January 8, 2013

Celebrating the Lost Art of Letter-Writing

My handwriting is ungodly, and the U.S. Postal Service doesn't approve of my red sealing wax (it mucks up the machinery apparently), nevertheless, there's something about writing an old-fashioned letter that makes one feel so very proper and refined in a "Jane Austen heroine" sort of way. I feel as though I should be relaying scandalous gossip or turning down a suitor most delicately. 


Alas, most of the stamped missives I send are directed to the DWP and phone company, but in honor of Universal Letter Writing Week, I thought I'd share some of my favorite epistolary novels and their film adaptations.

Dangerous Liasons
There have been a number of film adaptations of de Laclos's tale of ruthless games of the heart, most notably, the 1998 version starring Glenn Close as Marquise de Mertueil and John Malkovich as Vicomte de Valmont. This clip alone is filled with priceless quotes.

The Color Purple
I'm always confused when I remember that Spielberg's adaptation of Alice Walker's Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel didn't win any Oscars. It's hard to believe, really, but at least we'll always have Oprah's "All my life..." speech. (You go, girl.)

The Moonstone
Greg Wise (swoon!) and Keeley Hawes star in a late ’90s version of Wilkie Collins's tome, considered to be the first "detective novel" in the English language.

We all know and love Boris Karloff as Mary Shelley's famous monster in the 1931 film, but it's hard to top the all-star cast (Kenneth Branaugh, Helena Bonham Carter, Tom Hulce, Ian Holm and Aidan Quinn) in this 1994 adaptation, which features none other than Robert DeNiro as the monster. Alas, the film didn't quite pass muster with most critics, as this clip (and Branaugh's ridiculous mullet) might help exhibit:

The Tenent of Wildfell Hall
Toby Stephens (who, as an aside, I loved as Rochester in this version of Jane Eyre) and Rupert Graves star in this TV miniseries, which I'm bummed to have missed. It's based on the novel by that other Bronte sister, Anne, and is considered "the most shocking" of the Bronte clan's collected works. The entire story is framed as a letter from a man to his brother-in-law, relaying the tale of how he came to meet his wife. This clip makes me all melty inside:

Where'd You Go, Bernadette
Annapurna Pictures has snagged the movie rights for this book by Maria Semple, which tells the story (through correspondence) of an outlandish (but troubled) woman who goes missing and the teenage daughter who attempts to track her down. According to imdb, it's slated for a 2015 release. I (Amy) just read the novel over the holidays and loved it, so am excited for this one.

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