Thursday, September 25

Page to screen

Maud Newton of the IFC admits that "adapting fiction for the screen has always been a tricky endeavor." Hollywood wants the glitter of literature and transform it into box office gold, but there are missteps all the way. Newton says: "For every "Apocalypse Now," "The Big Sleep" or "Rebecca," there are scores of butchered classics and box office duds." She cites the recent foray of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's "Love in the Time of Cholera" to the big screen. But even Javier Bardem's energy can't save it. Instead, Newton points us to another film that has Bardem in it--"No Country For Old Men," a Cormac McCarthy novel which the Coen brothers adapted for the screen. So an actor, no matter how great and gifted, can't make the jump from page to screen work. The material may be a literary classic, but it's not an assurance it'll be great movie material. Newton thinks that "No Country for Old Men" worked well for the screen because it's probably not as lush as the Marquez novel. McCarthy's prose was "so stripped-down novelistically, it tended to read like stage directions."

So if you follow that line of thought, the sort of prose that will also work for the screen is something that is stripped down and with room enough for improvisation and development. A short story really is a good candidate, and surely editor Stephanie Harrison will agree. She put together the book Adaptations, which contains 35 short stories which were the basis for Hollywood movies. The book is divided into sections, with parts for independent movies and comic books and the "difficult" ones to adapt, like Ernest Hemingway's "The Killers." All the writers who tried to adapt Hemingway for the movies said one thing: The guy writes on water. Lots of style, but all the action is suggested. But your mind is working overtime to fill in what was left unsaid. And that is where you put in all those other scenes not in the story.

Sunday, September 21

Pacino: 1, God: 0

The New York Times' Lynn Hirschberg interviews Javier Bardem. He's in the latest Woody Allen film Vicky Cristina Barcelona with Penelope Cruz, which I haven't seen yet. But I've watched him in Huevos de Oro , where he dreams of building the tallest building in Spain, and would do anything and anyone to achieve that dream. Also saw him in Love is Seriously Dangerous to Your Health, again with Penelope Cruz, a film shown in Cine Europa ages ago. Pretty much a ladies man, though he refuses to be stereotyped as such. He surely isn't that in Before Night Falls and No Country For Old Men.

In the interview, he says he admires Al Pacino so much. If someone called him at 3AM to ask him if he'd like to work with Pacino, he'd go crazy. "I don't believe in God," Bardem says. "But I believe in Al Pacino." Which is weird because in a handful of other movies Al Pacino plays the devil, a ngarag and ruffled one at that. Hmmm...