main: July 2006 Archives

There's an old peasant saying: "Life is beautiful - and hard." In America we tend to reverse the emphasis: "Life is hard - but beautiful." That's what William Dean Howells meant when he said, "What the American audience really wants is a tragedy with a happy ending." We don't mind watching fictional characters suffer, as long they are somehow redeemed by it.

Working the middle ground between beauty and hardness was one of my favorite novelists (and poets), Thomas Hardy. And one of his favorites among his own books, reportedly, was The Woodlanders, about a young woman from a rural village whose father sends her away to school to "better" herself, then marries her to a "better" prospect than the woodsman she has loved all her life, only to discover that some living things are not improved by being pulled up by the roots.

Full confession: it's been years since I read The Woodlanders, and the glue holding my paperback copy together has long since turned to dust. But I recently saw a little known film based on the novel that makes me want to buy a new copy: not the 1970 BBC production, but the 1997 Arts Council of England production, made in cooperation with Channel Four, Pathé Productions, and River Films. (If you are lucky you will find one in your video store, hiding in the bottom rack.)

A two-hour film of a 300-page novel must strip things down, of course. But here the result is a separate and freestanding work of art: a simple, fast-paced tale of true love thwarted, not by wickedness but by a father's affection and ambition. The ending isn't happy in the Hollywood sense, but it is satisfying in the sense of containing a much needed note of justice. Without being sentimental or pretty, The Woodlanders is beyond being a gem (that's a cliche anyway). It's a diamond. Every facet - the writing, the acting, the production itself - is pure, clear, and (here's a word I almost never use) perfect.

July 17, 2006 8:34 AM |

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This page is a archive of entries in the main category from July 2006.

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About Last Night
Terry Teachout on the arts in New York City
Artful Manager
Andrew Taylor on the business of arts & culture
blog riley
rock culture approximately
critical difference
Laura Collins-Hughes on arts, culture and coverage
Dewey21C
Richard Kessler on arts education
diacritical
Douglas McLennan's blog
Dog Days
Dalouge Smith advocates for the Arts
Flyover
Art from the American Outback
Life's a Pitch
For immediate release: the arts are marketable
Mind the Gap
No genre is the new genre
Performance Monkey
David Jays on theatre and dance
Plain English
Paul Levy measures the Angles
Real Clear Arts
Judith H. Dobrzynski on Culture
Rockwell Matters
John Rockwell on the arts
Straight Up |
Jan Herman - arts, media & culture with 'tude

dance
Foot in Mouth
Apollinaire Scherr talks about dance
Seeing Things
Tobi Tobias on dance et al...

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Jazz Beyond Jazz
Howard Mandel's freelance Urban Improvisation
ListenGood
Focus on New Orleans. Jazz and Other Sounds
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Doug Ramsey on Jazz and other matters...

media
Out There
Jeff Weinstein's Cultural Mixology
Serious Popcorn
Martha Bayles on Film...

classical music
Creative Destruction
Fresh ideas on building arts communities
The Future of Classical Music?
Greg Sandow performs a book-in-progress
On the Record
Exploring Orchestras w/ Henry Fogel
Overflow
Harvey Sachs on music, and various digressions
PianoMorphosis
Bruce Brubaker on all things Piano
PostClassic
Kyle Gann on music after the fact
Sandow
Greg Sandow on the future of Classical Music
Slipped Disc
Norman Lebrecht on Shifting Sound Worlds

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book/daddy
Jerome Weeks on Books
Quick Study
Scott McLemee on books, ideas & trash-culture ephemera

theatre
Drama Queen
Wendy Rosenfield: covering drama, onstage and off
lies like truth
Chloe Veltman on how culture will save the world

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Aesthetic Grounds
Public Art, Public Space
Another Bouncing Ball
Regina Hackett takes her Art To Go
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Tyler Green's modern & contemporary art blog
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