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The Duchess of Duke Street

Good stories, well told; but the ninth episode in the series of fifteen is absolutely golden in that familiar and novel characters weave through fifty-two minutes of unpredictable attitudes, choices, actions and consequences while fabricating and embroidering upon an embedded treatise on the stratified quality of lives in early 20th Century London.  In one way or another, this episode’s central conflict revolves around concise definitions of the contrasts between the amateur and the professional — which generalizes quite meaningfully to explicit differences in class, talent, gender and avocation, and narrows brilliantly to focus precisely on profoundly moving matters of life and death, generativity and exploitation.

Whether one lives in order to work or works in order to live is beautifully illustrated in a deceptively simple tale of an inappropriate lodger in a posh hotel whose reason for being in the wrong place at this particular time opens the heart and enriches the mind like a forgotten key in the locked and callous disused imagination.

The Outsiders blew me away by restating (in an Edwardian context) a few of the most important problems confronting artists, audiences and presenters in the Age of Information.  Candor, magnanimity and an awareness of vital urgency are the signal virtues I plan to extract from this episode, and exercise in the remainder of my tomorrows.  (NetFlix, streamed.)

When I’d already invested ten or so years attempting (largely unsuccessfully) to teach myself to draw, I happened into a neighborhood bookstore, buying reference materials and how-to anatomy guides.  I fell into happy and casual conversation with a young female store employee who concisely explained that if I hadn’t sold any of my work I simply wasn’t an artist.  I spent yet another five years of my life rising at 04:30, crashing after midnight, and squeezing the pursuit of my chosen art into moments not spent earning a living.

The difference between the professional and the amateur is a nose for arrogant mediocrity.  It’s an acquired distaste.

25DEC2010 — The second season of The Duchess of Duke Street is more engaging than the first, despite the fact that the first two episodes emphatically define the titular character’s tendency toward the imperious arrogance of a martinet.  It’s Louisa Trotter’s innovative responses to the peronal and historical topography of early-middle Twentieth Century that elevate the tale far above the standard bio-pic devoted to cultish personality, raising it to the level of a classic media document concerned with the lives and aspirations of humble people mortally imperiled by timeless global and universally-human torments.

On the other hand, the second season highlights a problem for sound designers miking accomplished stage actors whose dynamic range is absolutely confounding.  You’ll want to keep a finger on the volume button of your remote — which reminds me to whine about the design of remote controls (which really should be as well-balanced and ergonomically sensible as a .45 automatic, or a handcrafted Navy Colt).

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26 Nov 10 - Posted by | Uncategorized

2 Comments »

  1. Sounds interesting. The arrogance of those who haven’t made it (because they’re idea of making it involves fat paychecks and dating Gwyneth Paltrow) is appalling, isn’t it?

    Comment by Sam | 27 Nov 10 | Reply

    • Approbation draws an audience that doesn’t much care about dedication. Most things I look back upon as proud accomplishments drew somebody out of the woodwork to scoff, and the scoffing’s inordinately memorable (and motivating). Insecurity fuels amateurs in any society built on paychecks.

      Comment by Scott Ellington | 27 Nov 10 | Reply


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