Raw, adjective: 7. brutally or grossly frank: a raw portrayal of human passions.

Caught Brideshead Revisited on a cool foggy summer evening last week.  Aesthetically, it got me.  Thematically, too.

I confess to not having read Evelyn Waugh's original 1945 novel, so I can't speak to the quibbles some critics are having over what is apparently a vastly reduced plotline.  And I never saw the 1981 BBC 12-hour documentary version starring Jeremy Irons that so many others are comparing it to.  All I can say is this: the film was beautiful.  The costumes were stunning.  The art direction, lush.  And Hayley Atwell's severe Jazz Age Dora-the-Explorer bob made me want to march right down to the hair salon immediately (I still might).  I am also prepared to chuck my entire contemporary wardrobe in favor of the gorgeous drop-waist sheaths Julia wears throughout the course of the film, especially that emerald-green gown.  From now on, it will be t-straps and vintage wear only.

Emma Thompson does strong work as Mommie Dearest, clothed in rich velvets and heavy satins, and the settings in Venice and Morocco are beautiful.  And on a more serious note, the film itself, with its focus on class envy and social climbing as related to love and religion and the messy combination of the two, and the ultimately powerful role that faith (or lack thereof) can have in determining romantic and filial relationships, leaves you frustratingly reflective as you walk out of the theater.

Brideshead struck me with a sense of the power of certain loves to linger in your consciousness, long after they've faded from your life; the scenes of Charles "revisiting" Brideshead over the years, and particularly the last time when he returns to an estate transformed by World War II, filled me with the kind of bittersweet loss that only comes with memories of places that once were and will never again be.  I climbed up California Street with wet cheeks, aching for a short 20's bob, and reminded of the Buddhist maxim that life is change, and transience is all we can know, so let's please savor the moments of youth spent swimming naked in fountains and tasting 27 different bottles of wine while reclining on an English estate with a gorgeous closeted alcoholic poet and an aloof Amelie-lookalike.  Because that shit is gonna change.


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