Saturday, December 20, 2008

Twelve Days of Christmas T-5: Eleanor of Aquitaine

Eleanor of Aquitaine:

A sort of composite likeness based on existing period depictions.

She had been a crusader, queen of two countries, and a cunning political mind before being locked away by her second husband, Henry II, to keep her from stirring up any more civil wars. I picked her as a Christmas character because of Goldman's excellent play The Lion in Winter, which is about Henry bringing his family (Eleanor and surviving sons Richard, Geoffrey, and John) home for the holidays to play mind games and ostensibly decide on a successor. The play was made into two very, VERY good films, one starring Katherine Hepburn as Eleanor and Peter O'Toole as Hal II, and the other with Glen Close as Eleanor and Patrick Stewart as the vengeful hubby.

When compared, both films have their strengths and weaknesses - in the 60's version, Hepburn plays Eleanor as increasingly desperate in a way that Close seems to try and mask; Patrick Stewart, with the same lines, is a far more magnanimous Henry. O'Toole seems downright cruel and diabolical; Stewart says everything with a smile and you can't help but like him even when his behavior is contemptible. In fact, that's a good way to look at the films as a whole: the dialogue is the same in both, but everything uttered in the sixties version is hard-walled contempt, and everything in the 2003 version seems to be good-natured ribbing. As a medieval political movie, the former works best; as a home-for-the-holidays movie, the Stewart/Close version wins out.

I don't care for the performance of John in the older movie, and I don't like the performance of Richard in the new one. Both, though, are worth watching - give 'em a queing in your netflix cycle.


Jackie Lewis said...

I'm loving the 12 Days of Christmas series (you could make it into those calendars where you open the little flap/door and there's a piece of chocolate inside)!

By "moving," I mean "moving about five minutes away from where I am now," so no worries. You won't be rid of me that easily, Captain Schweizer.

Also: How's the book signing going? Tell me when you're signing in Atlanta! I just received two copies of Crogan's Vengeance in the mail (1 for me, and 1 for my sort-of nephew) and you have to sing them!!

Jackie Lewis said...

Or you could *sign them...I guess "singing" your book would be acceptable as well, as long as I can tape it and post your performance on youtube!!