Thursday, July 15, 2010
NETFLIX FRIDAY #12: Bleak House
Murder! Class warfare! Plague! Betrayal! Obsession! A shocking expose of the intricacies and injustices of the 19th century British legal system!
No, seriously, it's great. I can't attempt to do the book justice in a summary, but it's an incredibly intricate story, cutting across every layer of British society, based off a long-running legal case with a massive treasure at the end of the rainbow. It is arguably Dickens' masterpiece, and this adaptation helps you understand just why he was the most popular writer on earth at the time.
I've written about this before, but it's worth revisiting as the TV industry is in flux. This amazing adaptation of Dickins' Bleak House is split into a one-hour pilot and then 14 more half-hour episodes. Half-hour single camera, highly serialized. This matches the structure and pace of the original text, which was, as our friends at Wikipedia let us know,"published in twenty monthly installments between March 1852 and September 1853." This transforms what could easily be another leisurely historical into a pulp machine.
I'd love to watch you try to convince an American network to do half-hour single-camera dramas. If web distro gives us anything (and it would be nice if it eventually did give us something other than fuel for executives to argue that they can't afford to pay us anymore), it'll be a variance in the locked storytelling formats. You're starting to see that with fiction distribution on the web -- people financing through Kickstarter novellas that there's no market for in the traditional magazine market.
Don't let this get lost in the discussion of the novelty of the broadcast format: you get a great, fast-moving little historical with an amazing performance by under-rated British actor Denis Lawson. What often comes across as a creepy, obsessive relationship between an older man and a vulnerable young woman becomes, in Lawson's hands, the lovely little story of a lonely, honorable, responsible man attracted to the only decent person in a hundred miles. Most of you may also recognize Lawson from Jekyll. But you know, he also played Wedge Antilles.
Let me repeat that: this British historical stars Wedge $^%# Antilles.
You've got Oscar nominated actress Carey Mulligan. A magnificently sinister Charles Dance. Also, Gillian Anderson in a period dress for bonus points. The class and economic issues in the story are incredibly relevant in today's New Class World. All working off an viciously lean script by epic British writer Andrew Davies, who also penned one of my favorite political ...
... wait a minute. BRB.
SWEET HOPPING JESUS! HOUSE OF CARDS IS ON NETFLIX STREAMING!!
Okay. I know what I"m writing about next week. No cheating, no reading, no spoilers on House of Cards, people. But in the meantime, your Netflix Instant Streaming recommendation for this week is the 2005 Bleak House series.