Re: RARA-AVIS: Books different than movies

Date: 28 Aug 2003


Re your comment below:

> Jim, If the filmmaker believes that the source
> material is dishonest or
> dehumanizing or misogynistic or racist or, or, or,
> then he/she has every
> ethical right, and maybe some kind of moral duty, to
> turn the material on its head
> and expose its flaws. I don't know if Altman and
> Aldrich thought that was what
> they were doing, but I can't buy the notion that
> filmmakers have only two
> choices when adapting novels, either follow "the
> spirit" of the source material
> or stay away from the work.

I can't really imagine why an adapter, presuming that he wasn't himself dehumainzing, misogynistic, racist, etc., etc., etc., would want to adapt a work that was so antithetical to his beliefs.

You don't need to adapt MEIN KAMPF, to use an extreme example, in order to show up Hitler for the evil son of a bitch he was. You can adapt any one of thousands of books that already have that agenda.

And, by the same token, if you're a committed, church-hating atheist, you don't need to adapt the Bible or the Koran in order to further your anti-religion agenda.
> When Altman adapted MASH, he turned an elitist,
> sophomoric, sex romp into
> a funny, macho, antiestablishment, antiwar, film.
> That's why the author of
> that incredibly mediocre novel hated the movie.
> Altman had violated "the spirit"
> of his work.

Altman took a comic military novel about a pair of authority-flouting Army surgeons and turned it into a comic military film about a pair of authority-flouting Army surgeons. I'm not sure I see where he was vilating the novel's spirit.

If Hooker (or part of the collaborative team that wrote as Hooker) hated the film, maybe it wasn't so much that it violated the spirit, as that it did a better job than the novel did.

> However, I'm having a tougher time each day
> figuring out whether this
> discussion really has anything to do with
> hard-boiled and noir fiction.

Altman and Aldrich, on the basis of their films, and on the basis of their comments on those films, despised the novels they were adapting. That being the case, I think they shouldn't have made the films. It happened that the novels they despised were hard-boiled private eye stories.

That's what it has to do with hard-boiled or noir fiction. Though, as you suggest, it has a much wider application.


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