March 25, 2003

The Portrait of a Lady

Watched this last night on letterboxed video tape. With this cast (Nicole Kidman, John Malkovich, Barbara Hershey, Mary-Louise Parker, and the incomparable Martin Donovan plus Shelley Winters, Richard E. Grant, Shelley Duvall, Christian Bale, and of course Viggo Mortensen. Adding Sir John Gielgud (in one of his last roles) takes it all the way into the absurd.), my expectations were extremely high, and those expectations were met and exceeded. I was just blown away by how good a film this is.

Having not read Henry James's novel about Americans in Europe in the 1870's, I can't judge how well writer Laura Jones and director Jane Campion captured the book. But the film made me want to read the book, and I consider that a mark of success in adaptation at least on some level. (There is an on-line version of the novel available here. I just put it on my Palm ;-)

As a film, I kept being startled by how beautiful it was in scene after scene. Sheer visual poetry. The story is tragic yet the tragedy is all from life, from the consequences of actions, not from twists of fate. Highly recommended.

Verdict: 3-1/2 stars (out of 4)

Posted by jeffy at March 25, 2003 02:10 PM