Thursday, April 20, 2006

From the page to the screen

Another list to nitpick, this time slightly less so. There's a definite British slant to the selections (The Day of the Triffids?), but it's a pretty good collection nonetheless:
Alice in Wonderland
American Psycho
Breakfast at Tiffany's
Brighton Rock
Charlie & the Chocolate Factory
A Clockwork Orange
Close Range (inc Brokeback Mountain)
The Day of the Triffids
Devil in a Blue Dress
Different Seasons (inc The Shawshank Redemption)
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (aka Bladerunner)
Doctor Zhivago
Empire of the Sun
The English Patient
Fight Club
The French Lieutenant's Woman
Get Shorty
The Godfather
Heart of Darkness (aka Apocalypse Now)
The Hound of the Baskervilles
The Jungle Book
A Kestrel for a Knave (aka Kes)
LA Confidential
Les Liaisons Dangereuses
Lord of the Flies
The Maltese Falcon
Oliver Twist
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
The Outsiders
Pride and Prejudice
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
The Railway Children
The Remains of the Day
Schindler's Ark (aka Schindler's List)
Sin City
The Spy Who Came in From the Cold
The Talented Mr Ripley
Tess of the D'Urbervilles
To Kill a Mockingbird
The Vanishing
Watership Down
It seems that, unlike the WGA's recent "101 Best," they're judging the merits of the screenplay adaptations before the film itself, which is a tricky tightrope to walk; some books flat-out resist a filmed adaptation at every turn, where others are practically tailor-made for the screen. Some others I'd nominate:

Dolores Claiborne, scripted by Tony Gilroy and directed by Taylor Hackford, always gets my nomination for the most underappreciated Stephen King adaptation, second only to Rob Reiner and William Goldman's take on Misery. (I've never been a fan of either the film of The Shawshank Redemption or the original novella; it's King at his more preachy and ickily sentimental.) Dolores Claiborne is a book-length monologue by the title character; Gilroy restructed the story somewhat and despite a jarring, tacked-on courtroom finale, it's consistently gripping. Hackford's stylish take on the flashback sequences is amazing.

Waterland, adapted by Peter Prince from the novel by Graham Swift, is particuarly good, once you get past the Americanized plot elements that are rather obviously grafted on. Like Dolores Claiborne above, the story incorporates many flashback sequences that somehow maintain the heft and magic-realism weight of the novel. [It just so happens that the film is playing tonight -- 4/20 -- on the Independent Film Channel at 9:15pm. Unfortunately, the print IFC is using is panned-and-scanned; Stephen Gyllenhaal's filming of it takes every advantage of the Panavision widescreen process and can only be truly appreciated in that format. Image Entertainment will be releasing the film on DVD next month.]

The Unbearable Lightness of Being
, from the novel by Milan Kundera, tends to split people straight down the middle. Most people I know who've read the novel hate the movie, and vice versa. I like them both very much, but they are, by neccessity, very different beasts; the film is fairly linear, whereas the novel is decidedly not so. Philip Kaufman and Jean-Claude Carriere did the adaptation, and Kaufman directed.

The Woman in the Dunes, adapted by Kobo Abe from his novel, and directed by Hiroshi Teshigahara. Abe is an acquired taste, but if your taste happens to run towards unsettling, threateningly erotic surrealism, then he's your man. This is the kind of adaptation you watch and, if you're familiar with both, you think, "It couldn't have been done any other way." It helps, of course, that Abe did the adaptation himself, but Teshigahara deserves a lot of credit for crisply visualizing Abe's strange, almost otherworldly textures and shadings. [Abe and Teshigahara collaborated twice more, on adaptations of Abe's novels The Face of Another (1966) and The Ruined Map (1968), both of which have yet to be released on video in America.]

Deliverance, scripted by James Dickey from his novel, and directed by John Boorman. This is the movie that's essentially responsible for every redneck-psychopath stereotype in every movie made since; apparently, there are many people in the world who truly believe there are toothless, shotgun-toting rapists behind every tree in the American South. Get past that, and you're left with truly one of the best movies ever made, one in which Dickey's poetic examination of masculinity versus nature is preserved with tremendous clarity and resonance.

There are plenty of other great adaptations that didn't make the cut -- The Last Picture Show, Wonder Boys, In the Bedroom, The Manchurian Candidate, The Pledge and especially A Simple Plan are others that come to mind -- but these are some I think are particularly worth singling out.


rambler said...

Which "Lolita"?

Jason Comerford said...

Kubrick's, which I've never seen. But I have seen the '97 Adrian Lyne version, which I thought it was pretty good (and undeserving of the accusatory hype surrounding it).

rambler said...

I thought that Jeremy Irons was an almost perfect Humbert, screw the hype!