If you were forced to name the high-water mark of television, the 1981 Granada production of Brideshead Revisited would be a fine choice. Starring Jeremy Irons, Anthony Andrews, Claire Bloom, John Gielgud, and Laurence Olivier, Brideshead ran a luxurious 659 minutes, gliding smoothly along the rails laid by writer John Mortimer, who preserved the gorgeous textures of Evelyn Waugh’s dialogue and his intricate story of love and faith. Mortimer’s adaptation of Waugh’s novel is one of the towering achievements of modern screenwriting. Twenty-seven years on, the series still inspires a cultish devotion.
Not content to leave well enough alone, Miramax will release a new theatrical version of Brideshead this August. The trailer for the film surfaced a few weeks ago (www.apple.com/trailers/miramax/bridesheadrevisited/) and it promises a new and improved Brideshead.
The Miramax logo is followed by the type of itchy violins that mark the Jason Bourne movies. The audience is shown an aerial shot of Castle Howard–the same residence in which the first Brideshead was filmed–and then brief scenes of Charles and Sebastian frolicking. Emma Thompson is revealed in the role of Lady Marchmain and then a series of title cards are shown as the music darkens to convey the mood of a thriller. "She welcomed him into her home," one card says. "Into a world of privilege." "Into a life he never imagined."
What follows is a series of vignettes featuring the characters of Waugh’s Brideshead but in situations that are utterly unrecognizable. Charles Ryder seems to be a striving scholarship-boy…