Thursday, July 25, 2013

"A Case of Nudity." - "The Observation of Trifles" in the Granada Holmes (3) The Final Problem.

Artist's Nude "The Final Problem" Granada TV.

This is the third in my occasional series 'The Observation of Trifles' in which I'm highlighting some of the fine detail to be found in the Granada/Brett television project.

Today's story is 'The Final Problem'  following on from 'The Red Headed League' which I looked at HERE after 'The Resident Patient'. 

Introductory Note. 

Hawkesworth's screenplay is a master class in adaptation and I would rate his work on REDH & FINA on a par with the well-known  film screenplays of du Maurier's short stories, 'The Birds' and 'Don't Look Now'. Each 'unpacks', elaborates upon hints and brief allusions found in the original, thus achieving greater fidelity to the original than would an uninspired literal script. Uniquely, the Granada writers are also just as aware that each episode must integrate with the bigger picture of Holmes' career, personality and relationships.

Basis for The Louvre Plot.

Thus (if I may remind the reader) Granada extrapolates and dramatizes the Paris scenes from but three hints in Doyle's FINA:
(1) Watson's reference to seeing news reports in the winter and early Spring of 1891 that Holmes 'had been engaged by the French Government upon a matter of supreme importance'.
(2) Holmes' mention of 'recent...assistance to the French Republic'.
(30) Moriarty's notes beginning 'You crossed my path on the 4th of January'. (With no specific reference to the foiled bank robbery in REDH or France and the Mona Lisa.)

Justification for The Louvre Plot.

(1) As it stands, much of FINA consists of Sherlock Holmes relating events to Watson in 221b. (Just imagine filming without dramatizing the events he describes).
(2) Unlike Doyle's first Strand readers, a modern audience knows both the ending of FINA and that Holmes returns in EMPT. This makes it a different story with new reactions and possibilities.
(3) Moriarty's criminal genius is barely illustrated by ACD - Eric Porter's Professor puts flesh on those gaunt bones, without being over-exposed.
(4) Jeremy Brett (at the top of his game) may be unleashed to illuminate fascinating traits of the Great Detective. I shall now focus on this.

The Fine Detail of the Artist's Studio Scene.

Please watch the whole Parisian sequence which begins about 8.10 on Youtube.


Consider. The Mona Lisa robbery could have been realised and filmed without the nude model sequence. So why is it there? It's actually risky territory with Conan Doyle, especially in a series essaying fidelity to the Canon and its period.

I think it a tribute to Granada's esteem for Jeremy Brett as an actor that the scene was written and what is achieved is a memorable illustration of precisely how three aspects of the detective's personality harmonise rather than conflict, allowing his talents full rein. I refer to his artistic sense, his analytic skills and his attitude to women. 

[It is not my object here but the reader may care to contrast this scene with the BBC Sherlock's encounter with a naked Irene Adler in A Scandal in Belgravia.]

I suspect Brett takes his cue from the line 'Now I begin to see the delicacy of the matter.' From which point we are treated to Holmes the Aesthete. It's important preparation for the nude scene, reinforced by his expressed opinion 'This one (copy of the Mona Lisa) seems well done'. Which assessment of course leads to visiting that artist's studio.

The camera segues to the studio scene thus: Mona Lisa copy in the Louvre cellar - nude body of the model - nude cartoon (see above illustration) - Holmes and studio copy of Mona Lisa.

Brett remains totally at ease, totally absorbed in the artist's method and the da Vinci copy. We look, with the Louvre official, at the nude model; Brett doesn't. She is deliberately very sexy and attractive. The Director of the Louvre is patently taken and even crosses to the far window (perchance to dream?).

"The Final Problem" Granada TV.

A long shot then establishes that she is in Holmes' line of sight but Brett betrays not a trace of interest or response.

There is the whole story in one very telling image. Men like the Director cannot resist a pretty girl. He is much more interested in her than (irony!) the Mona Lisa. One may even speculate Moriarty took advantage of similar lapses in focus and security to steal the painting. 
Between the nude and Brett's Holmes stands the easel image which 'says' Holmes notes her as merely a model for art and works as a metaphoric barrier between Holmes and a naked girl.

Brett's skill leads us to interpret the scene aright - he sees what others do not because he has trained himself to focus solely on details material to solving the case in hand. Not even such pulchritude can colour or undermine his thinking.
It is a superb example of Holmes' self-description in 'The Lion's Mane':

"Women have seldom been an attraction to me, for my brain has always governed my heart".

Thus does this splendid Granada team invent a scene barely suggested by Conan Doyle and throw valuable and authentic illumination on the Great Detective through the medium of film.