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Posts Tagged ‘Henry James’

Lois Robbins, Jonathan Rhys Meyers

“THE ASPERN PAPERS” My rating: D+ 

90 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Not even the presence of the iconic mother/daughter acting team of Vanessa Redgrave and Joely Richardson can salvage the sodden shipwreck that is “The Aspern Papers.”

Julian Landais’ film is only the latest dramatic incarnation of Henry James’ celebrated 1888 novella (there have been a half dozen previous adaptations), but it’s such a spectacular misfire that it should scare the smart money away from future versions.

In the 1880s an American scholar comes to Venice intent on researching the life of the famed poet Jeffrey Aspern, who died 60 years earlier leaving a couple of books of devastating verse and a beautiful corpse.  Our protagonist and  narrator, unnamed in the book but here calling himself Edward Sullivan, is portrayed by an abysmally miscast Jonathan Rhys Meyers at his creepiest.

“Edward” rents quarters in the crumbling villa of the money-strapped Madame Bordereau (Redgrave), who was Aspern’s lover back in the day. The old lady is a hard, utterly unsentimental case, but Edward sees an opening in her spinster niece, Tina (Richardson).  He gets to work insinuating himself into the women’s lives, courting  the lonely, shy Tina as a way of accessing Aspern’s personal papers, a veritable treasure trove he is certain Bordereau possesses.

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