Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: A Whiff of Sulphur...

From: Mark R. Harris (
Date: 05 Dec 2007

Some thoughts:

1) "Trash" is such a values-laden verb in this context that it forces the conclusion you wish to reach. Therefore, I don't accept your verb.

2) As noted earlier, I disagree that Altman was being "disrespectful," but even if he was, so what? Chandler is not sacrosanct.

3) Whether or not you can understand how Chandler fans can appreciate Altman's effort, obviously many do. This puts you in a position of cognitive dissonance, surely, but the fact remains the same. If you mean to suggest that those particular Chandler fans are not true Chandler fans, that's a lame attempt to solve the dissonance.

4) There were those at the time when West Side Story first appeared who felt that it was indeed sacrilegious to Shakespeare, that placing the "star cross'd lovers" in a contemporary, urban, ethnic context was quite disrespectful.

5) I don't understand why "parody" would be exempt from your strictures while what Altman attempted is not.

6) I also don't understand why actors' performances being identifiably the same character matters one way or another. Acting is interpretation. Some performances of the same characters or same texts will be similar, others will not be.

7) I don't think my reasoning is particularly "tortured." Surely you've heard of paradox?

8) For the record and as a Tolkien fan, I intensely dislike what Peter Jackson made of The Lord of the Rings -- it doesn't correspond with my view of the novel at all, and I believe that it trades Tolkien's British charm for a modern CGI-monster/horror movie tone that is wildly unidiomatic. But that doesn't mean that I think that Jackson was deliberately trying to
"trash" Tolkien, or that he committed a heinously unforgivable aesthetic sin. He's a talented director; I admire Heavenly Creatures enormously. I just don't like his take in this instance. But I'm not losing sleep over it the way you seem to be over Altman.

Best regards, Mark

On 12/5/07, JIM DOHERTY <> wrote:
> Mark,
> A more serious response to your comments below:
> "Besides, if Chandler is that great himself (no
> argument from me there), then certainly he should be
> able to withstand any kind of insult. Consider the
> sins (if they be sins) that have been committed
> against Shakespeare in the name of adaptation and
> updating. A purist could have issued a fatwa against
> Leonard Bernstein, Arthur Laurents, Stephen Sondheim,
> and Jerome Robbins for the 'sacrilege' against 'Romeo
> and Juliet' that is 'West Side Story.' But
> Shakespeare seems to have survived just fine (and so,
> for that matter, has the brilliant 'West Side
> Story')."
> This really isn't a good analogy. Bernstein, et al,
> weren't deliberately trying to trash Shakespeare.
> They were taking a familiar Shakespearean plot and
> putting it in a modern setting.
> The characters weren't wildly divergent from their
> orginal inspirations. Tony, for example, wasn't an
> unromantic uggo deliberately patterned to be the
> opposite of Romeo. Neither was Maria a harsh,
> unattractive strumpet totally unlike the beauteous
> innocent that was Juliet.
> Arguably, Shakespeare himself did a far greater job of
> trashing his own ROMEO & JULIET with the "Pyramus and
> Thisby" sketch in MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM than
> Bernstein ever did. Of course, that was an outright
> parody, not a supposedly straight adaptation. And,
> IIRC, MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM actually precedes R&J,
> so, technically, I suppose, R&J trashed P&T.
> Altman, by contrast, said right out that it was his
> intention to portray Marlowe as a loser, a REAL loser
> unlike the heroic figure cast by Chandler, and
> further, implied that, by making Marlowe heroic,
> Chandler was somehow selling out.
> One can look at Richard Beymer's performance in WSS
> and, comparing it to, say, Leonard Whiting's, Leo
> DiCaprio's, Laurence Harvey's, or Leslie Howard's, can
> see that we're looking at essentially the same
> character.
> One can't honestly compare Elliot Gould's performance
> to Dick Powell's, Humphrey Bogart's, Robert Mitchum's,
> or Powers Boothe's, and conclude that we're looking at
> essentially the same character.
> To me that seems obvious on its face.
> "It could be that Altman's apparent disrespect for
> Chandler is actually a mark of the highest respect --
> a riff on a the work of a fellow master. That's
> certainly what I think."
> The fact that you acknowledge that Altman's
> disprespect for Chandler is apparent shows how far one
> has to twist and turn to reach the conclusion that his
> version of TLG is somehow a faithful, or at least a
> "respectful," adaptation.
> I prefer to take things at face value. Altman's
> dispresepct is apparent (and, moreover, stated
> outright), therefore it is real, and not, by some
> tortured reasoning, a sign of "true" respect.
> You like the film? Well, fine. That's a matter of
> taste. For myself, quite aside from the fact that it
> pisses all over the book, I found it dull and listless
> with no characters I really cared about. But some
> people like chocolate and some like vanilla.
> What I'll still never understand, though, whatever
> virtues the film may or may not possess, is how anyone
> who purports to be a Chandler fan can claim to enjoy a
> movie that so deliberately trashes his most ambitious
> novel.
> And this is not, as has been suggested, a case of a
> "cult of personality." Chandler, after all, was, in
> many ways, not an altogether nice man. And it may be
> that Altman was a prince. I don't know.
> I DO know, however, that if Chris Columbus had done to
> Harry Potter, or Peter Jackson to Frodo Baggins, what
> Altman did to Marlowe, that Rowling fans and Tolkien
> fans would have howled to the high heavens. So the
> acquiesence of Chandler fans to Altman's "riff" on THE
> LONG GOODBYE really does puzzle me.
> __________________________________________________________
> Looking for last minute shopping deals?
> Find them fast with Yahoo! Search.

Mark R. Harris
2122 W. Russet Court #8
Appleton WI 54914
(920) 470-9855

[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 05 Dec 2007 EST