Thursday, April 1, 2010

Musee Eden Episode 2: Looking Backward on 1910

A Valentine's and Son postcard of 1910 Montreal. My favorite of them all. This picture evokes 1910 to me. It's Park and Prince Arthur.

I didn't watch an old movie last night, but I did see the second episode of Musee Eden from Radio Canada on their website, so now I am caught up and I have the third episode tapes for later viewing.

I spent the first little while mesmerized by how much one of the lead actors, Eric Bruneau looks like Colin Firth, so I had to rewind and start watching the episode all over.

The story is moving now, but it really does mix the genres, or tries to cover all the bases with respect to what people like. It is a crime thriller, forensic thingy (a genre I do not like at all) as well a a period piece, women's social history piece (which I like very much)courtroom drama (which I like but only when well done)and political thriller (which I like). There's a journalism angle, that I always like, although, so far, no deep insight into how newspapers worked in that era. Usually, shows which juggle too many genres fall apart, but this one seems to work.

The problem is the show is very dark. I keep hoping for a scene in the sunshine on the mountain. And it could use some levity. This episode had a scene with a maid and that could have been played up for laughs. Servants make good comedy. It was shot in Old Montreal, and that helps evoke a Victorian quality, which is what they are looking for, but it doesn't show what huge changes were going on 100 years ago. So, in short, this story is not so much about 1910, or it is about 1910 but looks backward, and Flo in the City, my novel in progress about a woman coming of age in the pivotal 1910 era, based on the letters of will look forward. Very much so.

Oh, there was a scene with a prostitute and, boy, was she a caricature. There were two prostitutes in the episode, both older women. The sad fact was prostitutes back then were mostly young. Girls left school at 12, after all.

Musee Eden, so far, doesn't show that 1910 was actually, as the BBC put it, The Birth of NOW. It was the beginning of the modern age. Many Montreal streets hardly look different today from what they looked like in 1910, take away the trams and add satellite dishes.

I read that the production cost about a million to make (not a lot at all)and had 70 sets and 400 costumes. It's not really a costume drama, in that it has middle class and poor characters, and, true to as it was, middle class women rotated only a few outfits.

In a review I read the writer complained that the women comport themselves liked modern women. As an 'expert' in middle class women of the era, I am not so upset about this. First, as I wrote before, most historical dramas are more about "now" than "then." I Claudius isn't about Rome, it's about Britain. And from my Nicholson letters, it is clear that young women back then were really no different than us...and they had huge dreams of independence and emancipation back then too, although not with respect to sexuality.