Adaptation: A Journey into the Absurd… And Back

24 Jun

The Orchid Thief

This novel is an in-depth study of orchid enthusiast, and pseudo-criminal, John Laroche. Readers see this man through the eyes of New Yorker author, Susan Orleans, and are encouraged to ponder the importance of passion in life.  This is a somewhat uneventful novel; it instead encourages self-reflection and a sense of wonder.

The Film

This film explores Charlie Kaufman as he writes an adaptation for the Orleans book, The Orchid Thief. Kaufman struggles almost mercilessly as he attempts to adapt a challenging, introspective book into a screenplay. He finds himself be coming obsessed with Orleans and tracks her down resulting in a series of unfortunate events. His screenplay takes shape once he writes himself into the storyline.

The Adaptation

This is a surprising adaptation which is not only an adaptation of the novel but a mockumentary of how an adaptation is created from an original novel. It begins well, albeit oddly, with Kaufman attempting to write an adaptation while being constantly bothered by his “brother” who might simply be a multiple personality. The film pokes fun at Hollywood’s need to constantly make it appear as if something is happening when life is full of moments without major events. Yet, it borders on the absurd after Kaufman makes contact with Orleans and somehow finds himself in a violent altercation with Orleans, herself.

The Critics

Lazere was especially fond of the wonderful performances by Ncholas Cage and Chris Cooper. He highlighted the well-integrated screenplay of this movie-within-a-movie and noted that this screenplay broke Hollywood norms by accentuating voice-overs and emphasizing the anti-climactic normalcy of real life. He hailed this movie as a masterpiece.

Skradol also emphasized the importance of the “commonplace’ in her review, noting that both the movie and the movie within the movie emphasize the common while poking fun at Hollywood conventions.

Rapfogel hailed the film for exploring the idea of common life and how movies are made but was vastly disappointed that the movie chose to end in such a conclusive, decisive manner, instead of leaving anything open to the audience to ponder.

Critical Review

Most critics were drawn to this film’s tongue-in-cheek approach to film adaptations. Zalewski referred to it as “a sly and slippery meditation on the ways movies can transform complex stories into cut-and-dried clichés” while still hailing it as a success. Bean agreed and celebrated the film’s courage to create its own structure to fit its own needs. All agreed that this was an atypical movie deserving of attention. While Denby enjoyed this film’s explosive ending, Zacharek argued that this entire movie was simply a “bloated thesis” and devoid of depth. Any way you slice it, this movie broke all the roles and challenged critics and audiences alike.

Works Cited

Bean, Henry. “Self-Made Heroes.” Sight and Sound 13.3, 2003. Web. 20 June 2015. https://myelms.umd.edu/courses/1149570/files/38757064/download
Denby, David. Review of AdaptationThe New Yorker. December 9, 2002. Web 21 June, 2015. https://myelms.umd.edu/courses/1149570/files/38757066/download

Lazere, Arthur. Adaptation. The Film Journal, 2002. Web. 21 June 2015.http://www.thefilmjournal.com/issue4/adaptation.html

Orleans, Susan. The Orchid Thief. New York: Random House, 1998. Kindle Edition.

Rapfogel, Jared. HomeFeature Articles Adaptation: How to Stop Worrying and Love to Compromise. Senses of Cinema, Jan. Web. 21 June 2015.http://sensesofcinema.com/2003/feature-articles/adaptation/

Saxon, Edward, Vincent Landay, Jonathan Demme, Charlie Kaufman, Spike Jonze, Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper, Tilda Swinton, Cara Seymour, Brian Cox, Judy Greer, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Lance Acord, Eric Zumbrunnen, Carter Burwell, Casey Storm, K K. Barrett, and Susan Orlean. Adaptation. Culver City, Calif: Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment, 2003.

Skradol, Natalia. Adaptation, ‘Adaptation’, and Adaptation: Zizek and the Commonplace, Film-Philosophy, vol. 8 no. 27, August 2004. http://www.film-philosophy.com/index.php/f-p/article/view/795

Zacherek, Stephanie. ‘Adaptation’ and the perils of adaptation.  Salon. December 16, 2002. Web. 21 June, 2015. http://www.salon.com/2002/12/16/adaptation_3/

Zawelski, Daniel. “The “I” Cure For Writer’s Block.” Film. New York Times, 1 Dec. 2002. Web. 21 June 2015. <http://www.nytimes.com/2002/12/01/movies/01ZALE.html

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Film Treatment Paper: The Bastard of Istanbul by Elif Shafak

22 Jun

  1. Concept

This cinema experience spans an extended family’s division between two continents and two competing cultures. We first meet turkish author, Elif Shafak, a recently arrested author, now passing her days in a turkish prison. She is not alone in her cell and we also meet other jailed turkish women who are interested to learn the salacious writings that led to her incarceration. We, and her cellmates, become swept up in her story through questioning and personal stories. We learn several individual stories that seem disjointed before they interlock briefly and then branch out in their personal directions before amalgamating at the end. First, we meet Zeliha as she attempts to abort her bastard child. This leaves us with questions and soon we learn the backstories of each of her sisters (and their missing male counterparts who have all passed away). Finally, we will meet this bastard child, herself, as she navigates her life in Turkey and endures the label placed upon her. Finally, we meet the missing member of the family, the only surviving male, Basam, who has since moved to Arizona and fallen in love with a young, American mother, Amy. We learn Amy’s backstory of a previous marriage and a challenging relationship with her Armenian husband’s family, both after her failed marriage, and as she marries a Turkish man.

