Sunday, September 20, 2009

Bright Star

While in line for Jane Campion’s new film Bright Star, the man behind me asked his female companion, “Bright Star…what’s that about?” and she answered, “Some period piece. A chick flick love story with corsets and no sense of humor.” Her short review was spot on, but I’d add there is much to like about the film and the thoughtful way Campion tells a story.

The film portrays the romance that develops between vibrant Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish) and the struggling poet John Keats (Ben Whishaw) who meet as neighbors. It is no small feat to create the gentrified world of 1800’s England and to write believable dialogue for its restrained and hyper-polite society. Equally challenging, to breathe life into the poetry of Keats for an audience unfamiliar with the music of an emotive recitation of his odes and sonnets. Campion achieves all of this with a languid, painterly approach. Although Fanny knows little about poetry and John has no interest in her passion for designing clothing and hats, they have a shared need for quiet reflection and solitude. Over time, he studies and admires her spirit and outspokenness and she reveres his focus on writing and deep fascination of nature. To love with respect and admiration, and to long for the voice and presence of another kindred spirit may disappoint the viewer who equates great passion with sexual lust. Bright Star is undeniably chaste, but I found it also intoxicating.

Incidentally, no woman has ever won an Oscar for Best Director and only three have been nominated: Lina Wertmuller, Jane Campion and Sofia Coppola. Finally, the couple in line behind me bought tickets for Mike Judge’s movie Extract, also a love story laced with tragedy and longing but definitely a horse of a different color.

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