Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Why didn't I watch this sooner?

It took me over a decade, but I've finally seen Ang Lee's film adaptation of Sense and Sensibility. Yes, children, way before Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, the Taiwanese director's first claim to Hollywood fame was a movie based on a Jane Austen book. And while an Asian at the helm of an Austen film with a screenplay penned by an English actress seems an unlikely formula for cinematic success, the brilliance and beauty of the end product-- plus a slew of awards, including Emma Thompson's screenwriting Oscar-- prove otherwise.

I'm a sucker for Austen stories, and while Pride and Prejudice remains my favorite of her novels, I find Ang Lee's take on S&S superior to the most recent film incarnation of P&P. Lee's is a more gentle and genteel movie, reflecting the reserve and refinement of English society in the 1700s. The cinematography captures the lush colors of the English countryside (rain or shine), and the meticulous art direction and design-- from the pretty empire-waist dresses down to the last delicate tea cup-- help set the mood for Austen's signature brand of romance. And while the P&P movie tends to brood and radiates with suppressed fire and intensity, S&S beams with a contained but unconcealed joy, and though I balk at describing it as a "feel-good" film, there is a wonderful warmth throughout.

Lee's stellar cast deserves much of the credit for making the movie so compellingly watchable, and for bringing to life characters who are not only sympathetic, but emotionally investable. Emma Thompson is a paragon of dignified poise and fortitude in her role as Elinor, the level-headed eldest Dashwood sister, while a young Kate Winslet is luminous as the passionate, idealistic Marianne. Hugh Grant as usual plays the fumbling, good-natured charmer in the person of Edward Ferrars, Elinor's love interest, while Imelda Staunton and the terrifically talented Hugh Laurie are scene-stealers as the Palmers (with Staunton already doing that now-infamous patented Umbridge giggle, and Laurie flexing some pre-House muscles
as the deadpan, acerbic husband). But I choose to heap my full adoration and praise on the underappreciated Alan Rickman, who sent me swooning as Colonel Brandon, the soft-spoken, generous soul who is devoted to Marianne despite her affections for the dashing John Willoughby (every time Brandon is rebuffed by Marianne I screamed "Kung ayaw mo akin na lang!" at the TV :p). Though only a handful would agree with me (hello Hanks, Laureen, Christa!) that Rickman is sexy as heck, in S&S, when he utters in anguish the line "Give me an occupation or I shall go mad!", no woman in her right mind wouldn't fall head over heels for him.

In hindsight, it surprises me that S&S managed to win only 1 out of the 7 Oscars it was nominated for (Winslet was robbed by Mira Sorvino, IMHO), but then again it was up against stiff competition with the likes of Braveheart and Il Postino also in the running. Regardless of how many awards it won or didn't win, Ang Lee's S&S will go down in Hollywood history as a classic, and stand as proof that an Asian man can make sense of and bring his own sensibility to an Austen masterpiece.


At Tuesday, October 23, 2007, Anonymous Christa said...

Just to tweak your "kilig" factor a bit more, here's a link to my friend's multiply. I think you'll love this. :)


At Wednesday, October 24, 2007, Blogger Ailee Through the Looking Glass said...

That's my second favorite part of that movie (the first being the bit where Darcy first touches Elizabeth's hand as he helps her out of a carriage). =D


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