Finally, the stories will begin to interlock as the Turkish family joins together in conversation and argues around bountiful tables full of food.  We meet the Armenian family around a similar table of food in a heated discussion about their grandchild’s future and Armenian-Turkish history. Finally, the camera moves to Basam and Amy with her Armenian baby around a quiet, uneventful table of traditional, American food. Soon, Basam and his wife travel to Turkey to meet with his family and the intricacies of relationships are explored.

The plane from America lands in Turkey and suddenly,we are jarred into the realization that Basam’s trip ends in tragedy. Time skips forward and we experience Bassam’s funeral and Amy’s torment as she watches the Turkish ceremonial traditions and begs those around her to explain why her husband has unexpectedly perished with no warning in the prime of his life. At this point, the story jumps back to Basam’s final evening. The sisters hint vaguey at past events and we view Basam as he eats the final food of his life, a dish prepared by his sisters.  Basam sadly eats this almond dish of his own volition (knowing the consequences) while recalling his sister’s rape – which he committed and ended in her bastard child. Through it all, we view snippets of the aunts preparing this dish and discussing this horrific, family crime. Now we return to the Turkish prison and a food tray arrives to the Turkish cell to a group of quiet and amazed cellmates. They eat their food in companionable silence.

  1. Characters.

The main character in this movie is Zeliha. Zeliha’s incestuaous rape, attempted abortion, birthing of Asya and final admission of past events will frame this movie.  Even before her rape, Zeliha always spoke her own mind and chose her own path. In fact, even after such a horrific events with such long-lasting consequences, Zeliha determinedly lived her own life, free of the advice of others. She is strong yet damaged from past events which will be revealed in small incidents throughout the movie.

The depth of Basam’s character will be explored throughout this movie as he attempts to live a normal, American life while racked with guilt about his previous crimes. The audience will identify with his efforts to husband Amy and father her Armenian baby. He will be likable enough for the audience to root for his success and feel somewhat disappointed once his crimes are revealed.

Amy’s father-in-law will be another central character. His knowledge and insights into the Armenian genocide will help to frame the author’s predicament in this movie. He will describe the atrocities committed during the Armenian genocide and help the audience identify with the family’s fear that Amy is marrying a Turk. Ironically, his true fear should be that his granddaughter will be living with a rapist.

Zeliha’s sisters will also be presented with some depth, although not to be individually mentioned. They are an eclectic group of Turkish women with differing life experience but are united by a common thread of sadness and loss of the men in their lives (and murder).

Finally, the audience will identify with the young, American woman, Amy, who is torn between the Turkish-Armenian issue, her life in America and the death of a man that she has grown to love. The audience will watch this woman at the height of happiness and depths of despair. She will appear mostly lost and confused throughout this movie.

  1. Themes.

The theme of this movie is the importance of relationships and the lasting scars that our actions can have on another. The idea of never escaping our most violent history will be explored. The audience will be pulled in multiple directions. They will somewhat hope that Basam could redeem himself in his new marriage and wonder if he should have been granted a second chance. At the same time, many will be somewhat satisfied at his eventual demise. The idea of the Turkish denial of Armenian genocide will also be a key issue in this film. We must, at the very least, acknowledge our past wrongdoings if we are to ever move past them. Neither Basam, nor the Turks were able to do this.

  1. Locations.

The locations of this film will be one of its most exciting elements. A Turkish prison cell will open the movie. Grey walls and an aura of hopelessness will prevail. (See Appendix A).

The aunts’ apartment in Istanbul with their eclectic tastes and myriad of cats will be next. It will be rich in color and history. (See Appendix B).

Basam and Amy’s typical, suburban, Arizona townhouse will be next with its unremarkable appearance and lacking any trace of Turkish culture. (See Appendix C).

The Armenian in-laws home will be shown as full of history, rich fabrics and with a seemingly cluttered appearance. This home will mostly feature an enormous dining table around which the relatives will discuss their grandchild’s predicament at the hands of a Turkish stepfather. (See Appendix D).

  1. Action Scene.

The most active scene in this movie involves Basam as he eats the almond dish that will eventually kill him. He recalls his anger at his sister, Zeliha, and his subsequent rape of her. After he enters his sister’s room, he instigates an aggressive, abusive fight with her and soon this fight dissolves into a sexual incident. Basam eventually leaves this room and books a flight for America the next day to escape his past. To ease the tension somewhat, this story is told mainly in snippets as he eats the food that will kill him. We also see the aunts adding each ingredient giving each other knowing looks in between his memories.

