Monday, December 25, 2006

Blithe Spirit - a "Fantastic Thing"

A family loved one gives me a DVD copy of David Lean's movie of Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit as a Christmas present. It is in this that Madame Arcati (pronounced ar-car-tee) makes her prominent appearance.

Many reviews of the original play over the decades describe Arcati as a "fake medium" - wishful thinking plainly. In fact (theatrically) it is only because of Arcati's clairvoyance that the spirit of Elvira (Charles' first wife) is able to appear to mortals (or at least to Charles). Arcati is also sharp to sceptics' irony (Dr George Bradman's in particular). Coward shrewdly played up the "fake mediumship" aspect, through comic mannerisms, so as not to alienate Christian sensibility, while nonetheless depicting her as entirely authentic as a Spiritualist medium.

In Lean's movie (produced by Coward) the preamble speaks of the "Fantastic Things" that kids believe in but about which adults know better. In a voiceover Coward adds "But they [the adults] are quite, quite wrong." Blithe Spirit is a marvellous piece of mischief on dull materialists and mere hymn-singers.

And Margaret Rutherford, in this production, is perfect as the crazy Arcati (as she was the perfect Miss Marple): an innocent invert, all but in name, playing the timeless part of witch. A better Christmas present to Madame Arcati no one could have imagined.

So a Merry Christmas from me to you. And a curse on the bitches and bastards who will tremble at my name in 2007.


Ms Baroque said...

Dear Mme A, it sounds divine, if that isn't the wrong word... funnily your account of Blithe Spirit - which I have never seen and now want to - chimes with the two films I have seen this holiday: Capote, and a 1948 remake of The Three Musketeers starring Vincent Price as Cardinal Richelieu (pronounced Risheloo).

Arcati said...

Dear Ms Baroque
You will love Blithe Spirit - if you like Cowardy brittleness. I am interested that my account reminds you of Capote (pronounced ca-po-tee) ... you must explain.
The Three Musketeers with Vincent Price is excellent nonsense. I asked his daughter once if old Vince was bisexual. She didn't deny it.
Happy 2007!

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