Posts Tagged ‘adaptation’
February 27, 2013 | by Sadie Stein
August 12, 2011 | by Lorin Stein
You may have heard by now that there’s a Paradise Lost movie in the works, starring Bradley Cooper as the Devil—WTF?! Do you think film adaptation is a good or bad thing for books, particularly ones with wide recognition to begin with? —Liesel
WTF indeed. The two most famous complaints about Paradise Lost are that it’s really, really long (Edgar Allan Poe) and that it’s weak on visuals (T. S. Eliot). If ever a blind poet needed the magic touch of Ridley Scott, that poet was John Milton. But I’m the wrong person to ask—I’ve been holding out for the movie version ever since tenth grade.
Are there any books coming out this fall that you’re particularly excited about? —Leo
Lots—and the stack keeps growing. Two days ago, for example, my sister gave me the galleys of a first novel, Various Positions, by the young Canadian writer Martha Schabas, all about the sexual awakening of a ballerina. Anna tells me I’m going to love it (no matter that I skipped Black Swan) ... But sticking just to novels that I’ve actually read: in these pages I’ve already mentioned Chad Harbach’s debut, The Art of Fielding, Nicholson Baker’s sweet-natured book of smut, House of Holes, and Jean-Philippe Toussaint’s novella The Truth About Marie. Readers of The Paris Review proper know Ben Lerner as a poet; his first novel, Leaving the Atocha Station, is about ... well, it’s about a young poet on a fellowship in Madrid, but I enjoyed it so much I read it twice (and laughed out loud both times). I keep going back to Ann Beattie’s Mrs. Nixon, which is fascinating and only sort of a novel; it veers from fiction into biographical essay, into essay on the art of fiction. Last night I stayed up late—much later than I meant to—reading Spring, an addictively earnest novel about English yuppies in love, by David Szalay. Finally, Jeffrey Eugenides’s novel The Marriage Plot has what must be the most seductive first sentences of the season (seductive, anyway, to a certain micro-demo, which I suspect may include certain readers of the Daily):
To start with, look at all the books. There were her Edith Wharton novels, arranged not by title but by date of publication; there was the complete Modern Library set of Henry James, a gift from her father on her twenty-first birthday; there were the dog-eared paperbacks assigned in her college courses, a lot of Dickens, a smidgen of Trollope, along with good helpings of Austen, George Eliot, and the redoubtable Bronte sisters. There were the Colette novels she read on the sly. There was the first edition of Couples, belonging to her mother, which Madeline had surreptitiously dipped into back in sixth grade and which she was using now to provide textual support in her English honors thesis on the marriage plot. There was, in short, this mid-sized but still portable library representing pretty much everything Madeline had read in college, a collection of texts, seemingly chosen at random, whose focus slowly narrowed, like a personality test, a sophisticated one you couldn’t trick by anticipating the implications of its questions and finally got so lost in that your only recourse was to answer the simple truth. And then you waited for the result, hoping for “Artistic,” or “Passionate,” thinking you could live with “Sensitive,” secretly fearing “Narcissistic” and “Domestic,” but finally being presented with an outcome that cut both ways and made you feel different depending on the day, the hour, or the guy you happened to be dating: “Incurably Romantic.”
August 2, 2011 | by Sadie Stein
On a recent Friday evening I went to see the new documentary Sholem Aleichem: Laughing in the Darkness at a West Side theater that, on any given day, swings heavily Jewish and seriously elderly and on this occasion surpassed itself on both counts. The audience arrived early, settled slowly, talked loudly, and laughed at Yiddish jokes before they were translated, probably among the last people in the world able to do so. My own few words of the language—picked up in a class I briefly flirted with at the 92nd Street Y—were of little help.
That class was held only a few blocks from my grandparents’ apartment, and each week, I’d go there afterward for a late dinner. They were glad to see me regularly—I wasn’t, typically, on the Upper East Side—but the nature of the class made the dinners particularly meaningful. My grandfather would speak to me in Yiddish. I’d known it was his first language, of course, but he never spoke it normally, and it was surprising to see him slip into it as if eighty years hadn’t elapsed.
My grandfather, who died earlier this year, was a librettist, which is to say he wrote the dialogue for musicals. He started in radio, worked in early TV, and in the fifties made the move to Broadway. Looking for new material in the early sixties, he rediscovered Sholem-Aleichem’s tales of shtetl life and transformed them into an unlikely musical that became Fiddler on the Roof. (He had come to my sixth-grade class and told us about its inception—the difficulty of finding producers, the skeptics and naysayers, the creative team’s unwavering commitment to the project—during our “Immigration” unit.) Read More »
June 3, 2011 | by Tom Bunstead
Novelist Joe Dunthorne’s delightfully British debut, Submarine, is told from the point of view of teenager Oliver Tate, whose twin mission is to lose his virginity by his sixteenth birthday and to salvage his parents’ ailing marriage. The film version, which was adapted by Richard Ayoade, was picked up by Harvey Weinstein and Ben Stiller and opens today in the U.S. I spoke with Dunthorne not long ago about his experience working with Ayoade and the process of adaptation.