  1. Dialogue Scene.

(Basam enters Zeliha’s bedroom behind her and slams the door. The two are alone).

Basam: You are a ridiculous bitch, flaunting your body to anyone who would look!

Zeliha: Ahhh! You are a pathetic idiot – go ahead – look upon me!

Basam: As if I would find anything worth looking at.

Zeliha: (Tauntingly) You seem so concerned at how others might look upon me. You must see something you like, no?

Basam: Such a whore. Right to the end.

Zeliha: Get the fuck out of here; you have no power over me.

Basam: You wish!

Zeliha: I wish what? I wish you weren’t an ass? I wish you weren’t the golden boy of the family? I wish for a MAN like you? Fuck you and the horse you rode in on.

Basam. I will make you wish you had never said such terrible things.

Zeliha: Bring it, you idiot!

  1. Pitch.

This wonderful novel ended in the jailing of its other which is already salacious, at best. This book screams for an adaptation. Film audiences will be blown away at the twist of events that spurred all of these events. Additionally, it will make audiences consider their ideas of salvation and forgiveness. Are there crimes beyond forgiveness? How about something as big as the Armenian genocide or something as small as an incestuuous rape?This adaptation involves far more of the author’s input regarding the story. The reaction of her cellmates during the retelling is also incredibly moving and adds to the original story. Women and those interested in international events will be the main viewers of this film. One could only imagine the discussion that could arise from such a film.

Appendices

Appendix A: Turkish Prison Cell

Source: http://www.dw.com/en/turkish-parties-under-pressure-to-address-child-prisoners/a-5517805

Appendix B: Turkish Apartment

Source: http://www.atticmag.com/2010/08/multi-purpose-kilim-rugs/

Appendix C: Arizona Apartment

Source: http://www.everyaptmapped.org/apartments/avondale,arizona,az/ashton+pointe/arizona-avondale-ashton+pointe-gorgeous+floor+plans-3+photo.jpg

Appendix D: Armenian Home (note the emphasis on the people, not the room – this is key to the movie).

Source: http://www.yelp.com/biz/almayass-new-york

Source: http://rhodeygirltests.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/14.jpg

Don’t Turn Away From “The Hours”

18 Jun

The Book

In this classic novel, Cunningham presents us with the musings of Virginia Woolf. He also presents another complex character in Clarissa as she nearly frantically prepares for a party. We join the internal mass of thoughts and worries that run through her head. The party is for Clarissa’s ex-husband, Richard. Yet, despite her divorced status, she still strives to please him. She is a conflicted, yet typical woman. There are other storylines of other wives and mothers in this book, but this drama continues to return to this one story.

The Film

This film follows three women as they struggle with societal expectations and depression. The “author” of this tale, Virginia Woolf, is played by Nicole Kidman. The opening and closing scenes depict Woolf committing suicide by drowning. Woolf’s novel centers around Clarissa, played by Meryl Streep. Clarissa is frantically trying to put things in order for the party she is throwing for Richard. During all of this, she learns a lot about herself and those around her. The story is multi-layered. Laura Brown, a depressed suburban housewife, is seen struggling against societal norms and is eventually revealed to be Richard’s mother.

The Adaptation

This was an excellent adaptation due to wonderful characters and equally wonderful actors. Nicole Kidman’s portrayal of Woolf in this movie was, no doubt, just what Cunningham would have envisioned; it gives the story credibility and a fresh perspective. Julianne Moore’s portrayal of the runaway mother was very well done. Audiences are able to love her and hate her at the same time. She is undeniably wrong in abandoning her young son and for even considering suicide while pregnant. Yet we are drawn to her sense of hopelessness and lack of connection to her own life. Equally convincing was Meryl Streep’s portrayal of Clarissa. This adaptation was a masterpiece on a multitude of levels.

The Critics

Bradburn argues that this film adaptation would be far better suited to a theatrical presentation.  He posits that recoding “events in small moments” does not a movie make. He argues that the actors in this movie were far too thrust into movie-goers faces, making it all seem as if they were watching stage performances which suspended the reality required in films. Interestingly, there was a large following of reviewers that were concerned about the morality of this movie, including Horvat who argued that the normalization of homosexuality and suicide was “morally abyss”. (Perhaps, she let her personal views cloud his judgment?)  Sadly, horvat missed the underlying message of this movie regarding humanity and the choices every woman must face. Ebert’s review is far less critical. He argues that the three women in the film are linked together with a unique and special treatment and recommends this film to viewers.

