Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Innocents

I never shop at Barnes and Noble...well, almost never. Bad blood from the days I was a Borders employee? But B&N is still hanging in there, doing the brick and mortar thing. Even if their selection is shallow and even if it's hard to find books amongst the clutter of knick-knacks, iAccessories, board games, mugs, and Rosetta Stone stuff. But once a year they have a 50% off Criterion Collection sale. I allowed myself to buy six titles this year, the rule being they had to be films I'd seen once or twice and adored, and always thought about buying but never did. The first of my recent purchases in the Blu-Ray player was The Innocents. Henry James in his late phase loved to pull back the curtain a bit on the paranoid consciousness of authors--his own, in particular--the endless inferences and digressions and interpretations his mind took after an overheard snatch of dialogue at some society party feature prominently in all the late works, but most particularly in The Turn of the Screw and The Sacred Fount. The Turn of the Screw was turned into a wonderful screenplay by Truman Capote, and made into a delicious little film featuring fantastic sets and fine actors and truly remarkable cinematography. The Governess of course "writes" the entire story in her virginal, puritanical, repressed little mind. Capote has obviously read the scholarly debates about the story--whether James intended the hauntings in the tale to be "real" or not--and he comes down firmly on the side of--well, I'll leave it to you to decide. But all the clues are available to the Governess as she constructs her hot and steamy fantasy of demonic dead lovers attempting to take over the bodies of her innocent charges. It's a good time no matter which interpretation you prefer!

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