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Artist of the Year 2022: Jane Austen

Pride & Prejudice 2005

Curious how this feels to people who didn’t read the book, as I find it moves through plot points with great speed. I didn’t mind, as I’m familiar with them, and it let the film focus on those it cared more about (without dropping important arcs).

Above all, the expressionistic details are what make me love this. The moment of isolation in the crowded ball. The muffled embarassing conversations of family. A sudden downpour upon learning an unfortunate truth. Day passing into night in a long glance at a mirror. The rapid passing of uneventful seasons on a swing.

Still from Pride & Prejudice

Bride & Prejudice 2004

Situating Darcy’s pride in the distinction between America and India is an interesting approach, but this doesn’t pull it off. His weird judgements just get forgotten without ever being resolved directly.

Lalita’s particular flavor of outspokenness is a great rendition of Lizzie in a modern context. Freed of most period propriety, she gets to deliver great barbs about “India without Indians” and America after 60 years “killing eachother over slavery”. The character implied by those lines isn’t the one on the screen, though.

Still from Bride & Prejudice

Bridget Jones's Diary 2001

Still from Bridget Jones's Diary

Pride and Prejudice 1995

Perhaps the best example I know of a “videobook”. While there are some bits removed, and others added, this is basically a book-on-screen. The book is also low of physical action, so being visible on screen largely means embodying the narration in setting, but all action in the book is dialogue, which translates directly into a series of close-ups.

Still from Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice 1940

2/3rds of a good movie. After that point, the movie excises, collapses, and rewrites a lot of plot points that ultimately harm the overall story. Lizzy falls in love for basically no reason, Darcy learns nothing. Rejecting faithfulness is fine so long as you actually improve something other than runtime.

Mary benefits quite a bit from being on the screen. We see/hear her remarkably little in the text. Being on the screen lets us indulge in the way she is where narration falls short.

Still from Pride and Prejudice

Emma. 2020

Rewatched with commentary by Autumn de Wille, Eleanor Catton, and Christopher Blauvelt

Also rewatched at home on my own TV, rather than my parents’. This helped me appreciate all the lovely textural detail in the costumes and settings much more.

Still from Emma.

Emma. 2020

Emma as vibes. It’s remarkable how little dialogue is preserved in this version, resulting in relationships that I don’t quite buy. In fact, this entirely drops the Emma-Frank dynamic.

Watching the deleted scenes, there are a number of dialogue heavy scenes that were shot, but ultimately left out. This places a greater emphasis on physical acting (Joy in particular is great at expressing irritation in her face and hands), but leaves much of the plot unmotivated.

Gorgeous textiles everywhere. They cut out Mr Woodhouse’s best line (the shawl).

Still from Emma.

Emma 2009

Emma is insufficiently unpleasant here. While reading the novel, I complained to anyone who would listen of how terrible Emma Woodhouse was. This isn’t that same person.

The 4 hours is used to mixed results. It makes the development of the relationships feel more genuine, where in the shorter adaptations they’re unbelievable. But this runtime is padded with new material that doesn’t need to be there (such as Mr. Martin discussing “expansion” plans with Mr. Knightley). The audience need not witness everything.

Mr. Woodhouse is too serious.

Still from Emma

Emma 1996

Strikes me as overtly interested in faithfulness. To the period, which is perhaps the only reason to make Kate Beckinsale wear such an ugly hat. And to the material, with its being largely a vehicle for dialogue. It doesn’t do much with its visual elements other than perform faithfulness to the period, though some of that may be the made-for-TV scale/budget.

I appreciated the very explicitly funny Mr. Woodhouse, and how this version succeeds in making visible the staff who support the characters’ lifestyles (most notably in the scene of the dropped lounge chair).

Still from Emma

Clueless 1995

Enertaining for those who don’t know it’s based on Emma (as was the case for my first time watching), but even stronger for those that have. The Mrs. Elton analogue doesn’t get much time here as Mrs. Elton, but knowing her eventual fate makes all her scenes funnier.

Most of all, I like how playful the movie is about the prestige of literary reference: “tis a far far better thing doing stuff for other people”

Still from Clueless

Emma 1996

This has grown on me as I’ve watched more adaptations since. The middle part has some excellent editing. Both cutting as ellipsis to show the passage of time, in a way that would be a challenge in written form, as well as cutting for humor, to give us greater access to Emma’s interior thoughts without relying directly on voice over.

Still from Emma