Thursday, December 3, 2020

BLACK NARCISSUS ON FX REVIEW


The words written here are the opinions of the writer of this post. They may not necessarily reflect the ideas, worldviews or opinions of other writers associated with this blog. 

I am someone who needs to be motivated with passion in order to write at this point in life. This has not been a year of great television offerings. Of the premieres in 2020 that stand out I point to the EPIX series, Belgravia which aired earlier this year; and the superbly crafted Barkskins on National Geographic which supplied some of the finest television hours of any year, let alone this sordid and soiled year known forevermore as 2020. 

It is always a sweet kick to encounter anything on television that gets me excited enough - to write about it. I will start by saying I am a sucker for romance and true love, but we rarely get romance or true love in filmed entertainment anymore. Ask yourself when you last saw a credible romantic drama or romantic comedy that pulled at your heart, mind and soul. We women are supposedly engulfed by the incompetent, dull, pointless, shallow and repetitive "movies" on Hallmark Channel, UP TV and Lifetime. The nonsense that passes for entertainment in these storylines are too mindless for words. I want to witness people falling in love. I want to experience two actors with chemistry working together. I want romance. If you like Hallmark films, please forgive me. 

The storyline of a nun having some thoughts about a man have been told in the past. The 1958 film, The Nun's Story featuring Audrey Hepburn and Peter Finch comes to mind. Finch certainly wanted to snuggle up with the always stunning Hepburn. His attempt at entrapment is featured in a couple of scenes and you cheered for Finch and hoped he would succeed in getting Audrey to leave the nunnery. She eventually does leave the convent, but not to run into the arms of Finch. Back in high school there was this wild for the day plot on the daytime drama, The Young and the Restless. A former prostitute named Gwen Sherman became a nun, but Snapper Foster (yes, that was the character's name) fell in love with her. What's a girl to do?  Nothing in this case, but I was cheering on Snapper to get the girl. When I was in high school we had a "lounge" where we could watch television or listen to music during class breaks. Needless to say, this was a short-lived storyline, but since I was at a private Catholic school I was cheering on the good-looking nun connecting with the even better looking Snapper. I say this as a person of deep faith, so do not think I am some agnostic or atheist who doesn't take the concept of redemption or forgiveness seriously. The Cross of Christ is the defining meaning of the Christian faith. For me, Jesus is all, so my secret heart desire to see nuns being tempted by attractive men is not some sinful desire. Oh, on the contrary. We all have a purpose, but in the stories of the women in The Young and the Restless and in The Nun's Story women who were never called to this vocation shouldn't have pursued it. This was not their vocation. They chose this path even though it had absolutely nothing to do with their faith. I will not reveal why Sister Clodagh (lead character in Black Narcissus) was not called to the vocation. You have to watch her say it in her own words. 

Which brings us to Black Narcissus. The novel of Black Narcissus was released in the 1930's and it clearly riled up the Catholic church. British writer, Rumer Godden wrote the novel and his novel was adapted into a screenplay for the 1947 film of the same name. The elegant and gifted actress Deborah Kerr played the nun and she was clearly tempted by the character of Mr. Dean. The original film was hesitant to showcase too much give and take between the two lead characters, but that was 73 years ago. The 2020 version of Black Narcissus stars Gemma Arterton and Allesandro Nivola. Arterton and Nivola are both superb actors and each has been around for quite some time. If you have never seen the delightful $5 a Day check it out. Nivola shines in a comedic role which is the opposite of what he does in Black Narcissus

This version is three hours long and it manages to pair the two actors in multiple scenes. Their chemistry is as untarnished as any attachment one has seen in recent years. You feel their near magnetic pull from their first encounter. The relationship builds from the back and forth insults which aren't necessarily insults, but are fastballs meant to test the other's metal. They build on those first wild pitches to an actual growing trust and eventual respect. The moment a man or woman falls for a man or woman, because of his/her character is when you know it is love. It is one of those rare gems I will watch again; and I rarely watch anything more than once. In this case, I will look forward to waiting a bit and then dive back in to watch two people falling in love. 

The final scene (I will not give too much here) is poetic. It is a well written final five minutes. Everything is provided in the final moments of this wonderfully artistic and crafted three hour mini-series. One can tell you they love you without them ever mouthing the words. One can display unbridled pride with the smirk of a lower lip. One can expose a hope craved for without ever saying the actual words. One can anticipate one's next move with a play on words. It is all in the phrasing. If you have ever been in love, real love, you will know the meanings behind the looks and the words. On-screen chemistry is rare and on-screen romance and love have unfortunately become even rarer. Jane Austen only wrote so many novels. Today, it is seemingly "uncool" to fall in love. If you have been there, treasure it and then watch Black Narcissus on FX or FX on HULU.

If a scene rivals the final five minutes it is the scene between Sister Clodagh and Mr. Dean near the end of episode two. Brilliant writing and acting and two characters never knew each other better.

If I get my way, it will be such a huge hit they will run dangerously toward a sequel. Sister Clodagh admits many things. 

A deep and genuine love story; and a powerful and beautiful piece of filmmaking. 

Black Narcissus was written by Amanda Coe and directed by Charlotte Bruus Christensen.

Copyright The Flaming Nose 2020

3 comments:

Jane said...

I totally agree that Black Narcissus was romantic and also beautifully filmed in what looked like the Himalayan mountains. The movie 7 years in Tibet came to mind from the cinematography although that movie had a Dalai Lama Buddhist zeitgeist while Narcissus was drenched in Catholicism.

Definitely worth taking a look at the three episodes. Thanks for the great post and heads up Judith!

Lisa said...

I can't wait to watch this!

Anonymous said...

You will love it! Outstanding mini-series on FX. Arterton and Nivola deserve a sequel!