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Labeling this film a "lesbian love story" is about as accurate as
calling Pride & Prejudice a "straight love story." There's just so much
more to it than that.
Yes, the main character is a lesbian, but her story is classic bildungsroman, a journey from childhood to adulthood, from sexual innocence into maturity, from personal blindness to self- discovery. There is a stylistic element of camp to the film's direction, but it is not a hindrance; rather it serves to underscore the staged and dramatic parts of the main character's life.
Those who know Anna Chancellor from the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice will certainly be amazed with her here. Rachael Stirling is stellar as the main character Nan, and Keeley Hawes is all wide-eyed goodness as her lover Kitty Butler. Chancellor might have the stand out role, that is aside from Sally Hawkins who plays Zena Butler. This film is not for the faint of heart, but it's not a piece of pro-gay advertising either. It's a real story, with real comedy and drama, an engaging story with compelling characters, and well worth watching.
I am getting obsessed by it, playing the DVD over and over. And it is
not because of the lesbian love story, nor because of the physical
relationship neither. It's about the tenderness and care with which the
whole thing is done. You obviously can notice that in the script
itself, even in the rawer moments there's certain hope. But also in the
music (the melodies are so sweet), the photography (all this wine like
and golden tones for indoor scenes), the so fine decoration and set
design (theatres and back stages), those little sounds added (hoses
running, opera voices ..), those visual metaphors (burning fondue for
Kitty's jealousy, empty oyster shells swirling in the waves as Nan
meets life ..)
To me the most beautiful concept is the protagonist personal and sentimental growth, how she becomes an adult by finding love and life. About this, an outstanding detail is Nan's expression and tone of voice. There's one scene in first episode: Kitty and Nan are in Nan's room at Nan's parents, Nan takes the rose Kitty gave to her in the theatre from a drawer and says: 'Remember when you gave me this?' .. The tone in which the sentence is said is so wonderful, it express so much thrill, admiration, delight and most of all innocence. This is what the first episode is about, Nan and her innocence and childhood lost something left in the sea waves of her home town shore where she was an oyster. But in the second and third episodes she looses this purity in her voice, as she's becoming an adult in all senses. She sounds stronger and more secure... the oyster opens.
This leads me to talk about Rachael's awesome work, all these details are not only shown in her voice but in her acting. And what is more, she not only acts great all the way long but also she sings lovely! The rest of the actresses are wonderful too .. Anna Chancellor's Diana still scares me ;) What to say about magnetic Kitty (whoah Keeley!) and also Jhodi May builds a so very nice good home-loving girl. The actors are quite good too, including baby Cyril ;-)
Another good feature to point out is the rhythm of the episodes development. We can see Kitty and Nan's debut on stage at the same time that all their previous rehearsals, and also Nan's cooking and cleaning at Flo's at the same time that she recovers emotionally from wandering the streets. All this action together prevents the episodes from slow down and from loosing the attention.
But of course this story is a tale, in which the protagonist suffers but at the end wins, there is no point in looking for resemblances with real life as life is much more complicated than a tale. She even triumphs at speaking in the socialist rally saving Flo's brother from stage fright. And I think choosing one girl instead of the other pretended to be a happy end personally I would definitively have chosen the other, no doubt at all ;-D
I've found a soundtrack at amazon.co.uk but it doesn't include the songs the girls sing at stage .. anyone know where to find them?
Thanks for reading
Tipping the Velvet has just three weeks ago been released in the UK and
already I watch as countless letters flood to the national papers and TV
guides, claiming that it possesses a thin plot, weak performances and an
even weaker script.
You find me incensed. This is heresy.
I would really like to dispel all doubt by first congratulating Andrew Davies on enabling Geoffrey Sax to create this wonderful dramatization of Sarah Waters' novel by cushioning him with such a fantastic script. Kudos. But I fear I must now change tack.
I saw one of the premiere TV guides here in the UK (which shall remain nameless) relentlessly describing Tipping the Velvet as a "lesbian love story". If they are, and I assume they are, trying to promote interest in the film, then this is completely the wrong way to go about it (aside from the phrase being a disappointingly inaccurate description). By saying such a thing, they are either a) turning away those who would instinctively be repelled by "that" subject matter or b) attracting a class of people who will only watch to see some "serious girl-on-girl action". Buy a video! Through this display of serious inconsideration, this and other magazines are cheapening what is a brilliant adaptation of one of recent literature's greatest works. Tipping the Velvet is a story of love, of passion, of moving on, of loss, and of heartbreak. It's not a lesbian love story. No siree.
The end result is a stylish affair, with excellent performances all round (particularly from Stirling, Hawes, Chancellor and May). Direction-wise, it's intoxicating and immersive - sometimes, fast-paced, sometimes not - but it never ceases to be anything less than compelling. As a whole, it's polished and well delivered, the sex is undertaken with tenderness and delicacy - and although many will not class it as a real "film", it will remain among my favourites for some time to come.
This wonderful 3 part BBC production is one of the sweetest love
stories that I have seen in a while. The actresses display a very high
level of talent, especially Rachael Stirling as Nan Astley. She is
funny, seductive and cute. The love making scenes and the close up
kisses are very erotic regardless of one's sexual preference.
