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I'm obsessed with finding out how the opening shot of the 1997 "Washington
Square" was filmed. With no cuts, the camera starts on one side of a park,
rises high into the treetops, assumably on a crane, then down, across the
park, over a wrought iron fence approximately 6 feet high, across a street,
INTO A WINDOW, into a living room, looks around the living room, up a set of
stairs and into the upstairs hallway.
I'd love to know how they did this. Was it a remote operated camera? Was there a handoff when the camera went through the window? Does anyone know?
This adaptation of Henry James novel was better than the novel and better than an earlier adaptation starring Olivia de Havilland. It's not so much the acting. Its the fact that each relationship (Kath-Dad, Kath-Mor, Kath-Aunt, Dad-Mor, Dad-Aunt, Mor-Aunt) is well defined and well depicted. If you love watching interplay, see this movie.
I can understand not loving this movie, but the scathing reviews are questionable. And I'm not normally one to recommend the taste of teenagers, but I want to tell you that my high school English classes, so film-weary that they are quite hard to please, liked this film and, with a bit of help with the dialogue, especially between the older adults, tuned in very quickly to the idea of the father's protectionism, not truly for his daughter's benefit, but for his own pride. (I agree with one or two other reviewers who pointed out the distastefulness of the the young Catherine's pitiful reaction to stage fright and a scene with veiled, literally, copulation in the background, not to mention that the young Catherine's character being portrayed as fat and, thus, unlikeable was unnecessary and not believable, given that the adult Catherine was so slim. But these are minor problems.) I also wasn't happy with the scene in which Catherine reacts so melodramatically to Townsend's departure, as there was surely never a Jamesian heroine who behaved so, but as a story about familial and romantic love and all its difficulties, it is definitely worth watching, especially if you are looking for a film for different age levels.
One of the problems encountered when preparing to see such movies as "Washington Square" is how to avoid early comments from those who "have seen the original" or "have read the book" or are professional film critics. Intelligent people should be able to make up their own minds and with "Washington Square" so they should. As stated in the one line summary, the film is sumptuously staged throughout it's full duration and the settings are enhanced by some fine acting. To be sure a couple of performances are a little "over the top' ie Leigh and the ageless Maggie Smith but the story allows them to indulge in their own acting foibles. Maybe the director's interpretation does not please the odd person who has read James' novella and just maybe "The Heiress" was some sort of classic (I have actually seen it) but who cares. ""Washington Square"....1997 version....stands on its own as an excellent movie.
Like THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY in 1996, this seems to be a feminist reworking
of a Henry James novel, but it starts off badly. While it's nice that we
get to understand why Catherine is mostly ignored by her father (because her
mother died while giving birth to her), director Agnieszka Holland, writer
Carol Doyle, and Jennifer Jason Leigh make her overly pathetic at first.
It's as if they were smugly suggesting, "Of course no one would look at her,
because her father beat her down so much." Jennifer Jason Leigh is a better
actress, IMHO, then Olivia de Havilland (who played Catherine in William
Wyler's adaptation of this novel, THE HEIRESS), but de Havilland(or Wyler,
or both) understood we needed to see Catherine appealing and shy, otherwise
we'd never believe Catherine when she believes Morris is truly in love with
her. By making her pathetic, we don't quite believe it at
But gradually, when Leigh lets Catherine blossom and more rounded and developed, it's easy to see the dormant potential in her, and she makes us believe her gradual independence from her father. Albert Finney and Maggie Smith, of course, are old hands at this type of thing (if you'll pardon the expression), and they both do there thing again. Ben Chaplin suffers in comparison to Montgomery Clift, but he does show more deviousness than I would have believed from him. Not as good as THE HEIRESS or the other 1997 Henry James adaptation, THE WINGS OF THE DOVE, but still worthy.
I got THE HEIRESS, and WASHINGTON SQUARE. I love them both, but prefer
WASHINGTON SQUARE. I love the period style and costumes. In fact I have
the VHS and asked ex hubby to put it into a DVD format because I am
DESPERATE to get the ITALIEN WORDS OF the Italian Laurate Poet
SALVATORE QUASIMODO "Tu chiami Una Vita". The couple sings this song
(kind of also the theme song and used as instrumental in the film also)
and it is also later song 2 x more by trained voices. Simply beautiful,
sticks with you. If anyone can completely understand the Italian,
please share the TEXT. I got ex hubby to put it on DVD mainly because I
wanted to see the CREDITS, bookmark when the song is on and when the
credits go to "Tu chiami Una Vita" which would be difficult with my
system via VHS.
Would it not be GREAT to go to the FILM Editors themselves to get that information, or see it also mentioned as music credits on the sleeve?? Karla
This is a beautifully executed, subtly (yet powerfully) performed film.
Jennifer Jason Leigh is achingly good and Finney is remarkably restrained
and well-suited in the role as her single-minded father. Ben Chaplin (who
does a great American accent) is very credible as Morris and quite
than Montgomery Clift's performance in the earlier adaptation of this film,
"The Heiress." Chaplin is so appealing that despite reservations viewers
(and Finney's character) may have of his Morris' intentions, it is
completely conceivable that Leigh's Catherine would fall so hard for
Maggie Smith, is, as always, brilliantly funny and so perfect in her role as the meddling aunt (shades of Cousin Charlotte from "Room With a View" with an American accent).
This very much gives you a feel for James' story. And while there is a tone of contemporary feminism at the film's end -- it ultimately is faithful and offers a powerful, passionate rendering. It is much, much more effective than "Portrait of a Lady."
The film is at once beautiful, entertaining, captivating and heartbreaking.
I beautiful film with the saddest ending. All actors are sublime and fit perfectly in their roles. I can't understand the critics tearing apart of the film. I have not read the book, but the film stands well by itself. It's dealings with the father daughter relationships, the need to be loved and the mental maturing of a clumsy and underrated woman are all covered in depth. I have ended up in tears twice, feeling for the heroine at the end and that says it all.
Jennifer-Jason Leigh gives an incredibly, nuanced performance as Kathryn Slofer, the heiress who is wooed by a young fortune hunter. Her suspicious father thwarts the romance. As it turns out, he is right, and the young man does want her fortune. Complicating matters is Kathryn's aunt, Maggie Smith, who tried to get the couple together. This is a heartbreakingly beautiful movie. I loved it. All four performances by the leading characters are excellent.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The potential movie extravaganza, set during the 19th century, failed to produce. With big-name actors like Maggie Smith, Albert Finney, and many others, there was no reason for the movie to fail. However, the movie lacked an ending, had a sorry excuse for a plot line, and fell to pieces with its continuity. A typical story of a rich girl and a poor boy, brought together by love and destroyed by beauty (or lack thereof) and disapproval, has a touching side of a mother's early death and an absentee father. The father, played by Finney, is a disturbed man, tormenting his daughter in life as well as death. He believes his daughter's lack of good looks would ruin his fortune by marrying beneath their social status. The actors vainly attempted to salvage what was left of the storyline. Washington Square is a black hole of ruin and destruction, wasting precious time of those who sorrowfully watch. I give this movie a 1 instead of a 0, purely for the actors' attempts. Save yourself, stay clear of Washington Square.
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