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Old 14th October 2006   #1
Join Date: July 2005
Posts: 1,784
Default ''A Cinderella Story'' and Tennyson's ''Maud''

(Originally posted on The Judgment of Paris Forum, August 8, 2004, in response to positive reviews from several forum participants.)

Heaven knows what, but something possessed us to take in a screening of Hilary Duff's new film, A Cinderella Story. Perhaps it was the intriguing prospect of seeing an "anti-diet movie" (as one viewer characterized it), or perhaps it was the sheer absence of any viable alternatives at the local multiplex. Regardless, everything that Renata and Melanie have said about this film is true. It is obviously targeted at a youthful audience, and its humour does tend to be heavy-handed. Hilary Duff is a dazzlingly pretty young starlet,

but is nowhere near full-figured. Renata is right, however, to point out that at least Miss Duff does not look as if she spends her time subjecting herself to the sadism of a personal torturer (excuse me, "personal trainer"), bur rather, allows her figure to retain an agreeable degree of softness.

The importance of having a celebrity with Miss Duff's degree of influence attach her name to an anti-diet project is incalculable. However, there is always a danger in enthusing over actresses and their ephemeral pro-plus stances. Time has proven that most celebrities espouse whichever social "talking points" justify their current projects, only to repudiate those positions once the time comes to "reinvent" themselves. Let us hope that Hilary Duff will be the exception to this rule, and will remain true to her current curve-friendly philosophy, rather than peddling a weight-control scheme in a year or two.

The scene in the gazebo to which Renata referred is truly magical,

but it is the film's poetic allusions that will probably linger in viewers' minds, once the end credits roll, and the lights go up.

At an early point in their virtual courtship, the film's "Prince Charming" quotes the following poem to Hilary Duff's character:

Half the night I waste in sighs,
Half in dreams I sorrow after
The delight of early skies;
In a wakeful dose I sorrow
For the hand, the lips, the eyes,
For the meeting of the morrow . . .

and "Cinderella" correctly identifies this as a passage from Tennyson. But literary aficionados will immediately realize that this is not just a bit of doggerel from the prolific Victorian master. Rather, it is an intense moment from the author's great monodrama, Maud (1855), which may be the finest (and certainly the most Romantic) poem that Lord Tennyson ever penned.

Ladies and gentlemen, if you have a few free hours during a summer day, I encourage you to find yourselves a shady grove under a canopy of overhanging boughs, where the warm wind wafts gently by, and treat yourselves to a beginning-to-end reading of this glorious poem. You will find the imagery surpassingly rich and vibrant--especially for Tennyson, who is better known for the musically charming but somewhat tepid qualities of his later works.

The poem is a narrative told from the point of view of a Hamlet/Manfred-like solitary figure suffering from Romantic Weltschmerz, who finds himself inspired and rejuvenated by his encounters with the eponymous heroine of the poem.

In this passage, the narrator describes one of his first encounters with Maud, whom he regards as cruel and aloof, but to whom he is irresistibly drawn:

A voice by the cedar tree
In the meadow under the Hall!
She is singing an air that is known to me,
A passionate ballad gallant and gay,
A martial song like a trumpet's call!
Singing alone in the morning of life,
In the happy morning of life and of May,
Singing of men that in battle array,
Ready in heart and ready in hand,
March with banner and bugle and fife
To the death, for their native land.

Maud with her exquisite face,
And wild voice pealing up to the sunny sky,
And feet like sunny gems on an English green,
Maud in the light of her youth and her grace,
Singing of Death, and of Honour that cannot die . . .

And in this passage, which closes Part I of the poem, the narrator expresses the intensity of anticipation that he feels as Maud draws nigh:

She is coming, my own, my sweet;
Were it every so airy a tread,
My heart would hear it and beat,
Were it earth in an earthy bed;
My dust would hear her and beat,
Had I lain for a century dead;
Would start and tremble under her feet,
And blossom in purple and red.

So, think of this movie what you will, but the fact that it delivers a curve-friendly, anti-diet message, as well as the fact that it introduces viewers to one of the most intensely Romantic English poems penned after the death of Byron, is surely worth some approbation.

Charlotte Coyle (new face at Wilhelmina, size 14/16)--a gorgeous plus-size model with a bit of the Hilary Duff look:

- Still the best one-volume Tennyson collection

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