Cut, which is 40+ minutes longer and a completely different and quite magnificent movie. That said, the Comte's visuals were strong for a made-for-TV series -- the locations are no-brainers, but they used them well especially in the crowd scenes (e.g. Paris parks), the sets and costumes were of fairly high quality, and the camera moved pretty well. Lighting was occasionally a bit awkward, but not distracting. But the sound! Oy! Terrible balance between dialogue and the rest of the sound, especially Foley or body movements (fabric, footsteps, horses etc). And the music oscillated between annoying and boring. But hey, it's TV.

It will be interesting to compare to the new movie (2002) directed by Kevin Reynolds. The main plot line is Fernand and Mercedes. A totally different tale!
UPDATE: Fauteuils d'orchestra is the French entry for the 2007 Academy Awards.

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Jul. 18th, 2006 | 07:49 pm

A couple of interesting sites on swashbuckling, dueling.

By the founder of LibraryThing, Tim Spaulding, Duels and Dueling on the Web.

On the Legends site, a section on Swashbucklers and fops -- links to fiction (Prisoner of Zenda, Scarlet Pimpernel...), and separate pages with gobs of links on Swordplay, Rapier & dagger, and Dumas. And while we're on Dumas, online text (French) of Vingt ans apres.

Over the past month or so, in a number of very different contexts, I keep coming across high praise for Ridley Scott's first feature, The Duellists. Looks like I may have to break down a buy that one.

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