RARA-AVIS: Re: The Long Goodbye

From: jimdohertyjr ( jimdohertyjr@yahoo.com)
Date: 09 Feb 2007


Re your comments:

> I thought that was Maxwell Smart's line. Speaking of which, I saw
> the latest Premiere magazine that Steve Carrelll has siged to play
> 86.

With a name like that, he ought to be in an adaptation of the 87th Precinct.
> Of course, this goes back to Jim's assertion that "more faithful =
> better movie." That's just crap. Payback was far more faithful to
> plot of Stark's novel than Point Bank, but the latter is a far
> movie. I recently read PD James's Children of Men after being very
> impressed with the movie (got robbed in not being nominated for best
> picture). I was surprised how little of the book was in the movie.
> fact, given how much of the book was interior to a character's
mind, I
> doubt a faithful rendition would have worked nearly as well as a
> This is not a criticism of the book, which was quite good, but an
> admission that the two media are best at different things (and that
> book and movie were created on different sides of 9/11 and the
impact it
> has had on our view of the future world). And each of these took
> advantage of its medium's strengths.

You're deliberately misreading my assertion. I never said, "More faithful equals better." In fact, in that very message I gave an example of a Chandler-adapted movie, the Mitchum BIG SLEEP, that was, in many ways, more faithful to the book than the Bogart version, but wasn't as good a film.

But "not as faithful" isn't the same as "unfaithful." POINT BLANK may not have followed the letter of the Stark novel as closely as PAYBACK, but it didn't trash the original. It wasn't made to show what a pointless piece of drivel the novel was. Boorman didn't have contempt for Westlake's work.

I haven't seen CHILDREN OF MEN, but I'd bet it's at least faithful to the spirit of James's novel. At least I haven't heard anything about James fans getting up in arms the way Chandler fans do about THE LONG GOODBYE. From this, I infer that, at the very least, the filmmakers didn't have withering contempt for either the novel or Ms. James's work in general, that came through in the film

Altman did. At least the things he said sure indicate that he did, and I'm willing to take him at his word.

I never said, "more faithful = better movie," although I suspect that's true more often than not. There are exceptions (BULLITT, for examples, has little relationship to Robert L. Fish's MUTE WITNESS aside from the bare bones of the plot, but it's a better movie than MUTE WITNESS is a novel). But by and large, it's probably true.

What I did say is that a filmmaker making a movie based on source material from another medium owes some fidelity to that source material. If he has contempt for the material, why make the movie? Why not make a movie from an original screenplay that he believes in? Or make a movie from a novel/play/whatever that he believes in? Why make a movie based on a novel he has contempt for, by a novelist he has contempt for, featuring a character he has contempt for?

The film may be good or bad depending on the skill of the director, cast, and crew, but that's not the point.

The point is what the filmmaker owes to the originator of the material, and for members of a list devoted to the work of people like Chandler to defend as meretricious a piece of crap as Altman's film on the basis that "It's good in its own right, and, anyway we can't really expect a director like Altman to do a faithful version of Chandler and have to judge it on its own merits," quite frankly mystifies me.
> As for Jim's claim that Sidney Greenstreet's nomination was a
reward for
> Huston's faithful adaptation, no, it's a reward for Greenstreet's
> acting, which may or may not have been as good if the movie had
> the book less closely.

I never said that, either. I said that part of what made the Huston version great was its fidelity to the novel. Greenstreet's masterly performance, taking to the part as though it had been written specifically for him, was part of what made it so faithful.

I never said that he got his nomination because the film was faithful to the book, per se, I said he got his nomination because his great performance was able to shine, and get noticed, in what was a fine movie, and that the movie was fine, particularly compared to SATAN MET A LADY, at least partly because it was faithful to its source material.


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