LINES OF THE DAY

". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Friday, May 25, 2012

Napoleon & Bilbo Baggins: The Two Most Famous Short Men In History Are The Same Person!


And that person is (now Sir) Ian Holm. (Eat that, Tyrion Lannister!)

Not only that, Holm has been Bonaparte Napoleon three (3) times: "First, in the 1972 television series Napoleon and Love. Next, in a cameo comic rendition, in Terry Gilliam's Time Bandits from 1981. He completed the set in 2001 playing the fallen and exiled leader in the fanciful film The Emperor's New Clothes."

Napoleon and Love (1974) BBC miniseries.

Once again we see English figures and faces role-playing being French! It's a great cast. Billie Whitelaw plays Josephine splendidly. Scenes without women generally wilt, but with them they come alive, and never so much sparkling vivacity as when our gaze is locked on Whitelaw. In other words it is true, what the main executive leader of the Directory regime of 1795–1799, Paul Fran├žois Jean Nicolas, vicomte de Barras to Napoleon exclaims: "In France women are politics!" Barras advises Napoleon to form a connection with a woman who can help his appointment to a stellar command in the French army. Courtship and political intrigue are inseparable in France.

{ Perhaps those fantasy writers and their fanboys might wish to think about this when declaring women of the past held no political power of their own. Women's agency depends on political and social juice, skills that are deeply dimensional. This is conceptually opposite to the fantasy in U.S. entertainments of what makes a strong woman, i.e., a strong woman is a man, for instance Angelina Jolie -- even when the character's a mother: Lara Croft, Mrs. Smith, Beowulf's mother, Evelyn Salt, etc. }

Within the second and third episodes we’re already at Josephine’s extravagant debts (what she and Mary Todd Lincoln had in common) concealed from her husband – the very thing that caused such controversy in the French press when Dumas began serializing his novel of the Napoleonic Era, unfinished (despite 1000 pp.), The Last Cavalier. The Introduction by the discoverer of the manuscript and serialization includes this controversy, Dumas’s response to it, whch includes his method for researching and philosophy of history and historical fiction.

However, whether English or French, these productions don't trouch upon the effects, consequences and results in the New World, whether the loss of San Domingue or the sale of the Louisiana Territory to Jefferson’s administrations, of Napoleon and his Era. The fourth episode (of nine) opens in 1803. Nary a word about the San Domingue Rebellion or the Sale. It would have been a delight to have had a scene in which finally Aaron Burr gets his audience with the Great Man -- but as it wasn't of any interest to Napoleon, and certainly wasn't about love, it probably wouldn't have fit the focus of this series. As the title of the series announces, it’s only concerned with the emperor's fixations on  sex, love and marriage, while somehow offstage he acquires ever more portions of the globe for his own control – and somehow becomes Emperor. Also, oddly, the English are entirely missing from the series. Wellington is never mentioned, nor is Waterloo. The entire point of it all is the Right Woman who will provide THE HEIR. (Maybe because Napoleon never was in love with an Englishwoman, nor did he set any of his family to rule in England? Though for some reason he seems to believe he could 'retire' to England -- or in the New World -- now that he's de-throned. Well, he wasn't closely in touch with reality for a very long time it seems. Monomaniacs are like that evidently.)

I quite enjoyed Napoleon and Love despite the lack of Wellington, Toussaint and battles. How not? That non-action talking heads (think I, Claudius) 1970's BBC drama within those dresses, furniture and horses -- this is before the luxe days of on location abroad BBC that seems to have begun soon after Napoleon and Love. But there was no stinging on the wardrobe even then. Yum.

Nor does a single member of the lower classes sullie our view of the people who matter, not a one. Which is probably why we don't see any chamber pots, horses being groomed, food raised and / or prepared -- just feasts, or receptions, served by soft footed non-speaking liveried nobodies -- or anyone scrubbing the vast acreages of marble or laundering the vast acreages of linen ....

With the fate of empires at stake we understand Romance must be taken seriously!

2 comments:

buddy2blogger said...

I loved Ian Holm as Bilbo Baggins in the LOTR trilogy.

Hopefully, we will see more of him in the upcoming 'The Hobbit', despite the storyline focussing on a younger version (Martin Freeman)..

Foxessa said...

He was so good as Bilbo -- and the thing in this series, as Bonaparte is reaching the end of his adventure, he looks very much as Bilbo does in LoTR.

In other words he ages wonderfully in this series, because it is done so subtly.

Love, C.