Saturday, September 8, 2012

Fall "Comfort Viewing"

I'm re-watching Dorothy Sayers Gaudy Night and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Both are comfortable favorites. Both are about schools for females and I believe the portrait of the Founder from Miss Jean Brodie was re-used in Gaudy Night.

One takes place in 1932 and another in about 1937 and I admit I love the costumes as much as the drama (The skirts are shorter in Miss Jean Brodie--set in 1932 and released in 1969.)

I think I find them to be comfort viewing because they are stories where most of the characters are well dressed and poised women*. In spite of this they would neither of them be shelved in the "Romantic Comedy" section of the video store (if we still had such institutions.) Romance is an ingredient in both stories, but it is not the most important one.

My love for Gaudy Night is straight forward (I wrote a blog post about the book in 2009) and while the made for TV movie doesn't have all the nuances of the book it hits on many of the same notes--most heavily the place of women in society and Harriet Vane's complicated relationship with Lord Peter Wimsey.

I'm not quite sure why I love Miss Jean Brodie. My mother brought it home from the library once when I was a kid. My mom was a teacher, and we watched a lot of films with teachers as protagonists when I was a kid, so this merged a bit with Stand and Deliver and the other films about educationists.

Last year I ordered it from Netflix and re-watched it for the first time in 20 years. I was at first appalled. Miss Brodie the educationist is not only breaking all sorts of rules for how a teacher aught to behave (having favorite students, involving them in her personal life, preaching politics in the classroom) but she's preaching fascism to her students--and my mom exposed us to this as children? I brought this up to my mom and she replied "Fascists like Miss Brody are charming but...... Charming is not enough!" and "because it's a good movie." Yes it is--I'm watching it again. But I find that I dislike the protagonists--both Miss Brodie and Sandy and still sympathize with them.

Part of my fascination with the movie is due to the way the children in it appear to be 12 in one scene and 17 in another. Most of it is due to the mass of contradictions that is Miss Jean Brodie. I can see why she insists on being exceptional--even to the point of antagonizing the head mistress of her school. I cannot see why she repudiates Mr. Lloyd--the artist with whom she's clearly in love--for Mr. Lauther. She doesn't wish to get married, so why not have an affaire with the man she loves (who's *ahem* already married)instead of avoiding him, having an affaire with a man who is looking to get married and trying to place her pupil in his bed by proxy?

It makes no sense at all. Perhaps that's why I find it attractive.

*unlike myself

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