The characters are well defined and very believable. I guess this is a by-product of a good adaptation from a well written novel.
A truly remarkable well paced drama that picks up speed quickly after a couple of boring (but necessary) scenes in the beginning.
My vote: 9/10
I'm glad I read the Sarah Waters novel first, since I had my own pictures
the characters in my head at the time. The ones cast for this production,
however, were not at all disappointing - in fact, after I got used to
Rachael Stirling as Nan, I think Nina Gold did a damn fine job in the
casting department. (Can Keeley Hawes be more delicious?!)
The BBC has done it again: this is a wonderful production of a very good book, and they have done it up in style. If you can get your hands on this (VHS, DVD) be sure to get the 181-minute version (the uncensored one.) It is a marvelous journey, albeit a bit rocky at times, that you won't regret taking.
It is surprising that a production like this gets made these days,
television. Considering the strong sexual themes and explicit lovemaking
scenes, not to mention lesbianism, this has been given superb treatment
The sets and costumes are flawless, the direction is stylish and the characters are likeable. There is a fair amount of humor but it has surprisingly dark interludes. The protagonist is really a tragic figure, but not devoid of happiness. Also, this production avoids the mistake most films/shows make when dealing with homosexuality/lesbianism. The characters are very human. It seems that to allow people to be comfortable with watching gays and lesbians on TV and movies most shows fill it full of cliches and make the characters obsessed with being gay. Not so with this. In Tipping the Velvet, the protagonist is hardly aware of what being lesbian means!
The BBC have made some wonderful productions in the past, and this adventurous period piece only confirms their standard of excellence on all fronts.
I have nothing but praise for this mini series. It's only about a year
and a half old but I have seen it twice already; with greater enjoyment
the second time than the first. I'm seriously thinking of watching it
again soon since I find it spiritually uplifting.
It is a very tender romantic drama with such beautiful performances, sets, costumes, music and scenes that it has a resonance which places it almost in a league of its own among mini series.
Some others have commented on the difficulties of living as a lesbian in Britain in the 1890s. Nothing especially difficult about that; it was only male homosexuality that was against the law as poor Oscar Wilde experienced to his great cost and as a great loss to the literary world. Anyway, I digress.
In my view, this is essential television. It is perhaps one of the greatest tragic romantic dramas since Romeo and Juliet, although not in the conventional sense.
10 out of 10 from me.
I think Andrew Davies did an admirable job of taking a magnificent book
which emulated the pace and styling of a Victorian novel and turning it
into a moving and entertaining film. I'm glad I read (twice) the book
first which is usually the case for me. I know that one must view a
novel and a film as different media and judge them accordingly. But,
still, it's often hard to read the original material after a film gives
away the best parts.
I realize that Davies is a very good adapter, but I wish the producers had chosen a woman to write the screenplay. Davies, as he admits in the commentary that accompanies the film on DVD, wanted particularly to emphasis the more scatological bits in the book. I certainly enjoyed those, on film as in the book. But Davies missed a half-dozen moments that are so excruciatingly, painfully tender which he could have incorporated if his sensibility were more feminine.
I also would take issue with his use of the book's primary symbol, the rose.
As the screenplay was plotted by Davies, the denouement was inevitable and appropriate. But I really think that author Waters' final nod to the rose symbol was much more interesting. And I preferred way the novel let Nan "come of age" than the way Davies chose.
One quick comment about the four actors who essay the primary roles. They are all wonderfully talented -- well, except for the singing and dancing, perhaps -- and, moreover, their physical presences are so much what the mind's eye sees when reading the novel before seeing the film. I thought they were all terrific.
I recommend that any lesbian and anyone who loves good fiction, add BOTH the book and the DVD of TIPPING THE VELVET to their bookshelves.
I saw the series - all three episodes back to back - when it was re-broadcast by the BBC just before Christmas, and it held me spellbound. Since then I've watched the DVD at least half a dozen times. A subject that could so easily have drifted into melodrama has become an enchanting classic . The direction oozes class, particularly in the scenes of Nan and Kitty's stage rehearsals, the music has a haunting charm, and the acting is mostly glorious (Alexei Sayle was clearly only in it to show how good the rest of the cast was),. It's Andrew Davies's masterpiece.
For every fan of coming of age tales, this 3 hour adaptation of the
Sarah Waters novel is pure fun. Cinematic nods to Baz Luhrman's
kinetic style, as well as to all those prim and proper period pieces
ever present on the BBC (where you're likely to have seen almost
every prominent member of this cast). It's rather bawdy and over
the top in spots, but that's just what the novel called for. The cast
is appealing and, in the cases of Anna Chancellor and Hugh
Bonneville, perfect. In the case of Rachel Sterling, as our heroine
Nan, you simply must overlook the fact that she's far too pretty to
ever be mistaken for a boy and run with it. It's a fantasy, after all.
Some fans of the novel may be put out by the various changes in
character (particularly that of Jodhi May's character, Florence), but
the changes all work toward the greater good of this teleplay and
provide an overall high quality entertainment value.
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