The Critical Argument

This movie is not as melodramatic as some might claim; adversely, it represents the deepest, darkest emotions of three women who force the audience to “look” instead of turning away. Holden labeled this film “a sustained meditation on connection, human possibility, the elusive dream of happiness and the sometimes seductive call of death” (Holden, 2006). Perhaps, what audiences find so daunting is that this is “a real departure from most movie-making, which can handle only one universe at a time” (Bradshaw, 2003). Yet, despite this, Wenig calls this movie “fiercely exhilarating and intoxicating” (Wenig, 2003).  Consider the heartbreaking scenes where each woman faces death, either on her own terms or at the hands of another. This is not madness nor is it melodrama; this is life at its most fearful… and fearless.

Works Cited

Blackweider, Rob. “Half and Hour About The Hours.” Interview with Michael Cunningham and David Hare. SPLICEDwire, n.d. Web. 16 June 2015. http://www.splicedwire.com/02features/cunninghamhare.html.

Bradburn, John. “The Hours Is Not A Film.” Vertigo Magazine. Vertigo Issue 26, Aug. 2009. Web. 15 May 2015. http://www.closeupfilmcentre.com/vertigo_magazine/issue-26-august-2009/the-hours-is-not-a-film

Bradshaw, Peter. “Review of the Hours.” Movies. The Guardian, 14 Feb. 2003. Web. 16 June 2015. http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/2003/feb/14/artsfeatures

Cunningham, Michael. The Hours. New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1998. Kindle Edition.

Daldry, Stephen. “The Hours.” Q and A. IndieLondon, 2003. Web. 16 June 2015. http://www.indielondon.co.uk/film/hours_daldry&co.html

Ebert, Roger. “The Hours.” Reviews. Roger Ebert, 27 Dec. 2002. Web. 16 June 2015. http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/the-hours-2002

Holden, Stephen. “Who’s Afraid Like Virginia Woolf?.” Review of The Hours. New York Times, 27 Dec. 2002. Web. 16 June 2015. http://www.nytimes.com/2002/12/27/movies/film-review-who-s-afraid-like-virginia-woolf.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm

Horvat, Marian. “The Hours: A Moral Abyss .” Movie Reviews. Tradition in Action, 18 Apr. 2003. Web. 16 June 2015. http://www.traditioninaction.org/movies/004mrTheHours.htm

Rudin, Scott, Robert Fox, David Hare, Stephen Daldry, Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore, Nicole Kidman, Ed Harris, Toni Collette, Claire Danes, Jeff Daniels, Stephen Dillane, Allison Janney, John C. Reilly, Miranda Richardson, Seamus McGarvey, Peter Boyle, Philip Glass, Ann Roth, Maria Djurkovic, and Michael Cunningham. The Hours. Hollywood, Calif: Paramount Home Entertainment, 2003.

Wenig, Gabrielle. Watch Me While I Die: Stephen Daldry’s The Hours . Bright Lights Film Journal, 1 Feb. 2003. Web. 15 May 2015. http://brightlightsfilm.com/watch-die-stephen-daldrys-hours/#.VVZuC_lViko

Sherlock Holmes: How Far Is Too Far When Adapting A Book For Film?

16 Jun

The Mazarin Stone

In this mystery, Sherlock Holmes encounters a diamond thief, Count Negrettu Sylvius. After some wrangling, Sherlock manages to evade the Count’s attempts to kill him and pins the theft on him. In this mystery, we learn a great deal about Holmes. He is a bit eccentric and somewhat of a lone wolf, but extremely clever, using science as his crime-solving tool.

The Film

This wildly entertaining film follows the adventures of Sherlock Holmes in an onscreen adventure. His portrayal by Robert Downey Jr. Is exciting and comedic. Hijinks ensue in this fast-paced mystery, and Downey never misses a beat. The villain, Lord Blackwood, tricks the town into thinking he’s a skilled satanic warlock, but Holmes uses various scientific methods and the help of Watson to reveal the science behind the tricks. With this, Blackwood is proven to be nothing more than a charlatan.

The Adaptation

The movie is a little bit different than the book. The book is pure mystery, but the movie puts a comedic spin on it. There also exists Rachel McAdams as the love interest and sex symbol. There is a similar emphasis on science, but much more in depth than the book.

The Critics

The critics are fairly divided on this movie. Samuel B. Prime, certainly disliked this adaptation of Doyle’s classic character, Sherlock Holmes. He argued that Downey’s portrayal of Holmes was far too perceptive and almost omniscient. He also felt that the film resorted to sophomoric comedy at times, citing the dogfart as an example. Prime argued that, since “Holmes is so self-consciously aware of establishing his own legend as he’s living it[,…] there is no growth, only perfection ad nauseam” (Prime, 2009). Prime is not alone is his assessment. Michael O’Sullivan finds this film adaptation just a bit too ridiculous to take seriously.Other writers, including Vejvoda, were less critical. Vejvoda lauds the film as “the most exciting, eccentric and accessible film version yet of the world’s greatest detective”. He encouraged audiences to watch it.

