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Beau Brummel Beau Brummel was an 18th Century gambler, socialite and
overall dazzling light of high-society who invented the look of the
Dandy. This was a time in history where the French ruled the world in
terms of style and fashion and it was normal for men to wear white wigs
with white makeup, reddened lips and cheeks in a style known as the
fop. Brummell deconstructed masculinity and is actually responsible for
the introduction of the trouser as the preferred form of clothing for
the gentleman up to now it had been the pantaloons or breeches.
His style was astonishing; he developed the trend for men to look carelessly smart, clothes simple, yet elegant black trousers, jacket, white shirt and intricate neckerchief but of course this took hours of preparation. He totally redefined how men should behave how they would stand, smell, look, interact. He was closely associated with Lord Byron and also with Prince George son of George III. Hereby hangs a tale of wealth, beauty, excess, comedy and tragedy.
James Purefoy and the assembled cast provide something quite astonishing in this rendition of the most astonishing tale of a man who styled the future king of England, who managed to squander several fortunes in such amazing style and panache that he makes it look like the most fun a human could ever have. The relationships between Brumell and his manservant, Byron and his sister, the gentlemen of high-society are so exquisite in this superb BBC production that I found my self totally seduced.
If you only watch this production for one scene it must be where the Prince Regent demands Beau come to show him how to dress "come and watch me!" he exclaims in exasperation, and the Prince does, and we do too. Such an erotic and charged scene Purefoy shaving and preening in the morning sunlight, watched by first the Prince and then an array of admirers; this character was so seductive people would come for miles to see how he managed to assemble his dress.
The production is small in scale; a few well-chosen external sets, some spectacular location work used very carefully. But it is the script and the performances, framed so sympathetically by the director with a very well-judged soundtrack, which makes this a gem of a work. Forget the nonsense by Jane Austen, this is where the BBC set the screen on fire and if you get the chance to see this, you must. It is a production that just works so well and somehow burnt itself into my mind to linger in my mind long after the credits had rolled.
If you've ever wondered why billions of office peons worldwide dress in
the same ridiculous outfit of dirt-attracting white shirt, pointless
and suffocating tie and a suit which makes them look like their dead
grandfathers and requires air conditioning in half of the world, then
here's your culprit: an 18. century Englishman going by the wonderfully
far-out name of Beau Brummel. Mind you, his dandy style was a great
improvement over the earlier fops, which comprised cake makeup, sultry
f*ck-me perfume, whigs and high heels, stuff that just goes a lot
better with women.
Anyway, that's who this excellent BBC docudrama is about. It's set in a strange, dystopic world of not-so-long-ago and not-so-far-away, Regency England. It's just a joy to watch, it really takes you there. It's good on details too, such as the muted candle-lightning (Jupiter floodlights being thin on the ground in this era). It's superbly acted, teaches you a lot about the mood of the time, and entertains you all the while. It changed my image of Beau Brummel from caricature to flesh and blood.
Brummell was a self-made man in the REGENCY period of England. This film is a joy to watch, especially if you read Jane Austen and/or Georgette Heyer. A visual for all the costumes and "sets" from those books. Brummell MIGHT be considered a dandy, with his emphasis on appearance and ennui. His style was much more severe and monochromatic than any self-respecting (and caricature of a) dandy would have worn in that period. Understatement and elegance and refinement were his precepts. Yes, he spent hours getting ready, but no make-up, no extremes in style, no overly high shirt points, etc. For that type of dandy look at such other real life persons as Poodle Bing.
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