Friday Reads: Lady Lindsey and Sister Ruth

Jean Simmons as Kanchi

Good Day Sky Dancers!

My first share is from one of my favorite movies “Black Narcissus”.  It was made in stunning technicolor in 1947 and stars Deborah Kerr and a very young Jean Simmons.  I’m going to share some images from the movie.  It’s directed by Michael Powell who is also known for “The Red Shoes” which is another favorite of many classic film buffs. I started reading the book last night which is the basis for the movie and a new series .  The book was published in 1939 and I’m getting ready to watch  the FX/BBC collaboration series based on Rumer Godden’s novel of the same name.

This is from the BBC: “The enduring allure of erotic masterpiece Black Narcissus”. 

The book, Godden’s third, and first bestseller, was praised by critics for its “rare beauty” and its “subtlety and freshness”, yet the story is not commonly described in such terms now. Rather Amanda Coe, the writer of the new three-part television version, says she thinks of it as “The Shining with nuns”.

Godden, who died aged 90 in 1998, was born in England but spent much of her childhood in India where her father managed a steamship company. She was a bestselling author who wrote more than 60 books, several of which were filmed. However her popularity has waned to the point where the most familiar Rumer to some will be the actress daughter of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore, apparently named after the writer.

Black Narcissus is Godden’s best-known work, partly because of the success and enduring popularity of the 1947 film. It tells the story of a small cadre of nuns from an Anglo-Catholic order sent to a remote mountaintop palace 8,000ft (2,400m) up in the Himalayas to establish a school and dispensary for the ‘natives’ – whether the ‘natives’ want one or not. The young, relatively inexperienced and rather self-important Sister Clodagh is placed in charge of this mission. Among the nuns is the highly-strung, difficult Sister Ruth.

Kathleen Byron as Sister Ruth

Ah, Sister Ruth!

And, we have some bonus links!

Painting with Light (2007) – A fascinating documentary on the making of Black Narcissus featuring interviews with cinematographer Jack Cardiff and actress Kathleen Byron.

Available on YouTube HERE

Sister Ruth is more than a bit fascinated by actor David Farrar as Mr. Dean who always wears the most scant of outfits with that hat.

And the review:

British director Michael Powell (Peeping Tom – 1960) and longtime collaborator Eric Pressburger apply a rapturously lush gloss and striking visual distinction to his Oscar-nominated 1947 screen adaptation of Rumer Godden’s 1939 novel. There seems to be something overheated and audacious about the entire enterprise, which, like the harem-house turned convent perched atop the Himalayan mountainscape that serves as the film’s primary locale and chief metaphor, allows Black Narcissus to recklessly skirt along the edges of high melodrama, camp overstatement, and visual poetry. If it was Powell & Pressburger’s goal to submerge the audience in a barrage of sensual excess parallel to that experienced by the white-clad nuns in the film—to indeed create a film as visually heady as the fragrance of the Black Narcissus flower—then they succeeded beyond all reasonable expectation.

I am wondering if the series can live up to its original especially given the setting of the movie completely in India in a time that seems equally remote as the Himalayas now.  However, it is Dame Diana Rigg’s last performance and I simply cannot miss it.

There is a version of the scene in the new TV adaptation. “There are certain things that people who want to watch this because they love the film will expect,” says Coe. “You’ve got to deliver. Otherwise it would be like seeing Hamlet and he doesn’t do ‘To be or not to be’.” Arterton is Sister Clodagh and Franciosi is Sister Ruth, in this production, which also briefly features the late Diana Rigg in what was to be her last TV role. (Rigg starred in a screen adaptation of another Godden story about nuns – 1975 TV movie In This House of Brede).

The mini-series pays homage to the Powell and Pressburger classic while building a quietly powerful atmosphere that is very much its own. The melodrama has been toned down and certain themes – the decline of the British Empire, for example –  teased out more. The cast are excellent, with several secondary characters making a strong impression, such as Patsy Ferran as sweet Sister Blanche and Karen Bryson as the flower-obsessed Sister Philippa, who becomes aware of the dangers of Mopu.

Mr Dean is played by Alessandro Nivola, who was already familiar with the movie because his wife, Emily Mortimer, had been given it to watch as homework by Scorsese when she worked with the director on 2010 psychological thriller Shutter Island. “One of his big inspirations for the way that he wanted to shoot Shutter Island was Black Narcissus,” Nivola tells BBC Culture. “He made it required viewing for all of the actors, so I remember her [Mortimer] coming home and saying: ‘Marty says we have to watch this movie’. That was the first time that I’d seen it. It just seemed so strange and gothic and just bizarre. I remembered how potent all of the kind of sexuality was in it, without it being explicit in any way.”

