TV and Film

Discussion of TV shows and movies

  • History,  Places,  Research,  Risky Regencies,  TV and Film

    Waterloo Again

    June 18th will be the 207th anniversary of the battle of Waterloo, the epic battle that marked the final defeat of Napoleon and gave Europe a century of peace and prosperity broken only by WWI. It is no surprise to long time readers of the Risky Regencies blog that I am fascinated by this battle. I’ve blogged about it at least seven times.

    My friend Kristine Hughes of Number One London Tours is offering a Waterloo Tour in September 2022 and I just signed up! I am actually going to fulfill a long time dream to visit the battlefield and see in person what I’ve written about so many times. Kristine will be joined by Gareth Glover, a Waterloo expert who will, I am sure, make the battle come alive.

    So what I’m doing to prepare is reading all the books on Waterloo that I’ve collected on my Kindle and have used for research from time to time.

    First of these is Kristine’s Waterloo Witnesses: Military and Civilian Accounts of the 1815 Campaign. I’ve peeked into this book many times since its release a year ago, but this time I’m reading cover to cover.

    I also just discovered The Longest Afternoon, a book about the defense of La Haye Sainte, an important part of the battle fought by the King’s German Legion. That’s on my list, too, now.

    I discovered this book in a rather unusual way — I was searching YouTube for videos on Waterloo and I came upon this one:

    Not only does this prove that there are other obsessed people in the world but also that one can find a book recommendation anywhere.

    Because my Kindle books are not nearly enough, I’m also going through other YouTube videos on the battle and am listening to Bernard Cornwell’s Waterloo, which I borrowed from my library.

    Can you tell I’m excited about this trip?

  • History,  Regency,  Research,  Risky Regencies,  TV and Film,  Writing

    A Background of War

    British Infantry at Quatre Bras?

    Have any of you already seen movie director Peter Jackson’s magnificent documentary about World War I, “They Shall Not Grow Old”? Today it is opening in 500 more theaters around the US after the preliminary viewings have been so well-received. What, you may ask, does this film have to do with the Regency? Bear with me.

    My hubby and I went out in gusty minus 15 degree wind chills earlier in January to view this film, and I have to tell you, it is unforgettable. Jackson and his production teams delved through 100 hours of old, grainy film footage shot at varying speeds on hand-reeled cameras and 600 hours of oral history recordings made available by the British Imperial War Museum to pull together this amazing experience. By choosing a narrowly focused story and using every modern film and computer technique available to enhance the material, they truly captured an indelible, brilliantly rendered experience of being on the front lines in France during The Great War.

    My brain always seems to pull things into a Regency frame of reference, and I felt that this film also captured a sense of what war in the Regency period would also have felt like. It probably captures it for any time, but the differences in technology between WWI and more recent wars are legion.

    What struck me is that WWI’s ground war was probably the last that still somewhat resembled what wars had been like through history up to that point. In WWI, vehicles were still pulled by horses, and many officers still were mounted. Artillery cannon may have been more accurate and had a longer range, but the experience of loading and firing them (and receiving fire) had not changed much in 100 years. Infantry still used rifles with fixed bayonets. The misery of life in the trenches had not changed much, either.

    The Napoleonic conflicts were just about as long past then as WWI is to us today. Jackson’s film does not try to capture the very different experiences of the air or sea parts of the Great War, where the technology differences would be more significant. But to me, the images of men trying to release a heavily-loaded team-drawn wagon from deep mud, or of the cannons rocking back when they fire, or simply of men waiting for battle, could have been pulled from Napoleonic France with very little added imagination.

    Painting of the Battle of Waterloo by artist William Holmes Sullivan
    Waterloo, by William Holmes Sullivan

    Britain was at war with France from 1793-1815. There were impacts at home that may or may not inform the background of our Regency stories. The reality of men coming home wounded, or men who never made it home, of news events that people talked about, all form an underpinning to the era. Four of my Regency romances all feature heroes who served in the war, and in three of those, the effects of the war are deeply integral to the story.

    Even impacts after the war, when the influx of soldiers coming home led to unemployment and other social problems, can figure in our stories, as a mere mention in passing or as an important part of plot or character.

