Thursday, August 13, 2009


Apparently I liked The Letter better than everyone else:
Kozinn calls out the excellence of some of the music. He and Midgette disagree about Michaels-Moore's Robert Crosbie:
  • Michaels-Moore sang strongly but played a wimpy husband (Midgette)
  • Anthony Michaels-Moore made Robert, Leslie’s husband, into an emotional volcano that seemed out of character for this quiet, self-effacing rubber planter. (Kozinn)
Downey mentions laughter at inappropriate moments. I noted down a bunch of these early in the opera; they definitely seem like misfires in the libretto.

I suspect that part of the reason I am so positive about the opera is that, really, it's so much better than the movie, and I saw them in close proximity. I found Racette's Leslie much more sympathetic than Davis's. I was sitting up in the mezzanine, not down on the floor, and for all I know it was more convincing at a distance.


Anonymous said...

I think Davis' character is calculatedly unsympathetic. Her expression as she pumps the last rounds into Hammond's already dying body--then tosses the revolver pettishly aside when it runs out of ammo--is ice cold; her explanation ("He tried to make love to me and I shot him") is a lie, and she knows it. The racism, I think, is on at least three levels: the characters' (which is crude), Maugham's (which is nuanced by his own sense of outsiderhood), and the moviemakers', which is, as you say, unexamined--they didn't know how to depict Asians except by using stereotypes. But the story gets its punch from Leslie Crosbie's ungovernable lust, which strips away her inside-the-compound respectability and leaves her, yes, no better than those half-human creatures out there in the native quarter. I can't comment on the opera but in the movie she's a monster--far more (Maugham seems to imply) than the Others, because she's "letting down the side."

Sorry--I really like that movie, so I try to construct a defensible reason why.

Lisa Hirsch said...

That's a good analysis of the racism in the film. I need to read the Maugham originals.

Leslie in the opera is more human, more sympathetic, because Patricia Racette is just not going to be an icy monster.