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Bright Star 

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In a brilliantly engaging opening scene that's more feisty than flirtatious, Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish) challenges the young and then-unknown Romantic poet John Keats (Ben Whishaw) that her skills with a needle are far more evident than his as a writer, and more importantly, could earn someone a living. For a moment it seems like director Jane Campion (The Piano) is heading toward a heavy handed address about gender inequality, labor and social class. The Brawnes are a well-to-do north London family, and Fanny will never have to work. As a writer, Keats is not likely to earn a living sufficient to ever entertain the chance of marrying a woman of her social station — if he even wanted to, and he seems to think his life of arts and letters precludes him from the ordinariness of love. But Campion is solely focused on their true love story. Fanny's talents as a seamstress reveal her immense patience and dedication. She sews through the night to embroider a pillowcase when Keats' younger brother dies of tuberculosis. Keats' work was marked by bursts of incredible inspiration, and the name Bright Star comes from one of his short poems inspired by Fanny. Their relationship develops exquisitely slowly under the noses of her family, who doesn't think it wise, and Keats' colleague Brown, who disdains Fanny's lack of literary worldliness. Battling the divides of wealth, intellectual pursuits and eventually illness continually suggests their feelings are futile at best. Campion delivers an emotionally intense drama frequently voiced by Keats' lyrical and sensual poems and letters, but it's Cornish's Fanny that makes it so touching. Tickets $8 general admission, $6 film society members. — Will Coviello

Bright Star (PG)

3:15 p.m. Sat.-Sun., Jan 23-24

Prytania Theatre, 5339 Prytania St.; www.neworleansfilmfest.com


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