Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Bright, brighter, brightest



I'm not feeling too well this week to be honest. Is it just the thought of the StAnza poetry festival and all those poets clamouring that brings me out in a rash? No, it can't be...

Anyway I have been watching films to take my mind off other things. I watched 'An Education' and enjoyed it - she really is a captivating actress in the lead role and indeed all the casting is excellent (Alfred Molina as crap Dad is especially good). It's full of lines about how 'I simply must go to Oxford' (not an actual line) but as long as you can cope with that you'll be OK.

Then yesterday I watched 'Bright Star' - Jane Campion's movie about John Keats (1795-1821) and Fanny Brawne. It's a very beautiful film (as you might expect) and it's slow and meandering and shows you a fair amount of boredom, frustration and stupidity early 19th century style. The lead actors are very, very watchable - almost as pretty as the bluebells. A while back I did read the Andrew Motion biography of Keats that Campion worked with but I can't say I enjoyed reading that as much as I did his Larkin biography (but then Motion actually knew Larkin so that probably helped the book have more life). What I did enjoy in this film though were quotes from Keats about poetry (in the film they come out as he tries to teach Fanny about his art). Here are a few:

"A poet is not at all poetical. He is the most unpoetical thing in existence. He has no identity, is continually filling some other body...the sun, the moon..."

"Poetic craft is a carcass, a sham. If poetry does not come as naturally as leaves to a tree than it better not come at all."

"A poem needs understanding through the senses. The point of diving in a lake is not immediately to swim to the shore but to be in the lake, to luxuriate in the sensation of water. You do not work the lake out...it is an experience beyond thought. Poetry soothes and emboldens the soul to accept mystery."


And then he died (more or less).

x

30 comments:

The Solitary Walker said...

Marvellous quotes. I haven't seen the film. Perhaps I should.

Rachel Fox said...

I think it's probably one of those films that you really have to be in the right mood for it. And the bigger the screen you can get to the better...the visuals are worth it.

Mostly it is a love story with the focus more on Fanny than John (and as a child of 'Carry On' I struggled with my sniggers at the 'marry our Fanny, John' lines of course). There are some good words from Keats' friend Charles Brown too (along the 'we may like we're loafing about but we're working' lines) but I didn't write them down and the dvd's gone back now). Plus I have loafing to do.
x

Poetikat said...

I saw "An Education" with Kev and my mom. Neither of them liked it very much, but I really did. Although, I have to say the "banana" scene got me a bit squirmy in the presence of my mom.

I own the dvd of "Bright Star" and it's still awaiting a watch. I really need to be in the mood for Keats, I find.

Have you seen "Pandemonium"? It's a bit o.t.t. on the madness end of it, but the depiction of Dorothy Wordsworth is quite interesting. I own that one as well, but I bought it before I knew anything much about it. I just liked the actors and thought it might be worthwhile. Worth a look in any case.

Hope you feel better soon.

Kat

Rachel Fox said...

My Mum did like 'An Education' but watched it in her own sitting room (we're all in the same house but have two sitting rooms - one for her and one for us). Mark didn't watch it and I was glad...it wouldn't have been his thing at all!

And yes, the banana...I can think of phallic shaped things that I'd rather try (especially for a first time!). I loved her line when they finally did get round to the grand act.

There's not really that much Keats in 'Bright Star' in some ways. It's about the era, love, fashion, women, family...as much as it's about him. There is quite a lot of his poetry in the film but sometimes read too quick for my taste. For me there are some poems that work read quickly but on the whole I think if the listener is struggling to keep up then they can't possibly be taking in much else beyond 'eh, what was that word, hang on a minute...'.

x

Sorlil said...

I wasn't all that interested in seeing An Education until I read the comments, lol. I like the quotes, especially the last one. I really like Keats' poetry but the film sounds like a bit of a bore, don't think there's a hope in hell I could convince my other half to watch it!

Ken Armstrong said...

I saw 'Dear Frankie' recently and thought you might like it.

I've had to change my lunch plan... only gonna get four-a-day today I guess. :)

Rachel Fox said...

There's something very joyful about 'An Education'...and a lot of that is down to the lead actress (and how she's filmed I suppose). There's not much story to it but there are some great moments (one of them provided by the marvellous Emma Thompson but I won't spoil it for you in case you do ever see it).

And I wouldn't call 'Bright Star' a bore...though no, my man wouldn't watch it either (well, not unless I tied him to a chair in front of it...and then he'd fall asleep). I suspect you would like it, Sorlil (though of course I might be wrong). Mark and I watch lots of films and TV separately and I think that's quite healthy. I don't think couples should restrict each other's viewing!