The Critical Argument

The success of this film rests nearly entirely on casting and the heightened relationships between characters – the most convincing and interesting of which was the bromance between Holmes and Watson. While some may argue that this was beyond the original plot, it is handled well by Ritchie who, faced a horde of “Sherlockians” as he “[elevated] … the Holmes/Watson relationship from clubby friendship (with homoerotic undertones) to full-blown bromance” (Shoard, 2009).  Downey and Law are well-matched in this film with wonderful “banter between Mr. Downey and Mr. Law, who is looser and more mischievous than he’s allowed himself to be in quite some time” (Scott, 2009). Scott also alluded to the pleasing Rachel McAdams. He noted her “pretty, flouncy red dress” but notes that this was likely done to “dispel a few hints of homoerotic subtext” (Scott, 2009).  In the end, the bromance works far more powerfully (and easily) in this film than any romance possibly could. Sorry, Rachel McAdams, most movie-goers liked Watson best – perhaps, Sherlock too!

Works Cited

Bahn, Christopher. “Gateways to Geekery: Sherlock Holmes.” Books. AV Club, 17 June 2010. Web. 11 June 2015. <http://www.avclub.com/articles/sherlock-holmes,42196/>.

Doyle, Arthur C. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Champaign, Ill: Project Gutenberg, 1990. Kindle Edition.

Lee, Patrick. “Does the New Sherlock Holmes Film Honor or Ignore Doyle?.” Arthur Conan Doyle. BLASTR, 22 Dec. 2009. Web. 11 June 2015. <http://blastr.com/2009/12/does-the-new-sherlock-hol.php>.

O’Sullivan, Michael. “Movie review: Robert Downey Jr.’s ‘Sherlock Holmes’ isn’t for the Doyle faithful.” Movies. Washington Post, 25 Dec. 2009. Web. 11 June 2015. <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/24/AR2009122401075.html>.

Prime, Samuel B. Sherlock Holmes. Museum of the Moving Image: Reverse Shot, 26 Dec. 2009. Web. 16 May 2015.http://reverseshot.org/reviews/entry/25/sherlock_holmes

Ritchie, Guy, Michael Johnson, Anthony Peckham, Simon Kinberg, Lionel Wigram, Joel Silver, Susan Downey, Dan Lin, Michael Tadross, Bruce Berman, Philippe Rousselot, Robert Downey, Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, Mark Strong, Eddie Marsan, Kelly Reilly, James Fox, Hans Matheson, Geraldine James, Sarah Greenwood, James Herbert, Hans Zimmer, Jenny Beavan, and Arthur C. Doyle.Sherlock Holmes. , 2010.

Roberts, Sheila. “Guy Ritchie Interview, Sherlock Holmes.” Movie Forum. MoviesOnline, n.d. Web. 11 June 2015. <http://blastr.com/2009/12/does-the-new-sherlock-hol.php>.

Scott, A O. “The Brawling Supersleuth of 221B Baker Street Socks It to ‘Em.” Movies. New York Times, 25 Dec. 2009. Web. 11 June 2015. <http://movies.nytimes.com/2009/12/25/movies/25sherlock.html>.

Shoard, Catherine. “Sherlock Holmes – Cinematic Mystery that Baffles in all the Wrong Ways.” Review of Sherlock Holmes. The Guardian, 15 Dec. 2009. Web. 11 June 2015. <http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2009/dec/15/sherlock-holmes-film-review&gt;.

Vejvoda, Jim. “IGN investigates the Case of the Roaring Return.” Sherlock Holmes Review. IGN, 23 Dec. 2009. Web. 11 June 2015. <http://www.ign.com/articles/2009/12/23/sherlock-holmes-review&gt;.

Bride and Prejudice: Jane Austen Goes To India

10 Jun

The Novel

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is a romantic novel centering around 20-year-old Elizabeth Bennet. Her parents are doing everything they can to find wealthy husbands for Elizabeth and her four sisters. They meddle in their affairs and complicate their love lives, but in the end, love wins out and Elizabeth ends up with Mr. Darcy.

The Film

This wonderful Bollywood film opens at an Indian wedding with all of its lavish accompaniments. We meet Lalita and her three sisters, and Will Darcy, visiting from America. Lalita doesn’t like him at first, considering him to be ignorant about India and its culture, as well as arrogant and conceited. He spends the entire movie trying to prove her wrong and winds up marrying her in the end.

The Adaptation

Bride and Prejudice takes the book and gives it a Bollywood twist. It is all about wealth and class, as is the settings for both film and novel. Money is put on a pedestal, and at times valued more than love. Both the movie and the novel go to great pains to express class differences and the struggles that arise out of them.

The Critics

This movie has been heavily reviewed due to its novelty and international appeal. Roger Ebert gave this movie three stars and commented that the director did an excellent job of using the Bollywood genre to her advantage although felt the movie was overly predictable.

There are also many scholarly responses to this film from the Indian perspective. Prakash Kona noted that Hindi continue to be viewed as dolls and that society can only see them as stupid, beautiful things. This movie doesn’t go far enough in disproving engendered stereotypes.

