Cinema

Rewriting the Mona Lisa

Tuesday, 14 May, 2013 0 Comments

The Great Gatsby “How I rewrote ‘The Great Gatsby'” was the Telegraph headline yesterday. That did not bode well as everyone knows rewriting The Great Gatsby is as just as impossible as repainting the Mona Lisa. Of course, online versions of newspapers have to lure readers and so-called “link bait”, while blatantly dishonest, is part of the journalism trade today. The hooked reader then discovers that the headline changes to “Craig Pearce, co-writer of Baz Lurhmann’s ‘The Great Gatsby’, reveals all.” That’s slightly less bombastic, but Gatsby fans will be alarmed to read that, “At the end of our first months working in Australia, our screenplay was four hours long.” If the author of Gatsby could create a masterpiece with just 180 pages of prose, what is the need for four hours of screenplay?

Pearce gives the game away when he writes, “One of the things that makes Gatsby so potent is Fitzgerald’s gorgeous, poetic prose, and it’s very hard to recreate that cinematically.” The “very hard” there is one of the great understatements of our time because the more fitting term would be “impossible”. No one can film this:

“The lights grow brighter as the earth lurches away from the sun, and now the orchestra is playing yellow cocktail music, and the opera of voices pitches a key higher. Laughter is easier minute by minute, spilled with prodigality, tipped out at a cheerful word. The groups change more swiftly, swell with new arrivals, dissolve and form in the same breath; already there are wanderers, confident girls who weave here and there among the stouter and more stable, become for a sharp, joyous moment the centre of a group, and then, excited with triumph, glide on through the sea-change of faces and voices and color under the constantly changing light.”

Now, just because the ethereal beauty of these words cannot be filmed it does not mean that Baz Luhrmann was wrong to attempt to capture what they say for the screen. “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, Or what’s a heaven for?” wrote Robert Browning and it is very brave of Luhrmann to risk the opprobrium that will appear here on Friday if it turns out that he mistook the rewriting of Craig Pearce for the impressionistic painting of F. Scott Fitzgerald.


The eyes have it

Sunday, 12 May, 2013 0 Comments

“But above the gray land and the spasms of bleak dust which drift endlessly over it, you percieve, after a moment, the eyes of Doctor T.J.Eckleburg. The eyes of Doctor T.J.Eckleburg are blue and gigantic — their irises are one yard high. They look out of no face, but, instead, from a pair of enormous […]

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Roger Ebert on the exploitation of film violence

Monday, 8 April, 2013 0 Comments

Reviewing Gus Van Sant’s Elephant in November 2003 for the Chicago Sun-Times, the late Roger Ebert had this to say about the uses of violence by the media industry: “Let me tell you a story. The day after Columbine, I was interviewed for the Tom Brokaw news program. The reporter had been assigned a theory […]

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Gatsby meets Beyoncé and Lana Del Rey

Friday, 5 April, 2013 0 Comments

In the run up to the premiere in Cannes on 15 May, Warner Bros. is giving the world a taste of The Great Gatsby soundtrack, filling its latest trailer for the Baz Luhrmann-directed film of the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel with music from Beyoncé, Andre 3000, Lana Del Rey and Florence and the Machine. It’s different. And it looks simply spectacular.


“I want to thank Canada,” Mr. Affleck said

Tuesday, 26 February, 2013 0 Comments

Back when we tipped it to win the Academy Award for Best Picture, we wrote: “Sure, there’s a lot of alcoholic beverage knocked back in Argo, but the booze acts as an expression of civilization and an antidote to the emerging barbarism of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Ben Affleck stars in and directs a film that’s funny, clever, taut and a necessary reminder of the threat that faces us. Argo deserves the Best Film Oscar, and the ‘Best Supporting Actor’ award should go to Alan Arkin as Lester Siegel, a producer so cynical that the knows the price and the value of everyone in Hollywood.”

