Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Cherry Orchards

Richard Eyre directed the BBC TV production of Chekov's "The Cherry Orchard" (1981). I watched it over three nights, straining to hear the often-muffled sound. The poor sound might have to do with the age of the DVD. Using a version written by Trevor Griffiths, the production seemed overly English. As Madame Ranevsky, Judi Dench was affecting in certain scenes, as when she debated with herself whether to return to her Parisian lover, but was otherwise unconvincing as a Russian aristocrat who had to sell her family estate, including the famous cherry orchard. More likely was the performance of Bill Paterson as Lopakhin, the eventual buyer of the estate. The character was the richest of the lot. Upwardly mobile, commercially-minded, he gloried in the purchase of the land on which his father had worked as a serf. Anton Lesser was also very fine as the "eternal" student Peter Trofimov.

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Over the last two weekends we watched two gay movies about adopting a child. Swedish film "Patrik, Age 1.5" (2008), directed by Ella Lemhagen, used the issue to illuminate the stresses of a relationship. Where one half of the relationship wanted a child more than the other half, the mistaken adoption of a 15-year-old homophobic teenager spelled trouble for the marriage. "Breakfast with Scott," a Canadian film released one year earlier, was more concerned with the machismo of certain gay men who try to pass as "normal." Eric McNally, a former Toronto Maple Leaf hockey player, tried to change his flamboyant charge, Scott, but found himself changed instead by the child. Another woman director helmed this film, Laurie Lynd. Interesting connection between women directors and the emerging genre of gay domestic drama. Why wouldn't men, straight or gay, touch it, though they write it? "Patrik" is based on a play by Michael Druker, "Breakfast with Scott" on a novel by Michael Downing. Does this phenomenon say more about film, the industry or men?

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