New York Times reviewer, Manohla Dargis, shredded this movie in his review. He posited that there was an overabundance of political correctness. He was especially irritated with the nauseating emphasis on cultural intolerance and argues that the leading woman is very beautiful but stupid. He was similarly critical of her male costar. He ends with a scathing commentary on the director who can “have her sanctimony and eat her wedding cake too” (Dargis, 2005).

The Critical Argument

It could be argued that Bride and Prejudice is entirely too entertaining to truly approach the cultural understandings that could have made this movie unique. The mindless conglomeration of Bollywood and Hollywood results in pithy comments regarding class and nationality from the characters that never lead to any true understandings and some serious emphases on stereotypes; characters seem overwhelmingly flat. French asked, “Are we watching a parody of a Bollywood musical, or a pastiche? Are we intended to find the broad effects, the musical routines, the crude acting funny because they’re so naive” (French, 2004)? In the movie, Lalita is intent on educating Darcy on Indian life yet Darcy seems to acquire his cultural taste on his own, and only on a subliminal level. Playing drums in the wedding march hardly qualifies as true cultural understanding.

Works Cited

Austen, Jane, and James Kinsley. Pride and Prejudice. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990. Kindle Edition.

Bedell, Geraldine. “Larger Than Life.” Movies: The Observer. The Guardian, 16 July 2006. Web. 6 June 2015. http://www.theguardian.com/film/2006/jul/16/features.review1

Dargis, Manohla. “Mr. Darcy and Lalita, Singing and Dancing.” Movies: Film Review. New York Times, 11 Feb. 2005. Web. 6 June 2015. http://www.nytimes.com/2005/02/11/movies/mr-darcy-and-lalita-singing-and-dancing.html

Ebert, Roger. “Bride and Prejudice.” Reviews. Roger Ebert, 10 Feb. 2005. Web. 6 June 2015. http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/bride-and-prejudice-2005

French, Philip. “Bride and Prejudice.” Movies: The Observer. The Guardian, 9 Oct. 2004. Web. 6 June 2015. http://www.theguardian.com/film/2006/jul/16/features.review1

Kona, Prakash. Notions of Gender in Hindi Cinema: The Passive Indian Woman in the Global Discourse of Consumption. Bright Lights Film Journal, 30 Apr. 2011. Web. 15 May 2015. http://brightlightsfilm.com/notions-of-gender-in-hindi-cinema-the-passive-indian-woman-in-the-global-discourse-of-consumption/

Leddy, Chuck. “Cents And Sensibility: A Look At The Jane Austen Juggernaut.” Writer (Kalmbach Publishing Co.) 123.12 (2010): 8-9. Academic Search Premier. Web. 6 June 2015.

http://search.ebscohost.com.proxy-um.researchport.umd.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=55232795&site=ehost-live

Nayar, Deepak, Anupam Kher, Namrata Shirodkar, Daniel Gillies, Indira Varma, Sonali Kulkarni, Nitin C. Ganatra, Ashanti, Martin Henderson, Santosh Sivan, Aishwariya R. Bachchan, Nadira Babbar, Naveen Andrews, Gurinder Chadha, Nick Ellis, Justin Krish, Saroj Khan, Annu Malik, and Jane Austen. Bride & Prejudice. United States: Touchstone Home Video, 2005.

“Without Prejudice.” Sunday Times. The Times of india, 11 July 2004. Web. 6 June 2015. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/sunday-times/Without-prejudice/articleshow/773396.cms

Tristram Shandy: Getting to the Point!

5 Jun

The Novel

Lawrence Stern’s classic British novel, Tristram Shandy, is hardly a novel at all. It consists of a series of opinions and memories of the title character. It emphasizes more of Tristram’s family than Tristram, himself. There is an air of ridiculosity and oddball humor to this book, especially given that it was written in the eighteenth century.  Not only does Tristram and his mistaken name reside outside the box, so does this novel.

The Film

Just like the book, this movie deliciously struggles to get to the point. The events of Tristram’s life are constantly put on pause for Steve to insert his commentary, and the viewer is constantly shifting back and forth from century to century. This movie features a tangled web of relationships centered around Steve Coogan. A bit of a rake, himself, Coogan is seen romantically linked to the mother of his new baby, a woman on set and there is even an allusion to another sexul encounter with prostitute in the months earlier. The movie reminds the viewer that life is complicated and messy; it is impossible to “pause” one aspect of life to take time to deal with another.

The Adaptation

This movie-within-a-movie takes place in the 18th Century, and the movie takes place in modern times. This does cause a bit of an impossibility, for Tristram to be commenting on his life in the 18th Century through a modern actor. The “actors” run around in powdered wigs and dated dresses, while the cameras roll, and assistants deliver Starbucks Macchiatos. The joke is that Tristram/Steve is not the star of his own movie… or seemingly his own life.

