Vanity Fair, Mira Nair (2004)

Given the fact that Thackeray’s novel is nearly 1000 pages long, it’s not surprising that you feel Nair rushing through the narrative in her film. Episodes in the life of Becky Sharp which took 100 pages in the book are here conveyed in ten minutes or so. Remarkably, the film is never incoherent; if you can keep track of the large cast of characters, the plot will present no confusions. Nair, annoyingly, makes Victorian England look absurdly luscious: every animal, vegetable, and mineral is carefully color-coordinated. Worse, she orientalizes the hell out of India at every opportunity. It’s not nice to say so, but it does occur that Nair’s a bit of a Becky Sharp herself in this outing, readily adapting her conscience to whatever the Marquess de Hollywood asks of her in order to solidify her station. I learned from IMDB that the “Indian” singers in the film are actually singing Arabic. That about sums it up. Give me Salaam Bombay any day.

Vanity Fair at IMDb


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