    Jackson’s film, at the end, shows exactly those same kinds of problems faced by the returning soldiers from WWI. We like to think the lack of gratitude or awareness was not as bad at the end of the Napoleonic Wars –people in Britain did fear the Little General might come right to their shores. Also, the population was not as huge, and every class felt some effect of war, whether it was the aristocratic families whose younger sons were officers, or the poor whose sons risked life and limb for the promise of pay. In WWI, the threat to Great Britain was perhaps not as vivid as it was before, or after. One soldier in Jackson’s film who was able to return to his old job after fighting in the war recalls being asked, “Where’ve you been, mate? Workin’ nights?”

    I recommend this film to you, for a greater understanding of what the background of war can mean to our characters, and so to enrich our own storytelling. If it isn’t at a theater near you, it is also available online, at: https://tinyurl.com/y9ae3w2r . But the large screen version will be far more affecting, and it also includes a separate, fascinating short film about how Jackson made this amazing documentary. (Just be patient through the first few minutes.)

    But be prepared –it isn’t pretty, and it is very moving. I managed not to cry until the end, but when the song Jackson chose for the credits began to play, I lost it. My paternal grandfather served in France during WWI (in the American army) and he used to sing that song all the time when I was a child. Hinkey-dinky-parlez-vous is embedded in my family memories. Although I must add, NOT most of the verses I heard sung for Jackson’s film!!

    Have you seen the film? Do you think the similarities & emotion translate across 100 years of time to the Regency period? What do you think about the background of war in Regency romances?

  • TV and Film

    Lovejoy

    I’m into comfort TV. To me, that includes series with likeable, quirky characters who rub against each other in interesting and funny ways—series like Northern Exposure, Parks & Rec, Grace and Frankie.

    My most recent go-to comfort TV is an older comic mystery series called Lovejoy, which I watched on BBC while I was living in the UK. It was also on A&E.

    The title character, played by Ian McShane, is a shady antiques dealer who is also a “divvy”—someone who can spot a genuine treasure amongst less valuable items. Lovejoy is the quintessential charming rogue, a bit of a con man but with redeeming characteristics. The series is based on books by John Gash (which I haven’t read) but I’ve read that the books were darker and Lovejoy less likeable.

    For much of the series, he works with Lady Jane Felsham (Phyllis Logan), lady of the manor and interior decorator. They are professional partners and dear friends. There’s also an ongoing sexual tension, but they don’t end up together (and shouldn’t). He has other love interests, but it’s even stated at one point that he is more in love with the idea of romance than any one woman.

    Here’s a clip of his first meeting with Jane.

    The appeal to me and possibly other Regency romance fans is more the British setting, the stately homes, the countryside, the language, and of course, the antiques. Many of the items featured are pre-Victorian so they are things Regency characters might have possessed. I can call it research!

    A deeper theme is that of the genuine versus the fake. Lovejoy has a deep appreciation for beauty, history, artistry, and craftsmanship. He may scheme to make money, but it’s not just about the money. He also has that appreciation for people. His affection for Jane is, I think, in part because he recognizes that she is what an aristocrat is supposed to be: cultured and honorable. He also values good-hearted people of any social status. Sometimes he gives up profit in order to help such people. The ones he usually cheats are either shallow and pretentious or coldly materialistic—people who value antiques only for their monetary value or status appeal.

    In one of the episodes he says you can’t con an honest person. I interpret this as meaning a person who doesn’t expect a deal that is too good to be true.

    I like shopping at shows and stores that feature antiques, collectibles, and secondhand items, but to me, a treasure is a reasonably priced item that will make me happy when I look at or use it. Provenance doesn’t matter to me.

    I’ve already blogged about my attraction for Georgian and Regency era inspired furniture. I’ve collected some nice reproductions made in the early 1900’s—elegant and better made than most new furniture is now, and I don’t mind a few signs of wear.

    I feel the same way about dishes. I’m downsizing, so I want to get rid of the rarely used “fine china” set that I never really liked that much, and my rather tired everyday stuff. I am replacing it with a growing collection of mismatched, used blue transferware. I had a few pieces already and it’s been a blast to find more. Here’s a picture of my haul from the Madison Bouckville Antique show last August.

    Such dishes are often reproductions of designs from the Regency through Victorian eras. They are inexpensive (I’ve been averaging about $3 a piece) and I think they look more interesting mismatched. So I can have friends over and if someone drops a plate, we can just laugh about it and I can have fun hunting down a replacement.

    How about you? Do you like shopping for antique and vintage items and what do you look for?

    Have you seen Lovejoy? What do you think of the show? What is your comfort TV?

    Elena

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