The Critics

Martha Nochimson’s review of this film is particularly inciteful. There is also depth to arguments from Megan Ratner and a deep web entry by an unknown contributor from Super Itchy. Megan Ratner seems to have enjoyed Winterbottom’s film, mostly focusing on praise for the actors. The unknown contributor from Super Itchy very much enjoyed this mockumentary but noted that the last third dragged.

Nochimson uses two pages to describe the madness of this movie, not omitting the various ironies at play. She notes how the director makes absurd choices with casting, filming, scripting, etc. to play to a comedic advantage. She ultimately lauds this movie as successful, noting that the shenanigans and hijinks work to its advantage.

The Critical Argument

Tristram Shandy: A Cock-and-Bull Story is clearly a satire upon reality programming; the film portrays actors as self-absorbed, appearance conscious, and not terribly intelligent, much as society would expect them to be as they lead unrealistic lives. So many actors are portrayed on television that many have become skeptical of the “scenarios’ they encounter on their reality shows which seem too ridiculous to be true. Considering the many interactions of Steve Coogan throughout the film, it would be highly unbelievable that so many events of this nature could occur in one day. This is what makes this film so representative of the book which was also a satire of life at the time it was written in the 1700s. It is also inconceivable that so many strange moments could occur in the life of only one man. Rachel Cooke posits that “[This] movie manages to pin the elusive essence of Tristram Shandy to the screen at the same time as it takes the piss out of the actors and film-makers who would have the temerity to attempt such a project. It is, then, rather knowing. It is a film that knows all about postmodernism” (Cooke, 2005). Without this tongue-in-cheek approach of “reality” filming, Tristram Shandy could not be the masterpiece that it is.

Works Cited

Coogan, Steve, Rob Brydon, Keeley Hawes, Shirley Henderson, Dylan Moran, Jeremy Northam, Naomie Harris, Kelly MacDonald, James Fleet, Ian Hart, Gillian Anderson, Martin Hardy, Andrew Eaton, Michael Winterbottom, and Laurence Sterne. Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story. New York: HBO Video, 2006.

Cooke, Rachel. “The Man Who Wasn’t There.” London Film Festival 2005: The Observer. The Guardian, 15 Oct. 2005. Web. 4 June 2015. http://www.theguardian.com/film/2005/oct/16/londonfilmfestival2005.londonfilmfestival

Nochimson, Martha P. ‘Movies and the America of the Mind: New York Film Festival 2005 Report (Part One)’, _Film-Philosophy_, vol. 9 no. 44, November 2005 http://www.film-philosophy.com/index.php/f-p/article/view/857

Porton, Richard. “In Praise of Folly: An Interview with Michael Winterbottom.” ENGL329B. Ed. Joseph Byrne. Cineaste, 2006. Web. 4 June 2015. https://engl329b.files.wordpress.com/2011/06/winterbottom_cineaste.pdf

Ratner, Megan. Bright Lights Film Journal, 1 Nov. 2005. Web. 15 May 2015. http://brightlightsfilm.com/global-gaze-43rd-new-york-film-festival/#.VVZpMPlViko

Scott, A O. “An Unfilmable Book, Now Made Into a Movie.” Movies. New York Times, 27 Jan. 2006. Web. 5 June 2015. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/27/movies/27shan.html

Sterne, Laurence. The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman. Champaign, Ill: Project Gutenberg, 1990. Kindle Edition.

“Tristram Shandy; A Cock and Bull Story Movie Review.” Super Itchy. 18 Aug. 2010. Web. 4 June 2015. http://superitchy.com/tristram-shandy-a-cock-and-bull-story-movie-review

The Tempest: The Play, The Film and Some Food for Thought

3 Jun

The Play

The Tempest, by William Shakespeare, is arguably not his best work, although it does provide some personal perspective on his feelings of isolation as he approached his impending retirement (and the end of his life). Prospero uses magic to exact revenge on his former shipmates, instead of focusing on how to get home; this is very odd indeed, especially since he waits twelve years on this deserted island to use any magic. It would seem that his biggest motive was not to escape the island; instead, he allows himself to become consumed with revenge, even at the expense of his daughter’s freedom and happiness. It is not until the end of the play that Prospero’s humanity and fragility are revealed and “all’s well that ends well”.

The Film

Julie Taymor presents The Tempest as never before; it was as if Shakespeare’s visions of ghosts, spirits and monsters could only be fully realized through the camera lens and wonderful cinematic effects encompassed in this film. The audience is swept into a new and exciting world of magic and wonder. Yet Taymor gently brings us back from this edge, reminding us of our own humanity in the well choreographed and touching sequences between characters. She chooses not to get lost in the digital effects of this film which was undoubtedly challenging, especially given their quality and creativity; this truly remains a human story.