I have noticed that that movie has been on TV I think, Ken. Maybe I'll record it next time it's on.

x

Rachel Fox said...

Oh and re the fruit...go carefully!
x

shug said...

Here lies one whose name was writ in water

Poor Jock Keats.

Never mind Stanza. Come to Wigtown in October.

Rachel Fox said...

I have tickets for a couple of StAnza events but only quick day trips this time and no sitting around trying to sell stuff. Plus I have posters for April to put up.

Wigtown is a long way from here! And October a long time off...

x

Poetikat said...

Oh yes! Emma Thompson is ideal in that role and if it's the scene/line I'm thinking of, it's cutting to the quick, as they say.

Kat

Poetikat said...

P.S. Re: the banana I should think it would depend on whether or not it was peeled.

Rachel Fox said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rachel Fox said...

That was weird...your comments didn't appear for ages, Kat...but now I see them!

That's quite enough about bananas, I think. And the Emma Thompson line...'twas the Jesus moment that did it for me.

x

Titus said...

Great quotes, I thought, but I wasn't tempted by either film on release. Thinking twice about "An Education" now though.
I am of the Carry On generation, hence Fanny in a film is never going to work for me.
Listen to shug. You can go to Wigtown, Cinderella...
And I'm not going to StAnza at all.

Rachel Fox said...

I might be wrong but I think you would enjoy 'An Education', T. Lots of old London town for a start. And some very funny bits.
x

Rachel Fox said...

As for seeing things 'on release'...we're so far from a cinema here that it's dvds all the way for me. We make the trip for kids films sometimes (because cinema is one of nearly-ten-now's favourite things) but I never make the trip for me.
x

Titus said...

It takes a supreme effort for us as well (childcare being the big issue) but I have booked 2 tickets for "Shutter Island" and I am going, come hell or high water. Which, strangely, is what the film is mostly about, I believe...

Rachel Fox said...

Interesting. Speaking of Scorsese I watched 'the Age of Innocence' (Scorsese 1993) the other day with my Mum. It's not unlike 'Bright Star' in the whole 'look but don't touch very much love story'.
x

martine frampton said...

I loved 'Bright Star', just beautiful, so intense, so sensual.
Mind you I came home and looked her up, and it turns out she married and had children, so I doubt she wore his ring for the rest of her life, a bit of sentimental poetic licence:-)
Mind you have also watched recently 'Nora', about James Joyce and his wife Nora Barnacle, and 'The edge of love' about Dylan Thomas and his wife and Vera Phillips, and I think that perhaps she got off lightly, as living your life with a literary genius is not all it's cracked up to be. Been planning a post on this subject for some time, just getting my head round it.
thanks for sharing
martine

Rachel Fox said...

Yes Martine the film did leave you thinking that she spent the rest of her life alone and pining for him and I too looked it up today and thought 'eh?'

But the end was very powerful...I wept a bucket!

x

Rachel Fox said...

Admittedly it doesn't take much to make me cry!
x

Eryl Shields said...

I want to watch Bright Star right now, and I hadn't even heard of it before reading this. An Education is on my list already, though talk of the banana has got me worried. I'll definitely watch it alone.

Rachel Fox said...

They're both worth a watch, Eryl. And the banana bit isn't too shocking in 'An Education'...not at all. It's rated 12A (apparently the new rating - used to be just 12).

Call back in and tell me what you think of them both if you do watch them, won't you?

x

Dave King said...

I agree: the quotes are wonderful - especially the last.

A Cuban In London said...

"A poet is not at all poetical. He is the most unpoetical thing in existence. He has no identity, is continually filling some other body...the sun, the moon..."

I feel ambivalent about this one. Does he mean that the poet is a vehicle through we channel our emotions? Or is he implying that the poet casts off that identity in order to aspire to a higher canon?

I love Keats and I love Campion (minus 'In The Cut'). This one's been on my Lovefilm list for quite a while now, since it came out on DVD. After your review, I look forward to it more. Many thanks.

Greetings from London.

Rachel Fox said...

Cuban - I guess (and it is a guess) that this quote is suggesting that the poet themselves is not of any particular interest...it is the work that is of interest, not the poet's life. This is, of course, ruined by the fact that we are writing about a film about a poet and about what a poet said (rather than his poetry)...but I still think the sentiment is worth considering.

x

Rachel Fox said...

And I am no Keats scholar (or even particular fan). So alternative versions welcome.
x

Rachel Fox said...

And rereading it again I'd say it is also saying that the best poetry can be written by someone who is not thinking of themselves...but who is instead thinking about their subject matter (presuming that subject matter is not themselves...). They should be so closely involved with the particular tree (or whatever that they are writing about) that they should almost become part of that tree. Always fancied being a tree myself.
x

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