Reviews — February 7
There are a lot of “Jane Eyre” movies out there, but it would be tough to find one with a better pedigree than the 1943 version: Aldous Huxley had a hand in the screenplay, Bernard Herrmann composed the score, and starring opposite Joan Fontaine in the title role is Orson Welles as the larger-than-life Edward Rochester.
This is a smart, spooky version of the famous gothic novel, complete with a fog-drenched moor and a sprawling castle so atmospheric it is itself a character. Eyre is played by two actresses, and Fontaine (who died in December) is exquisite as the character’s 20-year-old incarnation. Even though she literally stood in Welles’ shadow, Fontaine held her own playing across from the imposing actor.
As Charlotte Bronte’s book is so well-known, I’ll pass on the obligatory plot description. Also, I wouldn’t want to spoil the story’s crucial surprise for anyone who hasn’t read the book or seen one of the many remakes.
It’s a great old movie for a cold winter’s night, and hard-core film buffs will enjoy the commentary tracks, one of which features Welles biographer Joseph McBride.
“Jane Eyre” (1943) Directed by Robert Stevenson. Starring Joan Fontaine, Orson Welles and Agnes Moorehead. An 11-year-old Elizabeth Taylor also has a small role. 97 minutes. Unrated.
“The trouble with poetry is/that it encourages the writing of more poetry,” Billy Collins writes in the penultimate poem in his 2005 collection, both titled “The Trouble with Poetry.”
I was glad for that as I read several of his volumes, dipping a toe here and there in the Great Lakes of his writing, then resting awhile on the beach before plunging in again.
Let me try again. No matter your political leanings, you’ll have to agree that George W. Bush did at least one thing right: He named Billy Collins the U.S. poet laureate. It was an inspired choice, and very fitting for a president who, at his best, was a down-home, regular guy American.
Collins’ poetry, you see, is very much for the regular guy. On the surface, at least, it’s plain speak, no frills and hilarious; but it also plumbs incredible depths as he uses images of the ordinary to explore timeless topics such as death, aging and loss, as well as writing itself, nature and our relationship with animals.
In one of my favorites, “On Turning Ten” (from “Sailing Alone Around the Room), Collins laments the loss of youth and innocence — from the perspective of a fourth-grader. It’s a charming, humorous twist on the moaning and groaning we all do as we face those milestone birthdays.
In “Divorce” (from “Ballistics”), he sums up the pain and antipathy of a breakup in four heartbreaking lines. “Once two spoons in bed/now tined forks,” the poem begins.
In “My Hero” (from “Horoscopes for the Dead”) he roots not for the speedy hare, but for the meandering tortoise. Why? Because, like a poet, it gives in to the distractions that make life beautiful.
And in the “The Trouble with Poetry,” he continues,
“And how will it ever end?
unless the day finally arrives
when we have compared everything in the world
to everything else in the world.
and there is nothing left to do
but quietly close our notebooks ... .”
For Billy Collins, and the rest of us, let that never come to be.
“Sailing Alone Around the Room” (2001), “The Trouble with Poetry” (2005), “Ballistics” (2008) and “Horoscopes for the Dead” (2011) by poet Billy Collins.