Sunday, November 06, 2011

TIPPING THE VELVET (2002, Geoffrey Sax, British miniseries, 177 min, A+++++)

What I like very much in this lesbian miniseries include:

1.The scene in which Nan Astley (Rachael Stirling) dares to confront her master (Anna Chancellor) and her rich friends in a lustful party to protect Zena Blake (Sally Hawkins) from humiliation. I think Nan is very brave and very inspiring in that scene. The scene is very powerful. It is always inspiring to see a character who says something or does something which seems to announce, "Enough is enough. I will not be your slave any more. I will not bow down to you any more. You are rich, but I am a human being like you. Your richness cannot suppress us any more. Your power cannot make us shut our mouths any more." Nan doesn't say the previous sentence, but what she says and does in that scene gives the feeling like that.

You can watch this scene here:

The power of "rising up" in that scene reminds me of one of my most favorite music videos of all time: DÉSENCHANTÉE -- Mylène Farmer (1991, Laurent Boutonnat)

2.The presentation of lesbian sex and dildo, which is much more explicit than what I had imagined. I didn't know that British television can be as explicit about sex as this, so it is a surprise for me when I see a dildo in this miniseries. I rarely see a dildo even in films, which theoretically should be more explicit than TV programs. The impressive presentation of dildo in TIPPING THE VELVET reminds me of the one in TWO DRIFTERS (2005, João Pedro Rodrigues).

I'm very glad that TV programs are now very much more explicit than the time when I was a kid in 1970's and 1980's. I just discovered a Thai gay cable TV series called LOVE AUDITION, which is a little bit more explicit than I thought.

Having said that, I want to add that Thai mainstream TV is much more censored than before. When I was a kid, characters smoking a cigarette or having alcoholic drinks were not censored in Thai TV, but they have been censored during the past 10 years or so. While the rest of the world has been progressing, Thailand has been going downhill into the medieval era.

3.The beautiful melodies of the songs in this miniseries.

4. The world of lesbians one hundred years ago. I think I had never seen a period lesbian film before TIPPING THE VELVET. I think its story occurs nearly the same time as the homosexual stories in WILDE (1997, Brian Gilbert) and MAURICE (1987, James Ivory).

I hope in the future there will be some Thai period gay and lesbian films like TIPPING THE VELVET and MAURICE. There seems to be many interesting real Thai gay and lesbian stories worthy to be adapted into films, such as the lesbian story of Princess Yuangkaew Siroros or the gay story of Prince Kraisorn (1771-1848)

5. Some parts of the story in TIPPING THE VELVET reminds me of my life. The first part of the film deals with "innocent love". The second part deals with "lust". The third part deals with "settling down". The first and second parts of the miniseries remind me of my life. The first part of the film reminds me of the time when I was under 25. It is the time when I still had romantic dreams, or dreams that one day a man would sweep me off my feet. The second part reminds me of the exciting, lustful world of a gay discotheque which I used to frequent in the late 1990's. However, the third part of the miniseries doesn't remind me of my life, because my life is far from settling down yet. I don't have a house, a husband, or a really successful career. The happy ending of this miniseries is still beyond my reach.

6.The first part of the miniseries reminds me of the films WHEN NIGHT IS FALLING (1995, Patricia Rozema), in which a conservative woman falls in love with a carnival woman who comes to town, and DRY CLEANING (1997, Anne Fontaine), in which a heterosexual couple become attracted to a man performing in a drag club.

Fortunately, TIPPING THE VELVET doesn't stop at the lesbian love story between the small-town woman and a travelling woman. The miniseries goes on to explore other things in part 2 and 3.

7.I like the world of theatre one hundred years ago. In this miniseries, the heroine is dressed as a man and sings some beautiful songs onstage. It reminds me of some films about the theatre world in the past, such as

7.1 BEING JULIA (2004, István Szabó)

7.2 ESTHER KAHN (2000, Arnaud Desplechin)

7.3 FRENCH CANCAN (1955, Jean Renoir)

7.4 QUEENIE (1987, Larry Pearce, 2367 min), in which the heroine becomes famous after performing an exotic dance in a club.

8.The drag performance of the heroine reminds me of Marlene Dietrich in trousers and Annie Lennox in the music video LEGEND IN MY LIVING ROOM.

9.The performance of Anna Chancellor

Other interesting things:

--It is funny to think that Geoffrey Sax directed both TIPPING THE VELVET and the horror film WHITE NOISE (2005), because these two works seem to have nothing in common.

--The beach scenes in TIPPING THE VELVET reminds me of the music video FOREVER BLUE (1989) -- Swing Out Sister

--Like many good miniseries/TV series, the strength of TIPPING THE VELVET comes from "a good story being told efficiently", not the breakthrough of forms or styles as found in great films. However, I don't mean to say that TIPPING THE VELVET is not great because it is not experimental or avant-garde. I just want to observe that this seems to be one of the main differences between these two media, because many miniseries/made-for-TV films that I like also have this quality--conventional storytelling of great stories, while many films that I like are the ones that "don't want to tell stories." I also want to note that "to tell a good story efficiently" is not an easy thing, and there are many films nowadays which cannot even "tell a good story efficiently".

Period miniseries/made-for TV films that I like very much include:

1.CAT'S PAW HOUSE (2009, Jean-Daniel Verhaeghe), based on the short story of Honoré de Balzac

2.CLAUDE GUEUX (2009, Olivier Schatzky), based on the novel of Victor Hugo. It deals with social injustice very powerfully.

3.COURRIÈRES 1906, THE CHILD OF DARKNESS (2007, Thierry Binisti). This film is based on a true story about the tragic fates of mining workers.

4.CRAINQUEBILLE (2009, Philippe Monnier), based on the short story of Anatole France. It deals with social injustice very powerfully.

5.DOMBAIS ET FILS (2007, Laurent Jaoui, 180 min), based on the novel of Charles Dickens. It deals with a tyrannical man whose wife and daughter rebel against him.

6.FRIEND JOSEPH (2008, Gérard Jourd'hui), based on the short story of Guy de Maupassant. It deals with the conflicts between the Monarchists and the Republican.

7.HAPPINESS DWELLS IN CRIME (2009, Denis Malleval), based on the novel of Jules Amédée Barbey d'Aurevilly. It deals with the downfall of the aristocracy.

8.THE HAUNTED SEAT (2009, Claude Chabrol), based on the story of Gaston Leroux

9.PRIDE AND PREJUDICE (1995, Simon Langton, 300 min), based on the novel of Jane Austen

10. THREE MURMURED MASSES (2009, Jacques Santamaria), based on the story of Alphonse Daudet (1840-1897). It presents a sarcastic view on the religion establishment.

11.TIPPING THE VELVET, based on the novel of Sarah Waters

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