Saturday, June 24, 2006

Jottings from Tuscany, or She Drive Me Crazy

A Boxed-set Review

From the novel by John Mortimer (of Rumpole of the Bailey fame) comes the late 80's BBC mini-series Summers Lease. Part travel log, part domestic drama, and part mystery, Summers Lease is the story of an eventfully August that the Pargeter family spends on vacation in a Tuscan villa. Amid touring, marital problems between Molly (Susan Fleetwood) and her boring husband Hugh (Michael Pennington), and the efforts of Mrs. Pargeters libidinous father Haverford Downs (a very spry 85 year-old John Gielgud) at rekindling a thirty years past relationship with a wealthy widow (Rosemary Leach), the wife and mother finds herself stumbling upon a nefarious plot. The mystery involves the villas absentee owners the Ketterings, and corruption at the local water authority. There is much wit and intrigue in this somewhat quirky yet very grounded production which also boasts a memorable theme by Nigel Hess. Mostley however it just adds to my jealousy of fictional characters who can afford to spend a month abroad. Gielguds performance as the aging magazine columnist (Jottings which he writes for 'The Informer') and died-in-the-wool socialist Haverford is what makes the whole thing truly memorable. Those familiar with Gielguds personal life will find the discussion on homosexual artists toward the end of the piece rather amusing.


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