Friday, May 25, 2007

Movie recommendation: The History Boys

[Note: If you're looking for the poem "Drummer Hodge," you can find it here: "Drummer Hodge."]

The History Boys (2006)
directed by Nicholas Hytner
screenplay by Alan Bennett, from his play
109 minutes

Like Être et avoir, The History Boys is a film about teaching. But I cannot write about it without giving away too much of what happens, so this recommendation will remain cryptic. I’ll make just three observations:

1. The film has been characterized as a British Dead Poets Society. I intensely dislike DPS and see very little resemblance between it and The History Boys.

2. The History Boys has been faulted for pretension. My pretens-o-meter, re-calibrated at regular intervals, finds very little pretension in this film.

3. The scene in which Mr. Hector talks about Thomas Hardy’s poem “Drummer Hodge” is the best film scene about poetry I’ve seen.

[An aside to my ENG 3808 students, if any are reading: I wish I’d known about this film while the semester was on. The History Boys is filled with modern British poetry, more poetry than any movie I’ve seen. You’ll recognize much (perhaps all) of what’s quoted. There’s even a group recitation of Philip Larkin’s “MCMXIV”!]

[An aside to all readers: I’m trying to get “smart” quotation marks and dashes to display properly — I think they add class to the joint. If they’re not displaying properly in your browser, if you’re seeing clumps of garbled characters instead, I’d appreciate your letting me know in a comment or an e-mail. Thanks.]

comments: 4

Lee said...

They're displaying properly in Opera, and I like them. How do you do it?

However, I have have a distinct preference for single quotation marks - neater, I find.

Michael Leddy said...

I typed the post in a word-processing program on a Mac Bean) and pasted the text into Blogger. As I understand it, Microsoft Word's formatting explains why "smart" quotation marks ("curly quotes") often display strangely online (when someone types into Word and then pastes). One problem though -- when I pasted into Blogger, I had to replace the curly quotes in links with straight ones, so that they make sense as HTML.

Lee said...

Oh dear. I thought you'd managed to devise a really clever trick when typing directly into Blogger. MS Word's smart tags are a general problem, which I usually go round by saving as 'text only'(or typing in/pasting into Wordpad, which has RTF as default). However, this is still not the magic bullet I'm looking for in Blogger.

Michael Leddy said...

I'm finding though that these special characters (I like that term for curly quotation marks and so on -- they're privileged characters) are more trouble than they're worth. When anything turns into plain text (as in blog stats), these characters are a mess. The title "Swann's jealousy" looks like this: "Swann%u2019s jealousy." Oh well.