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In nineteenth century Yorkshire wealthy orphan Anne Lister lives with an aunt and uncle, anxious for her to marry well and blissfully - unaware that she is a lesbian. Anne is recording her thoughts and exploits in a coded diary. When her lover Mariana Belcombe makes a marriage of convenience to rich old Charles Lawton she feels betrayed and, although Mariana visits her,the relationship is going nowhere. Helped by old flame Tib she makes a play for innocent Miss Browne but sees she is barking up the wrong tree and diverts herself by renovating the family hall. A drunken Tib almost exposes her secret and scornful mine-owner Christopher Rawson, whose marriage proposal she rejects, tells her that her sexuality is a subject of local gossip.... Written by
[voice over for letter to Anne Lister]
I realize any obligation you had to me was canceled by my marriage. But if you can find your way to Manchester on the 18th of November, I shall be there unaccompanied at the Albion Hotel en route from York.
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"I love and only love the fairer sex, and thus beloved by them in turn, my heart revolts from any love but theirs." - Anne Lister, Journals, Oct 29, 1820
The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister (2010) (TV) was written by Jane English and directed by James Kent. This film is a biography, because Anne Lister [1791 - 1840] was, indeed, a historical figure who managed to live her life as a happy and fulfilled lesbian.
Moreover, Ms. Lister did keep voluminous diaries. Only a small portion of the diaries were actual secret--i.e. written in code. Anne Lister was so intelligent that the code she devised wasn't deciphered for almost 100 years. The encoded part of the diary described Anne Lister's romantic and sexual experiences.
By a combination of enormous intelligence, class privilege, and unbreakable will, Anne Lister was able to maintain a lesbian life style in a society where such behavior was rarely tolerated.
This is an excellent film, with strong performances from all the actors, and an absolutely stellar performance from Maxine Peake as Anne. Because it's a BBC production, the production values are high and the costumes and location shots are entrancing.
Obviously, this movie was made for TV, so it will work well on the small screen. However, it is really glorious on the large screen, which is how we saw it. The film was shown at the Dryden Theatre, as the closing night offering of the terrific ImageOut: Rochester Lesbian and Gay Film Festival. Don't miss this movie!
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