The Adaptation

Taymor’s film adaptation of The Tempest was certainly postmodern in its scope and challenges the viewer to accept the new reality of our time – a time when women have the power and can manipulate their environments as never before. She uses powerful, film techniques including wide camera spanning, beautiful imagery and wonderfully realized CGI to enhance the isolationist themes and bring Prospero and Shakespeare’s magical creatures to life. As the audience encounters this new Prospero – now called Prospera (a short-haired woman, no less) – they are confronted with their own biases regarding women in lead roles and the darker side of a woman’s nature. Traditionally, this type of plotting, scheming and even violence is perpetrated by a male villain. Arguably, this new Prospera refuses to flirt with traditional notions of women and chooses not to soften the role; there are no tears, no sexual entendres. This movie asks the audience to consider women and even Shakespeare in a new light.

The Critics

There is a virtual treasure trove of research and critical reviews regarding this film. For perspective, it is important to consider both a British and an American review. This paragraph will contrast of Philip French from The Guardian and Martha Nochimson in Senses of Cinema. As is characteristic, the Brits did not appreciate this americanized, modernized presentation of The Bard, although French did enjoy Taymor’s earlier adaptation of Titus Andronicus. The American reviewer, Nochimson, is less critical of this film and far more singularly focused in her review; she emphasizes the importance of Helen Mirren’s wonderful performance and portrayal of Prospera, new perspectives on gender roles and directorial privilege.

Perhaps, one of the best critical responses was written by Benjamin Mercer from The Moving Image who contended that director Julie Taymor is mostly faithful to Shakespeare’s original work (except for the obvious gender swap from Prospero to Prospera) but tends to abuse CGI effects and visual artistry. He notes that “apart form the gender reversal, this film is as close to the original work as possible”, even opening with a ship caught in a very bad storm (Mercer, 2010). He does contend that Taymor overuses and even “abuses” CGI in this film but is mostly favorable throughout his critique.

The Critical Argument

Taymor skillfully alters this film to a postmodern perspective which goes far beyond feminism to a near “equality” of men and women; Taymor rejects the notion that women are expected to cry, become frustrated, rely on others for support and behave in a motherly fashion. Feminine power is an important element in this film in terms of Prospera and the directorial privilege of Taymor, herself. Violet Lucca noted that Taymor manipulated this play to suit her modernist impulses and feminist agenda (Lucca, 2010). The sheer act of transforming Prospero into Prospera was groundbreaking, as was the notion that Prospera was more than a powerful woman. She was a woman who did “not use her sex to achieve or maintain her power”, nor did she cry, act matronly or other expected womanly notions (Lucca, 2010). Radish notes that although many other directors have attempted to adapt The Tempest, none stand up to “the magic of Prospera” (Radish, 2010). Taymor goes well beyond the original play and powerful creates her own “tempest”, much like Prospero, himself. As consumers absorb this film, their experience travels beyond the initial shock of Prospero’s transformation to Prospera and ask themselves how much power a director should be afforded… and how much power women should be afforded. “[In] Taymor’’s hands Shakespeare’’s fundamentally masculine plot is revitalized with a deeply feminine sensibility” (Huttner, 2010). Even beyond this “revitalization” as termed by Huttner, Taymor brings a new voice for gender equality which surpasses feminism and asks society to examine the possibilities that might be ahead for women who refuse to cry, behave “motherly”, and rely on men to solve their problems.

Works Cited

French, Philip. The Tempest: Helen Mirren Review. The Guardian UK. 5 Mar 2011. Web. 2 June 2015. http://www.theguardian.com/film/2011/mar/06/the-tempest-helen-mirren-review

Huttner, Jan L. The Tempest. Women Arts, 27 Dec. 2010. Web. 2 June 2015. http://www.womenarts.org/film-reviews/thetempest

Lucca, Violet. Review: The Tempest. Film Comment, Nov. 2010. Web. 2 June 2015. http://www.filmcomment.com/article/the-tempest

Mercer, Benjamin. The Tempest. Museum of the Moving Image: Reverse Shot, 6 Dec. 2010. Web. 2 June 2015. http://reverseshot.org/reviews/entry/1618/tempest

Nochimson, Martha P. The New York Film Festival Gets Its Gamut On. Senses of Cinema, Dec. 2010. Web. 2 June 2015. http://sensesofcinema.com/2010/festival-reports/the-new-york-film-festival-gets-its-gamut-on/

Radish, Christina. Director Julie Taymor Interview: The Tempest. Collider, 9 Dec. 2010. Web. 3 June 2015. http://collider.com/julie-taymor-interview-the-tempest

Shakespeare, William, and Frank Kermode. The Tempest. London: Methuen, 1964. Kindle Edition.

Taymor, Julie, Robert Chartoff, Lynn Hendee, Julia Taylor-Stanley, Jason K. Lau, Chris Cooper, Djimon Hounsou, Helen Mirren, Russell Brand, Reeve Carney, Tom Conti, Felicity Jones, Alan Cumming, Alfred Molina, David Strathairn, Ben Whishaw, Mark Friedberg, Stuart Dryburgh, Françoise Bonnot, and William Shakespeare. The Tempest. Montréal: Alliance Vivafilm, 2011.