19 January 2007 | didi-5
odd mix of styles and ideas
I must admit, I couldn't make out what this film was trying to be ... but I did like it.
Was it about Jane Austen's bit of juvenilia, Sir Charles Grandison, and theatrical productions of it?
Was it about Ariadne and her struggles with herself and her need to become a star?
Was it about Katya and her other life as a smoky bar dive singer?
Was it about Liliana and Pierre and the feelings they still had for themselves, years after they had been bedfellows?
Was it about theatre technique and the insecurities of those who live by greasepaint alone?
It is a slow, ponderous film, with some memorable sequences amongst the dull interludes; I like to call the good sequences the bits of gold in the sand!
Jane Austen's play, from what we see here, is hopeless, and I am sure those who paid big money at auction for it were kicking themselves afterwards - but as a starting point for a movie, Merchant Ivory have done a good job with their fresh new setting.
Robert Powell, fresh from Jesus of Nazareth, is good as Pierre but isn't quite charismatic enough to carry off his Svengali-like role. Anne Baxter is excellent in her final film role as the determined and devious Liliana, her appearance in the film is one of quiet dignity and of true star quality, and she can be funny too. Baxter's daughter Katrina Hodiak impresses as moody and mixed-up Katya and gets to perform a few lovely songs (one wonders why she didn't do more movies ... I was also struck by her strong resemblance to her father, 40s star John Hodiak). And Sean Young, in one of her earliest roles as Ariadne, is OK if you get past the big hair, but you would never have believed from this that she would become a star in films to come.
'Jane Austen in Manhattan' takes a fresh spin on an old author but does it by making a dark, complicated (and often yawn-inducing) movie.
However ... for those nuggets of gold, and they are there ... I would happily watch it again.