So, you may want to binge this when it comes on. This is one of the few things I will probably watch for awhile as I have cultlike tastes in films and series. So, from Sister Ruth I turn to face Lady Lindsey who is among one of the oddballs in Washington so completely turned Trumpian lapdog.  He’s one of three people I can think of completely blowing up whatever gravitas he had in supposed service to the people and our government. He’s nearly as crackers as Rudy Giuliani these days and seems as committed to blowing up our constitutional democracy as AG Bill Barr.

And now a lot of lawyers have their knives out for him . BB has given us some reads this week over this event but I’d like to take a deep dive.

From Law and Crime; Colin Kalmbacher: “‘What We in the Legal World Call a Felony’: Lawyers Condemn Lindsey Graham, Call for DOJ and Senate Investigations.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) may have made a huge mistakeOn Monday, the Palmetto State institution found himself in the middle of a scandal after Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger accused Graham of asking him to throw out valid ballots in the Peach State during a recent phone call.

On Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Graham and Raffensperger actually spoke twice on the phone–on the same day. The request to toss ballots “from counties with higher rates of signature errors” reportedly occurred during the second call. And there was a witness during the call in question.

Gabriel Sterling, Georgia’s voting system manager, confirmed to NBC News that Graham brought up the subject of throwing out ballots from “whole counties” with high rates of signature rejections.

Questions immediately swirled–and so did the speculation.

“Perfect call?” Tulane Law Professor and election law expert Ross Garber tweeted–a reference to President Donald Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, which ultimately led to Trump’s impeachment in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“I wonder who Senator Graham spoke to between the two calls?” asked Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) Research Director Robert Maguire via Twitter.

Former White House ethics attorney Walter Shaub was similarly interested and said that an investigation into Graham “is needed.”

That line of thought quickly picked up steam among legal experts.

“It is deeply troubling,” said Kristen Clarke of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law during a Monday evening appearance on MSNBC. “Here is something that the Justice Department should indeed open an inquiry into.”

What’s mostly interested in me is that Crew (Citizens for Ethics in Washington) has taken a big interest in Graham’s election tampering antics.

Yeah, This is just a gratuitous photo of Rudy Giuliani dripping hair dye while speaking in a unhinged manner about all kinds of election fraud fantasy.

This is the recent Crew Statement on “Lindsey Graham suggesting election interference”.

“For the chairman of the Senate committee charged with oversight of our legal system to have reportedly suggested that an election official toss out large numbers of legal ballots from American voters is appalling. Not only is it wrong for Senator Graham to apparently contemplate illegal behavior, but his suggestion undermines the integrity of our elections and the faith of the American people in our democracy. Under the guise of rooting out election fraud, it looks like Graham is suggesting committing it. That is unacceptable, and Senator Graham should step down from his chairmanship immediately.”

What is driving some of these long term Republicans to completely go off the deep edge chasing down conspiracy theories and doing really illegal and unethical things?  Why isn’t the bar getting complaints about all this?  I can’t imagine they deserve to keep their license to practice.

Oh, and then there’s the continuing superspreader event called working in the West Wing. And yes, it’s another whack Giuliani moment  but this time it’s the kid.

But back to Lindsey Graham and another lawyer laying it on today.  This is an article from Slate written by Mark Joseph Stern but recommended by the Laurence Tribe.

Graham’s alleged request is unseemly and corrupt. But is it criminal? In short, yes, according to multiple Georgia election law experts. If Raffensperger’s account is true, there is virtually no doubt that Graham committed a crime under Georgia law. The more difficult question is whether Graham will suffer any consequences for his alleged offense. Because he is a Republican and a sitting U.S. senator, Graham likely won’t face an investigation, let alone prosecution, for conduct that would get almost anyone else arrested. It might be tempting to dismiss Graham’s alleged interference as unscrupulous strategizing blown out of proportion. But Georgia has a sordid history of prosecuting putative voter fraud involving far more innocent conduct. Graham does not deserve a pass simply because he is a wealthy white senator.

I know it seems like there’s a lot on our national plates with retaking our place on the world stage, getting this Pandemic under Control, and trying to do something about the Economic Recession we’re experiencing but sheesh, these people need to be prosecuted.  These are actual felonies and just letting this slide sets a horrid example for the Rule of Law during four years where the Rule of Law has taken a severe beating.

So, that’s me here on the dark side again but at least a lot of it is in a movie and not real life.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?