2009-11-13 / Entertainment/Lifestyles

MovieScope

'Bright Star' - Keen On Keats
By Robert Snyder

In this age of "90210," "Melrose Place," and Britney Spears, is it possible to show young love without explicit sex?

Oscar-winning film maker Jane Campion ("The Piano") seems to think so. And she proves it with "Bright Star," an exquisitely produced and performed examination of the deeply-realized, though non-sexual affair between poet John Keats and his neighbor, Fanny Brawne, a love that spawned some of the greatest romantic poetry of all time.

From their first encounter in 1818, Keats and Brawne (perfectly personified by Ben Whishaw and Abbie Corn - ish) are eternally connected. Coy and flirtatious, she is unaffected and without preconceptions about the power of poetry. Keats' friend and benefactor Charles Brown (Paul Schneider) considers her a distraction and an obstacle to the prodigy's poetic output. How - ever, in Keats' eyes, heart, and soul, his beloved Fanny is more than a muse: She makes real the ethereal thoughts that would otherwise be indescribable.

She also poses another problem. Keats is extremely fragile and weak physically. The tuberculosis that killed his mother and brother is moving from the shadows and into his lungs. His love for Fanny destroys as it inspires. The most potent romantic poet of the 19th century is dead at age 25 after two years of unconsummated love.

Although in the same teenage lustabstinence territory, Campion's lovers convey sublimated sexual intensity far more effectively than do the restrained vampire heartthrobs of "Twilight." In fact, the scene of fully-clothed Keats and Brawne sharing stanzas of "La Belle Dame Sans Merci" makes for one hot bedroom moment.

For anyone wishing to understand the sublime source origins of John Keats' art, "Bright Star" is a must see.

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