Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Flashes of Light

1. So far, all my postings have been pretty serious. Just for fun, here's a joke (non-medieval to be sure, but something that I enjoyed):

Rene Descartes is drinking with friends in a bar.  At the last call, the bartender asks him if he'd like another drink. Descartes says, "I think not" and disappears.

2. I've been pondering a suitable answer to the question below. Feel free to comment with your own suggestions.

"How many medievalists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?"

3. Here are a couple of questions for discussion before you start your next administrative meeting (or at the end of a very long dinner with a guest lecturer who did NOT wow the crowd):

What movie best portrays the reality of life in the Middle Ages?

What is the most unrealistic film portrayal of medieval life, in a drama? (The "drama" qualifier is intended to knock out "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" and "Robin Hood: Men in Tights," among other comic contenders.)

What is your favorite movie about the Middle Ages?



Santiago Orrego said...

Hi, Roberta!
"How many medievalists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?"
-We were five in the last conference: I stood up on a table and put the lightbulb in the right place;...then the other four moved round the table.

"What is the most unrealistic film portrayal of medieval life, in a drama?"
-"The Name of the Rose": it seems in it that there were nor sun nor laughter at the Middle Ages.

What is your favorite movie about the Middle Ages?
-Brave Haert.

With best wishes.

Robin Vose said...

Hello all!
Forget movie realism... I am having a great time teaching a class on crusade/jihad films right now. It is attracting a different crowd and they are very enthusiastic. Cecil B. DeMille and Youssef Chahine's versions of the Saladin/Richard story have been very well received (surprisingly, since neither is a particularly "good" movie, but I am proud to say that students were prepped sufficiently to appreciate the historical significance of each in its respective historical context and discourse tradition). If anyone has ideas to share on this topic, or would like to check out my syllabus, let me know at rvose@stu.ca; cheers!
Robin Vose

Nathaniel M. Campbell said...

RE: Lightbulb:
It was suggested to me that if the lightbulb burnt out, the medievalist would have a candle stub or oil lamp ready. Not that that's a particularly witty answer...

RE: Medieval films
Ridley Scott's "Kingdom of Heaven" (an attempt to do "Gladiator" Crusade-style) was visually arresting, but the story lacked a certain something that's hard to put into words...though Edward Norton's take on King Baldwin is excellent (especially since he was acting from behind a mask the whole time).

I have to differ with a previous poster on "The Name of the Rose", for I find it to be an excellent adaptation of an excellent novel (indeed, it was the film used by my medievalist-turned high school latin teacher in our junior year to introduce us to the Middle Ages -- together with "Stealing Heaven", the sometimes racy film about Heloise and Abelard for which we had to have permission slips signed).

Two great older films that I absolutely love are "The Lion in Winter" and "Becket" -- but then, I'm a huge fan of both Peter O'Toole, Katherine Hepburn, and Richard Burton -- and the set direction on "Becket" is especially good.

Robin Vose said...

A few lesser-known gems for your consideration: Youssef Chahine's "Destiny" (Al Massir) is an interesting film treatment of Averroes (again, no need to insist on strict historicity-- it is what it is, a 1990s Egyptian take on the topic). Tunisian Nacer Khemir's "Lost Necklace of the Dove" (Tawk al Hamama al Mafkoud) is inspired by Ibn Hazm's 11th C. Andalusi treatise on Love-- again I recommend it as an example of film art intersecting with medieval themes and modern interests, whatever rivet counters may think of its "realism" on any given point. Orientalism in these films? Another topic to discuss...