Well, Alan Arkin didn’t quite get the gong, but he did play a key role in an excellent film and that’s another milestone in an acting and directing career that stretches back over 50 years. By the way, the Argo screenplay by Chris Terrio, based on the May 2007 Wired magazine article The Great Escape by Joshuah Bearman, and chapter nine of The Master of Disguise by Antonio Mendez, is available here (PDF) for all those who would like to study Hollywood tradecraft. And congratulations to Ben Affleck for turning the script into a film that has finally pleased the Canadians. Not an easy thing to do, that.


Zen and the art of being Italian

Friday, 22 February, 2013 0 Comments

We round out our week of all things Italian here with a recommendation: Zen. No, not the school of Mahayana Buddhism that originated in China during the 6th century and which became famous in the 1970s when it was briefly associated with motorcycle maintenance. Rather, our Zen is Aurelio Zen, a fictional Italian detective created by the late, lamented crime writer Michael Dibdin.

Although your blogger has been a long-time admirer of Italy and has visited the country many times, it was only through reading of Dibdin’s murder mysteries that the true nature of contemporary Italian society became clear. The books are filled with vice, la dolce vita, politics, passion, omerta, commerce, history, humanity, food, wine and love of place. Zen teaches the reader that Italy is not a modern nation-state, but a set of city-states living in constant familial rivalry with each other. But despite the fragmentation, the sum of the parts is still a force to be reckoned with. Reuters headline this morning: “Global shares, euro tumble on economic concerns, Italy vote.”

BBC Scotland and Left Bank Pictures produced three dramas based on the Dibdin books. Shot in Rome, they starred English actor Rufus Sewell as Aurelio Zen, and Italian actress Caterina Murino is Tania Moretti, his colleague. Eccellente!


Argo again

Monday, 11 February, 2013 0 Comments

The producers of Argo, George Clooney, Grant Heslov and Ben Affleck, had a fine time in London last night when their drama about the Iranian hostage crisis in 1979 stole the show and won the Best Film and Best Director gongs at the BAFTA Awards event. The British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) ceremony is the final major film occasion before this year’s Oscars, which will be handed out on 24 February in Hollywood, in a show hosted by Seth MacFarlane. The Big Mo is certainly with Affleck now. Go Argo!

The producers of Argo


Alcoholic beverages are now available

Thursday, 7 February, 2013 2 Comments

Quote: “Ladies and gentlemen, it is our pleasure to announce that alcoholic beverages are now available, as we have cleared Iranian airspace.” Argo, Scene 318 from the screenplay (PDF) by Chris Terrio, based on the May 2007 Wired magazine article The Great Escape by Joshuah Bearman, and chapter nine of The Master of Disguise by Antonio Mendez.

Sure, there’s a lot of alcoholic beverage knocked back in Argo, but the booze acts as an expression of civilization and an antidote to the emerging barbarism of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Ben Affleck stars in and directs a film that’s funny, clever, taut and a necessary reminder of the threat that faces us. Argo deserves the Best Film Oscar, and the “Best Supporting Actor” award should go to Alan Arkin as Lester Siegel, a producer so cynical that the knows the price and the value of everyone in Hollywood.


Asterix and Obelix have left the édifice

Wednesday, 19 December, 2012 0 Comments

First out was Christian (Asterix) Clavier. He decamped to London in October. Now, Gérard (Obelix) Depardieu has followed. He’s picked Belgium. Although unvanquished by Caesar’s legions, the two heroes of Gaul have been put to flight by François Hollande’s draconian 75 per cent top marginal income tax rate, increased capital gains tax and enhanced wealth […]

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With gore on its hands, Hollywood runs for the exit

Tuesday, 18 December, 2012 3 Comments

Yesterday’s post about Quentin Tarantino’s cynical exploitation of graphic violence for fame and fortune brought instant results. “In the wake of the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., the Weinstein Co. has decided to cancel the Hollywood premiere of its movie ‘Django Unchained,’ reports the Los Angeles Times. CBS News noted that, “In true Tarantino form, […]

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Tarantino’s aestheticization of violence on the road to Newtown

Monday, 17 December, 2012 1 Comment

The US premiere of the new Tom Cruise action film Jack Reacher has been postponed after Friday’s shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, of 26 people. Paramount Pictures says the decision was made “out of honour and respect for the families of the victims whose lives were senselessly taken”. The studio did not mention that Hollywood is […]

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