17 March 2007

Chocolat (starring Juliette Binoche)

In recent years, I've realised that while adaptations of book on film are often disappointing, they can nonetheless, if well-cast, offer a depth of understanding that is somehow more rounded than the individual impression one gets from a book alone. In addition, movie versions allow me to introduce my husband to stories I have enjoyed which he is unlikely to read.

I had slightly mixed feelings about the book 'Chocolat' by Joanne Harris, which I read a little over a year ago. But, with the small French village location, I thought it could make a good film. Reviews were good, so it went on my wishlist.

The story is similar to that of the book. Juliette Binoche stars as Vianne, which she does in a believable way. Judi Dench is superb as the elderly Armande, estranged from her uptight - and upright - daughter. Johnny Depp makes a wonderful, passionate Roux. The photography is indeed good, and the scenes were set far better in my mind than they had been while reading the book.

The antagonism of the townfolk to this carefree, sensual chocolate-maker is well done, contrasting their rigid style of traditional Christianity with the freedom and luxury that Vianne tries to introduce. In the book, the priest is the most vehemently outspoken against Vianne, the 'bad guy', whereas in the film it's the mayor who is the most unpleasant character; I have to admit that I preferred that; I don't think the book was meant to be anti-Christian, but against rigidity and refusal to acknowledge the joy of life.

Other than that one change for the better, the film kept pretty close to the book, as far as can be done, and we both enjoyed it. The 12 rating (or PG-13 in the US) is probably about right, since there is some sensuality and violence, though nothing too explicit or gory.

Recommended for adults and older teens.

Review copyright Sue's DVD Reviews

08 March 2007

Jane Eyre (starring Sorcha Cusack and Michael Jayston)

Charlotte Bronte's classic novel Jane Eyre has been one of my favourite books ever since I first read it as a young teenager, for English Literature at school. Shortly after I had finished reading it, there was a five-episode BBC television adaptation of the book, which I enjoyed very much; however, there have been many other films made of this classic, and I did not think I would ever be able to watch this particular version again.

So I was delighted when, in 2006, this BBC adaptation of Jane Eyre was finally brought out on DVD. I watched it with my husband and teenage son, just one episode at a time, and we all enjoyed it very much. Knowing the basics of the story in advance (as my husband did) did not spoil it, any more than knowing it well after re-reading several times over the years. There is melodrama, and some moments of extreme tension, even when I knew exactly what was coming.

With an episodic version of a book, made for TV, it's possible to keep much more closely to the original story than can be done with a 90-minute movie. I felt that this series kept very well to Charlotte Bronte's story, omitting little, and including much of the actual text of the book. Michael Jayston is excellent as the craggy Mr Rochester who employs Jane (Sorcha Cusack) as a governess for his ward.

The BBC always seems to do a superb job with period drama of this kind, even with a limited budget, and I was very glad to have been able to watch this again.

Definitely recommended. Rated PG in the UK, and unrated in the USA, but unlikely to be of much interest to children under the age of about 10 or 11.

Review copyright Sue's DVD Reviews