Judge Christopher Kulik will soon embark on distilling the works of Leo Tolstoy into a raucous sitcom.
Classic tales of love and loss based on the fiction of Henry James!
Regardless of how much you love classic literature, Affairs Of The Heart is going to be a tough sell. This rarely-seen 1974 series takes the stories of Henry James and purges them to their very core, with every episode running approximately fifty minutes. Some of them are well known, while others are rare and had never been filmed before.
All of the episodes are titled according to the central female character, who acts as the focus and/or POV source in telling each of the stories. Created by Terence Feely, the BBC show would only last two years and spawn 13 episodes, although it did have a brief appearance on CBS in the early 1980s. This sounds rather odd, as Affairs Of The Heart would be more at home on PBS next to Masterpiece Theater.
The list of episodes on this 2-disc set include:
I was turned on to James' writing largely because of the run of big-screen adaptations which emerged in the mid-90s, such as The Portrait Of A Lady, Washington Square, and The Wings Of The Dove. All of them were excellent in their own way, being committed to the text while also injecting modern sensibilities. Indeed, James' themes, such as the differences between Europeans and Americans and the ongoing battle of money vs. love, remain very contemporary.
The author had a knack for capturing real human emotions within the clash of different cultures, making him one of the most widely-read of all 19th century authors. While it did take some time for me to warm up to Affairs Of The Heart, James' language shines through wonderfully and the British cast assembled for each episode feels right at home.
In Series One, we had episodes based on Washington Square, The Aspern Papers, and the short story Glasses, among others. While most of the cast was unknown to American audiences, there were fine contributions by Diana Rigg (The Avengers), Rosalind Ayres (Titanic), Jeremy Brett (Sherlock Holmes), and Stuart Wilson (The Mask Of Zorro). Series Two doesn't have nearly the same pedigree, although we do have the superb Shakespearean actor Derek Jacobi (Hamlet), Sinead Cusack (V For Vendetta), and Bernard Lee, best known as the first actor to portray "M" in the James Bond series.
Affairs Of The Heart is recommended whole-heartedly to fans of James and classic literature. More than the average viewer, they should be able to appreciate the robust performances and impeccable production values. In fact, this series is ideal for high school teachers and college professors, as each episode is perfectly abbreviated to fill an average block of class time. However, it's kind of discouraging that Acorn Media decided to release two separate sets when they could have easily combined all 13 episodes into one box set.
The episodes themselves show their age, particularly in outdoor scenes which sport lots of grain. Indoor scenes are much cleaner, but the dull PBS-look is going to turn a lot of people off, even if the costumes and sets don't. Audio is nicely rendered in the mono tracks, but there are no subtitles. Extras are limited to selected cast filmographies—which are nothing more than lists that could easily be found on IMDb—and a Henry James biography which is repeated from Series One.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Acorn Media
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