Period Pieces for the Summer  

Posted by inkstainedhands in ,

Netflix has taken to suggesting movies for me on my homepage based on my previous ratings or interests. Sometimes, they make the most inane assumptions about me and my preferences. For example, because I watched The Duchess, Netflix labeled me as someone who likes "heartfelt movies featuring a strong female lead," when in reality, I just wanted to see Keira Knightley and Ralph Fiennes in it. On the other hand, some of their assumptions are correct. For example, they correctly guessed that I enjoy "witty British movies based on classic literature" because of my interest in Pride and Prejudice and Vanity Fair.

But you can never completely trust Netflix to tell you what you'll enjoy. In fact, you can't trust anyone, because it depends on you and your personal preferences. I, for example, most enjoy pre-20th century period pieces, preferably based on classic literature.

As summer approaches, many of us find ourselves with a lot of time on our hands. While I am not suggesting that my readers should spend their summer watching films, I will suggest a few films from among those I recently enjoyed in case my readers do find themselves looking for something good to watch. In this post, I will focus on ten period pieces that I liked (mostly based on books), in no particular order.

  1. Wuthering Heights -- I have watched a few versions of this film (including one in French), but my favorites were the ones from 1939, 1970, 1992. The 1939 version stars Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon, both of whom play their parts very convincingly. One of the things I liked about this version that I did not see in other versions was the emphasis on Heathcliff and Isabella's relationship. I somehow found myself sympathizing with Isabella more because this film gave the viewers a bigger view into her life. The 1970 version, starring Timothy Dalton and Anna Calder-Marshall, was also very beautifully done. (Interesting fact: Anna Calder-Marshall and Laurence Olivier later played together in King Lear, after having acted in different versions of Wuthering Heights.) The 1992 version of Wuthering Heights was the first one I ever saw. While Juliette Binoche's interpretation of Cathy was slightly annoying, Ralph Fiennes was perfect for the role of the tormented Heathcliff.
  2. Gone With the Wind. Need I really say more?
  3. North and South -- This is a BBC series containing four episodes, about a young woman in England who moves from a rural town to an industrial town and has to adapt to her new surroundings and the coldness displayed by the Northerners. This series is easy on the eyes, relaxing, and leaves you with a smile on your face. There are some sad parts, but the ending makes it all worth it.
  4. Pride and Prejudice. I have watched four different versions so far, but my favorite remains the 2005 version, with Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen. Although it is nowhere near as long or as faithful to the book as the BBC version, it has a certain dream-like quality to it and the lighting techniques give it this feeling of tranquillity and sunshine that make it totally worth it. The costumes were delightful as well. Another thing I loved about this film was the soundtrack. I often listen to it as I am doing my homework, writing, or relaxing. I probably would not want to admit how many times I saw this film or how many times I listened to the soundtrack on repeat, but you get the idea. (The 1940 version of Wuthering Heights starring Laurence Olivier is also worth a mention, although I was disappointed by the costumes. The women's fashion was off by a couple of decades and they were wearing wide skirts over big petticoats. Pride and Prejudice is a Regency novel, so they should have been wearing the empire gowns typical of that period.)
  5. Sense and Sensibility. Yes, another film based on a Jane Austen book. I can't help it -- she was really good at what she did! My favorite version of this movie is from 1995, starring Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, Hugh Grant, and Alan Rickman.
  6. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. This BBC series is based on a book by Anne Bronte, the least famous of the three Bronte sisters, but just as talented. Unlike Jane Austen's works, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is a typical Bronte novel -- dark and dramatic. It is about a young woman who marries a reprobate with a penchant for drinking and tries to escape and rebuild her life once she realizes that there is no changing him.
  7. Jane Eyre. Another Bronte novel, this time by Charlotte. There are a few versions out, but I could not find one that struck me as being superior to the rest, so I will pick and choose. If I could, I would combine Timothy Dalton's interpretation of Mr. Rochester (from the 1983 BBC series) with Samantha Morton's Jane (from the 1997 version). I do recommend both though.
  8. Little Women (1994). This is one of the films that I remember watching when I was a little girl and would gladly watch over and over again now. Jo is one of my favorite characters, as I can relate to her so well.
  9. The Importance of Being Earnest. This is a very light, fun comedy based on Oscar Wilde's play, with Reese Witherspoon and Colin Firth.
  10. Becoming Jane. Could my list possibly be complete without a film about the woman behind the literature? I am fascinated by most movies that are based on the lives of authors, composers, artists, etc., and this film about Jane Austen's life is no exception.
All of these films, with the exception of Becoming Jane, are based on classic literature, so I would recommend reading the books first.

(And the only reason I took the time to write this post in the middle of finals is that I already took five finals and cannot stand thinking about studying for more until I have relaxed and unwinded a bit.)

Edited to add -- If you have any suggestions for me based on what I wrote here, please share! :]

This entry was posted on Monday, June 8, 2009 at Monday, June 08, 2009 and is filed under , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


Gah! Netflix' suggestion system is retarded. I would click on a foreign comedy and it would say it was suggested because I watched an American action movie. What?! I really should've wrote the stuff down. Maybe I'll tweet next time I see one of those retarded matches.

How about suggesting a movie straight guys would watch? I'd watch, if haven't already, "The Importance of Being Earnest", but the rest, meh.

June 9, 2009 at 10:13 AM

I never said my movie suggestions are for everyone. I was blogging about movies that I personally liked and thought others who have similar interests might also enjoy.

I don't think there's anything much that I can recommend to straight guys... the original Die Hard, maybe?

June 10, 2009 at 1:45 PM

Ooh, I didn't know they'd done The Tenant of Wildfell Hall - this is probably my favorite Bronte book. I've never really been able to bring myself to like Wuthering Heights - too much drama-queen behavior that makes me want to tell the characters to just put their big-person panties on already. Yes, I am an unfeeling person.

Moshe, have you seen The Gran Torino yet?

June 10, 2009 at 2:21 PM

I've heard of it and yuck. That is not a Clint Eastwood movie, it's some kind of Christian propaganda crap.

June 10, 2009 at 2:32 PM

I haven't seen it yet, but Menashe and this other guy really liked it; I cannot see the other guy, especially, liking what you described.

June 10, 2009 at 2:38 PM

Alan saw it and it's crap. If you want, I can tell you the very un Clint Eastwood ending.

June 10, 2009 at 2:43 PM

Dina, the film has been around since 1996. All three episodes are available for instant play on Netflix.

I can't really make up my mind as to which of the Bronte sisters I like most.

June 10, 2009 at 3:04 PM

Thanks, ISH.

Moshe, I haven't noticed that Alan's tastes and mine coincide in any particular.

June 10, 2009 at 3:18 PM

I warned you so my job's done.

Send me invite to netflix friends.

June 10, 2009 at 3:22 PM

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