Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Voyage to 'Bright Star'

I went to see the movie "Bright Star." I never go to the movies any more. Leonard Pennario would be ashamed of me because I have not kept up our streak.

"Bright Star" had lots of nice clothing in that Beethoven time period. I did not use to like those empire-waist gowns but after oodles of Jane Austen movies and now this one, I have decided I do. Those filmy white skirts and those Kate Greenaway puffy little sleeves. They would make me look nice.

One mystery about "Bright Star" was how in the muddy 18th century they were able to keep those filmy dresses so blindingly white. I mean, look.

"Bright Star" was like Martha Stewart magazine come to life. It was full of sewing and crafts and beautiful penmanship and paper folding and in one scene, a scene I loved, they had created a butterfly farm. These butterflies were all over the place, beautiful iridescent blue butterflies.

The main theme was a vocal version of a beautiful adagio from a Mozart wind serenade. I do not think they gave Mozart enough credit. All you see is "Music by so-and-so," as if this guy, whoever he is, wrote that unearthly theme. You do get Mozart's name eventually but it is at small print at the absolute end of the credits and the piece is listed as just one of many pieces of music used in the movie.

Fie, I say.

They should have said in big letters, "Main theme adapted from Mozart's Wind Serenade which, you should have guessed no ordinary mortal could write a theme like this."

They should have run that first thing, too, before listing any of the stars.

What a theme that is. That pulse in the background, like a heartbeat.

Anyway that was one thing wrong with "Bright Star," not giving Mozart enough credit. Also there was not enough poetry. You sort of forgot who Keats was after a while. In the absence of poetry I began hoping to hear more about his girlfriend Fanny Brawne's fashion ambitions. But they did not explore that either. All you saw was her parading around in an endless variety of gowns and stylish coats.

Plus the movie was too long. It was so long I could not believe it. Here is something funny, at the end while I was waiting to see if Mozart got any credit, I noticed the editing credit, and it was an outfit called "Guillotine."

Guillotine should have chopped more!

Another thing, the actor playing Keats just did not convince you that a poem like "Ode to a Nightingale" could possibly have come out of his head. I do not know if it would be possible for an actor to play Keats and make it convincing. It is like asking an actor to play Mozart or Schubert. You need that genius in the eyes, I would imagine. And who has that kind of genius except for Mozart and Schubert and Keats themselves? Not the guy at the top of this post, I will say that.

When I was a teen-ager I loved "Ode to a Nightingale."

Darkling I listen, and for many a time
I have been half in love with easeful Death
Called him soft names in many a mused rhyme
To take into the air my quiet breath

I did not even have to look that up. Because I loved it so much when I was a kid. The nuns knew that when they put us on poems like this in high school. They knew that being 15- or 16-year-old girls, we would just swoon. And we did.

We fell in love with Keats and one thing a group of us did was get obsessed with his poem "The Eve of St. Agnes." We decided to re-create it, to do what the young woman in the poem did. Her name was Madeline. "This is no dream, my bride, my Madeline!" After all these years, that poem is all coming back to me!

That is a supernatural story for you, how one night about six of us, we re-created The Eve of St. Agnes. I will have to get to that. I could not do it justice this morning.

Reminds you, Keats was not much older than we were. The same things that appealed to him appealed to us. I was thinking last night, I associate Keats with Franz Schubert. They both lived at the same time, died terribly young (Schubert was 31) and never outgrew that knights-and-ladies stage. Which, that was the time to be into knights and ladies, with Byron and Shelley and Sir Walter Scott. I am always linking to that Schubert song set to a Walter Scott translation. I loved that song, the romantic words, and how Schubert could make you feel the galloping of the knight's horse. I loved it at the same time in my life I loved "Ode to a Nightingale."

Well, who am I kidding. I still love both those things.

I never outgrew that phase either!


Larry said...

Great post today! Loved the Mozart!

Anonymous said...

I applaud your view that Mozart should be credited! My fifteen year old son who is a gifted musician was doing a project on Soundtracks for school. I encouraged him to watch the fiim and write something about the music which I had loved and thought very evocative and appropriate and of course completely addictive and moving....I even downloaded via I-tunes and gave the tracks to him as a gift. We've just opened our Christmas presents and he's presented me with a cd of Mozart and said go listen to the third movement. Lo and behold it's the Adagio from serenade in B Flat composed therefore in (approx) 1780 by Mozart not by Mark Bradshaw...and I was thinking of voting for his work in the Bafta's...I loved the film but it's a disgrace that none of the marketing credits Mozart.
Thank you and thank you to my son for bringing the real thing to life for me on Christmas day.

Mary Kunz Goldman said...

Larry, a belated thank you for your sweet note! As always.

Anonymous, thank you for sharing my outrage over Mozart not being credited in "Bright Star"! And for reading my post about it, which now I can see was long and rambling. Classical music in movies is something I am dicey about. I want people to hear the music and love it but I am so fussy about how it's used. If you see "The Young Victoria" I would be interested in your opinion on that. They use bits and pieces of Schubert's "Serenade." On the bright side Victoria and Albert were talking about Schubert and I thought it was so sweet -- I thought maybe they could have made more use of the piece. As you are a Bafta voter I would love to know what you think. Merry Christmas and congratulations on acquiring that beautiful wind serenade! Thank you so much for the note!

Mary Kunz Goldman said...

p.s. to Anonymous Bafta voter ... re "The Young Victoria," I hate to have to say this but I think the film should be out of the running for any music award because they threw all the atmosphere away as the final credits are rolling by playing this silly pop song. It was so out of place! What were they thinking? Heinous!