Friday, February 5, 2010

Filling the Well

from Emily Bryan . . .

When I'm in the middle of a project, I generally don't read for pleasure within the romance genre (my way of making sure someone else's words don't accidentally flow out my fingers) but I do watch movies to fill up the creative well. I'm looking for a visual experience, a sense of place, costume and architecture details that are more compelling in a moving picture than a static one. I love "costume dramas" so when I saw that The Libertine was available On Demand, I sat down to watch it.

First let me say this is not a film for those who wish to guard the innocence of their eyes. I don't know how it escaped an X rating in places. But the draw for me was Johnny Depp's portrayal of the sad, debauched life of the brilliant 17th century poet, John Wilmot.

I'm not a raving Depp fan in the sense that I think he's "oh-so-hot." I don't. He's a little too androgenous for my taste. And his recent support of Roman Polanski, the film director being deported back to the US to face pedophilia charges, is disgusting, IMO. Sex with a 13 year old is wrong no matter how many years have passed.

But I cannot deny Depp's talent. He's a deeply disturbing actor. He makes me think. Makes me feel. Hence, he's compulsively watchable. There is always a subtext running behind his eyes that reaches past the flat screen's surface. His Wilmot is played like a Greek tragedy. He carries the seeds of his own destruction within himself and his sense of pointlessness is heartbreaking. He sought meaning in life and found none.

I know I've seen a good movie, read a good book, visited a good museum when the experience stays with me, when I ponder elements of it for days afterward. By that standard, The Libertine was a good movie.

So how about you? Has a movie, book or experience haunted you for days recently? What was it and what about it captivated you?


Anna Carrasco Bowling February 5, 2010 at 7:04 AM  

For me, Brideshead Revisited (original miniseries, not the recent theatrical remake) sunk its claws in and refused to let go. I took the whole twelve hour monolith out of the library for the sake of cultural literacy, but when the boys' car rounded the curve and we got our first look at Brideshead (filmed at Castle Howard) my heart was forever lost.

Besides the gorgeous scenery, the multilayered story fascinated me. Charles Ryder's love of the noble Marchmain family and the soon to be lost age they represented dazzled me as much as the Marchmains did Charles. I was surprised to see the strong faith element in the story and felt like I'd traveled through the years along with the characters.

In a later scene, when a WWII era Brideshead is used to shelter British troops, and the grand fountain is dry and surrounded with barbed wire, I wanted to cry and when Charles sees his first mural defaced, I out and out wept. Same as I did when he has to admit his closest friend has slipped out of his life into ruin, but he has to keep going on.

There's no HEA for Charles and his heroine but their ending is still a right one for them, and for the story, and contributes to this being one of my feel-good movies. It's being put through the wringer for sure, but worth the trip.

Denise A. Agnew February 5, 2010 at 7:21 AM  

Really liked The Libertine, and I think Depp is a wonderful actor. :) I, too, enjoy period movies that give me a sense of place. I watched Robert Downey, Jr. in Restoration while working on my recent historical. :) Really helped with inspiration!

Denise A. Agnew

Amanda McIntyre February 5, 2010 at 8:23 AM  

I am the same wehen I write , Emily. Preferring to read other genres when writing in another for the reason you've expressed.

Movies, now that is another matter. I love the darkness of Libertine (hello Depp?? who wouldn't??) equally wonderful, his role in From Hell about Jack the Ripper is amazing. The dynamics between John Malkovich (another brilliant actor) and Julia Roberts in MARY REILLY is fascianting and brilliant!

Yes, I am currently studying the Whitechapel district for my next book-The Dark Seduction of Miss Jane.

Ledger's portrayal of Cassanova is fabulous as is Scarlett Johansen in The Girl with the Pearl Earring--all have inspired parts of my writing.

Im going to have to check out Restoration, Denise! Robert is another fav actor of mine!

Amanda McIntyre

EmilyBryan February 5, 2010 at 12:17 PM  

Anna--sounds like I need to find Brideshead Revisited. My kind of show.

EmilyBryan February 5, 2010 at 12:20 PM  

Denise--I saw Restoration as well and it really captures the debauched atmosphere of court. Normally, I'm not a Robert Downey Jr. fan (haven't seen the Sherlock Holmes movie yet) but I was moved by his performance in this one. There was an interesting character arc and he was a better man at the end than he began. Unfortunately, John Wilmot's story was more like a two hour train wreck. Even though he had a deathbed conversion, you never sensed that he found meaning that satisfied him.

EmilyBryan February 5, 2010 at 12:21 PM  

Amanda--I enjoyed Cassanova as well, though it had a much more playful tone than the others mentioned here.

Gerri Russell February 5, 2010 at 7:48 PM  

Emily, I had to laugh at the movie you picked to "fill your well". So dark, so deep, so moving. I was feeling kind of opposite this week and pulled out Shopaholic for an evening watch with my teenage daughter. I was prepared to tolerate it the entire way through . . . I was quite surprised. It was fun, charming, and entirely rememberable.

EmilyBryan February 7, 2010 at 8:32 AM  

Gerri--I go in spurts and spells. Sometimes, I want only to laugh and let a light-hearted story wash over me. And other times, I want to think about life and the nature of reality and where do we go when we die? That's when I need a "thinking movie."

Another one I'd add to that last category is THE MISSION. It's a 1980's film set in 18th century South America. The Portugese and the Spanish are dividing up the continent and the indigenous people and a Jesuit priest (played by Jeremy Irons) and a repentant soldier (Robert DeNiro) are all that stand in their way. It still haunts me.

Bonnie Vanak February 8, 2010 at 8:05 PM  

I like what I call "stupid movies" that provide an escape!

Cindy Holby

Gerri Russell

Joy Nash

Bonnie Vanak

Emily Bryan

C.L. Wilson

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