December 22, 1995 in Seven

Novelist Jane Austen May Be Dead, But Her Stories Still Thrive

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Some 178 years after her death, British novelist Jane Austen has become hot copy. People magazine even named her one of the 25 most intriguing people of the year.

What does that say about 1995?

Still, her works do resonate. Earlier this year, an adaptation of “Persuasion” received good notices. “Sense and Sensibility,” which is just out nationally (although not yet in Spokane), is being described in Oscar terms.

“Emma,” a third Austen novel, just finished shooting, while an updated production of “Pride and Prejudice” was just screened by BBC.

But the first takeoff on Austen played earlier this year in American theaters. If you missed it, don’t be surprised. The producers disguised the project as a little teen effort titled “Clueless.”

The film, which is now out in video stores (see capsule review below), is about as far from a proper English view of the world as one could possibly get. But the general idea of Austen’s “Emma” is there: one young woman, a leader in her own level of society, helping others to find true happiness.

What does Hollywood have in mind next. Jim Carrey in a comic version of “As I Lay Dying”? Madonna in a sexy version of “The Octopus”? The cast of “Toy Story” updating “Moby Dick”?

Whatever, they could do worse than “Clueless,” whose 18-year-old star, Alicia Silverstone, could give Austenphiles lots of advice on how to fix their fashion sense.

As if!

Belle de Jour

****

With the help of Martin Scorsese, this 1967 Luis Bunuel study of bourgeois sexuality was rereleased last summer after a 20-year absence. While the world has changed, and with it our attitudes toward sex and eroticism, Bunuel’s film remains a notable look at people who continually search for a kind of happiness that they’ll never find. It features an icy Catherine Deneuve in her trademark role. Rated R

Clueless

***

Amy Heckerling, whose 1982 film “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” introduced a generation of young talent (including Sean Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Judge Reinhold and Phoebe Cates), gives MTV award-winner Alicia Silverstone a chance to shine here as Cher, the archetypal 16-year-old California girl. A parody of a Victorian novel - Cher doesn’t use drugs, she is saving her virginity for the boy she loves, and she loves improving the lots of friends whom she dubs “projects” - “Clueless” works because of Cher’s innate sweetness, which Silverstone is able to convey with Valley Girl perfection. Rated PG-13.

Die Hard with a Vengeance

***

There is little left of the satirical spirit that made the first segment of this three-part series so enjoyable, so deduct a star for lack of originality. “Die Hard” was both an entertainment and a statement about the very genre it so closely resembled. After a disastrous sequel, original director John McTiernan returns to, if nothing else, give us non-stop action, an effective new bad guy to love-hate in Jeremy Irons and a “Lethal Weapon”-type sidekick in Samuel L. Jackson for our protagonist to play off. Lt. John McClane of the NYPD may now be no better than a mere formulaic character, but as played by Bruce Willis, he is at least still near the top of the form. Rated R.

, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: New to view Now available: “Clueless” (Paramount), “Die Hard With a Vengeance” (Fox), “Playback” (Paramount), “Indecent Behavior 3” (TBA), “Belle de Jour” (Miramax), “Rent a Kid” (TBA), “Mortal Kombat” (New Line). Available Tuesday: “Born Wild” (Columbia TriStar), “Showgirls” (MGM/UA).

This sidebar appeared with the story: New to view Now available: “Clueless” (Paramount), “Die Hard With a Vengeance” (Fox), “Playback” (Paramount), “Indecent Behavior 3” (TBA), “Belle de Jour” (Miramax), “Rent a Kid” (TBA), “Mortal Kombat” (New Line). Available Tuesday: “Born Wild” (Columbia TriStar), “Showgirls” (MGM/UA).

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