Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington



From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302


Media Watch:
Jane Austen, Johnny Cash, Truman Capote, and books old and new

by Father Tom Caswell, for the Inland Register

(From the Dec. 15, 2005 edition of the Inland Register)

Movie reviews

I first saw Keira Knightley in the film of several summers ago, Bend It Like Beckham. Little did I know that by age 20 she would be able to carry a period piece like Pride & Prejudice with such seeming ease and grace. She is an extraordinary young talent.

Joe Wright’s new adaptation of Jane Austen’s great novel presents the characters as real people with whom you can identify across the years.

The story centers on Elizabeth (Knightley), the second of five daughters of the Bennet family, living in England in the late 18th century. The family is middle class and the mother (Brenda Blethyn) seeks to marry the oldest daughter Jane (Rosamund Pike) to a very wealthy suitor, Mr. Bingley (Simon Woods). In the process Elizabeth meets Mr. Darcy (Matthew Macfadyen) at a ball early in the film. She is attracted and repelled by him. Their misunderstandings and eventual coming together make for the core of this very impressive film.

The scenes at the various parties are beautifully filmed. You really feel that these people are having a rousing good time.

The film shows the system of the time – placing women in a disadvantaged state as they sought marriage proposals that were important for their families’ long-term financial well-being.

Tom Hollander expertly plays a doofus clergyman, William Collins, who asks to marry Elizabeth and is refused.

Donald Sutherland, as father of the five daughters, is outstanding. His love for his daughter Elizabeth protects her from Collins’s demands for marriage.

Brenda Blethyn, who is a wonderful actress, portrays Mrs. Bennet with an excessive caricature of a mother seeking the best suitors for her daughters. Her performance just doesn’t seem to fit with the other, more subdued, jobs of acting.

Matthew Macfadyen is perfect as Mr. Darcy. You find yourself liking and disliking him at different times in the film. The speeches in conflict between Knightley and Macfadyen are terrific.

Pride & Prejudice is an easily accessible film that is a joy to watch.

The film is rated PG (Parental Guidance Suggested) by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). The Office for Film and Broadcasting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops rates the film A-I - general patronage.

*****

The new Johnny Cash biopic, Walk the Line, in many ways is similar to Ray, last year’s biography of Ray Charles: Johnny’s brother dies; Johnny also has to deal with heavy duty drug abuse. But Walk the Line is fascinating by the fact that both principal actors, Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon, spent months learning how to sing so they could proficiently sing the familiar songs of Johnny Cash and June Carter.

The film starts in Arkansas, where Johnny grows up in a poor family with an abusive father. He finally escapes from home into the military, where he is stationed in Germany. He slowly begins to realize his incipient musical talent.

After an early marriage in 1955 at age 23, he is recorded on Sun Records with his first hit, “Cry, Cry, Cry.”

The main part of the movie is his early traveling with lots of other young stars, including Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley and June Carter, through the time of his prescription drug addition and eventual divorce and remarriage to June Carter.

Joaquin Phoenix shows that he can act and sing with the best of them. Reese Witherspoon again shines as a star of the first magnitude.

Ray Cash, the abusive father, played by Robert Patrick, seemed a bit over the top in his cruelty to his son. The final scene, where he begins to show a little heart to Johnny’s children, seems a long time coming.

Walk the Line is a beautifully done story of two talented musical artists who were married for 35 years and both died in 2003. This film is a fitting remembrance.

Walk the Line is rated PG-13, because of language and strong themes, by the MPAA. The USCCB’s Office for Film and Broadcasting rates the film A-III – for adults.

*****

If there is one sure bet as we move toward Academy Award nomination season, it is that Philip Seymour Hoffman will be nominated for Best Actor for his incredible portrayal of the writer Truman Capote in the new film Capote.

Starting in 1959, Capote tells the story of the flamboyant writer’s investigation into the brutal Clutter family killings in rural Holcomb, Kan. It is from his visits to Kansas that Capote, with the help of his friend Harper Lee (Catherine Keener), is able to produce his crowning literary achievement, the “non-fiction novel” In Cold Blood.

But at what cost? Capote’s triumph is based on his careful manipulation of everyone he meets, especially Perry Smith (Clifton Collins Jr.), who was one of the killers. And yet we see Capote not as a black-and-white monster but a deeply talented and flawed human being we care about.

The script, by Dan Futterman, is certainly a key to the success of the film. Many will remember Futterman as the younger brother of the main character in CBS’s recent television series Judging Amy. The script beautifully shows us the depth of the growing relationship between Capote and the killer Smith. And even though many viewers know the outline of the historical events, Futterman’s script moves to unchartered nuances and surprises.

Director Bennett Miller enables us to feel the loneliness and beauty of the plains of Kansas and its people.

Catherine Keener is wonderful as the childhood neighbor of Capote who stands by her self-centered friend even as he can’t compliment her when her great novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, comes out as a memorable movie.

Clifton Collins Jr. is magnificent as the killer who trusts Capote and reveals his most intimate remembrances of a ghastly series of murders.

If you love acting and a multilayered story, please do not miss Capote.

The film is rated R – Restricted (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian) by the MPAA. There is violence and brief strong language. The USCCB’s Office for Film and Broadcasting rates the film A-III – for adults.

Book Notes

• I must admit to basically not reading much poetry. But Paul Mariani’s new book, Deaths and Transfigurations: Poems, knocks my socks off. We are the same age, born in 1940. He reflects on his life from childhood to prep school through marriage and children to the care for and death of parents.

In his poem “The Cup” he digs deep into love and marriage, and then writes of one of his sons becoming a priest in a Church wounded by the sexual abuse of children by priests.

Paul Mariani’s poems speak to me of a life lived fully. His poems are tragic at times and yet filled with hope. They are the perfect Advent book that touches our inner core.

Deaths and Transfigurations: Poems is published by Paraclete Press, Brewster, Mass., 2005; $24. The powerful engravings are by Barry Moser.

• A book club I’m in recently assigned Rumer Godden’s 1969 novel In This House of Brede. It is the story of a professional woman in her 40s entering a cloister Benedictine community in the late 1950s. I was slow to get into it, as I mistakenly thought it would be hard work to read. How wrong I was! As we follow Phillippa Talbot through the years in a closed Religious community in England, we find lots of universal truths. In This House of Brede is as renewing as a religious retreat. It can change our lives.

The novel originally was published by Viking Press. A new paperback edition is published by Loyola Classics of Chicago.

(Father Caswell is Ecumenical Relations Officer and Archivist for the Diocese of Spokane, and a frequent contributor to this publication.)


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