Harvey Weinstein is notorious for cutting films to make them more palatable. Have there been any significant changes to the film ahead of the American release?
One thing they’ve added is a card at the start saying something along the lines of “Dear Americans, I am Oliver Tate. I come from a country called Wales, which is near England. You may have heard of famous Welsh people like Catherine Zeta Jones and Anthony Hopkins. You have never invaded Wales, and for that we are thankful” and so on. It’s a kind of introductory card, which is written by Richard Ayoade, the director, at Mr. Weinstein’s suggestion, and the idea seems to be that it needed signposting as a comedy. Whether that’s a judgment on the book, or the film, or American audiences, who knows!
At least they didn’t do a Trainspotting and subtitle it …
The Welsh accents weren’t quite thick enough to warrant that. Trainspotting is an interesting link though, because it showed that something may be key to the novel but that doesn’t necessarily make it key to the film. You know how in the book of Trainspotting there’s that absolutely crucial scene where Begbie meets his father down by the train tracks—which is where the title comes from—well, Danny Boyle did away with that. There was something I felt was key in Submarine the novel, namely the revenge of Zoe, the fat girl whom Oliver and his friends bully, but with the film script, it suddenly became expendable. In the book, it’s when Oliver gets his comeuppance for being a bit of a shit, so it’s important in terms of his “coming of age,” but for the film it felt too peripheral.
What you end up asking yourself is, is there room in a film for something that sits at that sort of tangent to the narrative? A scene that’s somehow faraway from the story but remains important. Maybe not. Maybe it’s something to do with the linearity of film, or maybe simply the two or so hours of viewing time doesn’t allow for those sorts of digressions.
February 25, 2011 | by Richard J. Lewis
David Bezmozgis | February 23, 2011
There is a bias in Hollywood against voice-over narration. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve sat in a meeting and heard producers and development people go on and on about how they hate voice-over, calling it a “device.” I feel differently, however. My thinking is that if it can embellish the material, it should be used. The problem is that far too often it is used as a crutch. It’s redundant (we hear what we see) and therefore, downright boring. This has given voice-over narration a bad name. Yet we have seen it used effectively in films from the past, such as Little Big Man and My Life as a Dog, or more recent films, such as Easy A and Juno.
Even if I agree with you about the flow of the movie being better without the use of Barney’s particularly idiosyncratic voice, which is ultimately the main artery into Richler’s voice, I still have this nagging sense that something is missing in the film. To be honest, I am not sure I will ever be totally happy with the film but this opens up a whole other can of worms. Most artists, in general, are never really satisfied with the final product. We are always the Monday-morning quarterback, wishing we had done it like this and not like that. Don’t get me wrong, there are many things I like about Barney. The wedding sequence, for example, always gives me a kick. But in retrospect, I do miss Barney’s voice, because without it I feel that we are missing the notion of his actual “version.” His voice would have given the title more resonance and, in doing so, perhaps given more cogency to the piece as a whole. Also, for the audience, the concept of unreliable narrator would have been far easier to grasp.
February 25, 2011 | by David Bezmozgis
David Bezmozgis | February 23, 2011
It’s interesting to hear you say that you still miss Barney’s voice. The book is driven to a great extent by Barney’s strong, idiosyncratic voice. (I, too, remember very well his riff about the colander.) That’s a tough thing to transfer to the screen. How to do that without weighing the film down and without making the audience too conscious of some kind of device—that is, the technical justification for how we are able to hear him? (One example from a relatively recent American film is Alexander Payne’s About Schmidt, in which we hear Schmidt’s voice through the inappropriate letters he writes to the child he is sponsoring in Africa.) What did you have in mind for Barney in that nursing home?
For what it’s worth—and not knowing what solution you had in mind—I was glad not to have Barney’s voice. I appreciated how fluidly the action unfolded and didn’t feel like I missed anything about Barney’s character. He still seemed to me like the Barney I remembered. I admired how, even without the voice-over, you managed to create a film that seemed very faithful to the book. I suspect Richler would have approved. (In my mind, when I tried to conceive of how I might adapt it, it became a road movie.)
On the subject of Richler and his voice, there’s something I’ve often found curious about him. Or if not curious, let’s say surprising. For a man who was a renowned curmudgeon, contrarian, and even cynic, he was also an extraordinary romantic. In his public life and in his books, Richler skewered seemingly every institution except the institution of marriage. The guy really believed in true love and in marital fidelity. You see it in the novel, and you were consistent about it in the movie. Cheating on your spouse, in Richler's moral universe, brings ruin. For Barney, and for Miriam, his beloved third wife, infidelity is unforgivable, irredeemable. In our hip, irreverent world this seems a very uncool position to take.
I’ve rarely heard this aspect of Richler’s work spoken about, and yet I think it’s present in all of his novels. In all of his “mature novels,” the hero—who is increasingly an alter-ego for Richler—behaves badly in any number of ways (he may profane God and country), but he never cheats on his wife. That is the great taboo. Not that I disapprove, mind you, but it seems a much stricter article of his faith than it is of mine. Was this something you thought about when making the film? It factors so heavily into the plot that I wonder what you made of it.