Last two nights we watched movies borrowed from the library. The Jane Austen Book Club (2007), directed by Robin Swicord, could have been wittier and more literary, but it was watchable. Kevin Zegers plays a student who hits on his uptight French teacher, Prudie (Emily Blunt). Hugh Dancy is so immensely likable as Grigg, a computer geek. The women, drawn in very broad strokes, learn about courtship, heartbreak and second chances from Austen. No discussion about class, please. We are Americans.
At the age of 11, Li Cunxin was taken from his parents and poor village by Madam Mao's cultural delegates to Beijing to train as a ballet dancer. On a cultural exchange with Houston Ballet, he falls in love with an American woman and defects. Mao's Last Dancer, directed by Bruce Beresford, and based on Li's autobiography, is tightly plotted and beautifully shot. Unsurprisingly, it hews to the story of individual freedom so beloved by the West, and the story of poor boy made good so beloved by Americans. The film shows Li in some anguish over the fate of his parents in China, but it also proves the rightness of his decision by having his parents attend Li's performance in The Rites of Spring in an emotional reunion at the end. The film does not ask really hard questions, such as, should Li have defected knowing that his defection may endanger the lives of his parents? The film puts the blame wholly on the Communist government. That is correct but it is surely not the whole ethical problem. Li remains a cipher in the film, and perhaps in his own autobiography too.
the wind is writing this hour