Sunday, April 8, 2012

My Top 10: #2 Out of Africa

My parents were big watchers of Masterpiece Theater on PBS when I was a kid.  It came on just as I went to bed, so the intro music and scenes are a very big part of what it meant to be an adult in my little kid eyes.  My parents swear that Out of Africa wasn't something that Masterpiece would have shown - it is an American big budget film not of the indie or British persuasion.  What did show on Masterpiece is a TV-series called "The Flame Trees of Thika" that ran in 1981 when I was about 2 years old.  My parents are convinced this is what planted a desire to go to Africa after college and the idea that I saw Out of Africa on Masterpiece Theater.

Anyway, I did go to Africa, several times over the course of 5 years, living in Kenya for over a year, and spending a summer in Gabon doing my own research.  I've written many times of my love for Out of Africa, and discussed it on both the Matineecast and Reel Insight's Meryl Streep episode.  I think Meryl's version of Karin Blixen is wonderful.  There's narration done in Meryl's Dutch accent that always brings me back to the first time I saw the movie and the first time I saw Africa - because Nairobi looked very different when I arrived than the farm Blixen owned "at the foot of the Ngong Hills" which is now a posh suburb of Nairobi next to Kibera, one of the largest slums in the world.

Sydney Pollack directed Streep and a still particularly attractive Robert Redford in the real life love story between Blixen and Denys Finch-Hatten, a British safari guide that takes place before World War I.  Blixen is married to a baron who doesn't want to help with the coffee farm they've invested in and instead goes about the country leading hunting safaris.  This leaves Blixen to fall for a good friend, charmer, and all around interesting guy.  I like Streep's desperation to make Redford love her in the way she loves him, but it's not how he's made, and stays aloof, though in love with her.  Their dialogue about needing one another and not trying to change each other feels very real.  So when Denys dies young, their love affair is all the more tragic.  I love this movie and could probably watch it every day.  I can definitely appreciate it's not for everyone - it's definitely dated to the 1980s when it was made.  And you really have to find Redford attractive and Streep believable to make the rest of the story work.

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