Movie review . . . sort of

28Feb10

Saw Valentine’s Day last night with Jan. It did not make me want to claw my eyes out, in the words of someone whose opinion I value, but I do understand what she meant. It was a pleasant, relatively mindless diversion of a romantic comedy. It lacked the charm, intellect and character development of Love Actually from which it stole its structure, theme and so forth. It was a bit more predictable than it needed to be, as well. Contrived. A little forced in places.

But it was sweet, and some of the performances were fun. Best of show was definitely Anne Hathaway.

I have a very, very bright friend who never reads novels. He finds them tedious, and he’d rather just watch the movie. I’m interested in the difference.

A book is the endeavor of a single artist, and obviously a movie brings together perhaps dozens or hundreds–and that may be a strength or a weakness. One can’t necessarily make the analogy 0f a chain being only as strong as its weakest link, but cinematography, acting, directing, lighting, set design and construction all have to work in the service of a script (and the script for Love Actually was certainly a lot better than than the one for Valentine’s Day).

The script is the thing . . . and the script for a 90 to 120 minute film is likely to have less meat than a 4-500 page novel.

But you answer that a picture may be worth however many words . . . you don’t need the bloated descriptions when you have the cinematography, and the camera can pan over the room and its contents can hold a dozen objects with symbolic/metaphorical resonance. You can’t do that in a novel. An expression on the screen may be worth pages of internal monologue.

But you can’t get that internal monologue on film. You see the character’s face on the screen, you don’t see through his eyes, hear his thoughts as he interprets what he sees.

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5 Responses to “Movie review . . . sort of”

  1. I thought Valentine’s Day was going to be a pile of garbage, but was pleasantly surprised. I actually really like Jessica Biel in this film. I’m not a huge fan of hers on a normal day, but I thought she showed some comic chops.

    • Interesting discussion, especially the concept of “watching the movie rather than reading the novel.” Of course, I view literature and cinema as two distinct art forms that happen to intersect through the creativity (or not) of the screenplay writer. The connection between a novel and the ensuing screenplay that must be created in order to make a movie involves an inevitable transition and transformation, and the final product results in another work of “art” or creative expression. In the final analysis this process makes it impossible to compare the “novel” and the movie; or more precisely, I can not substitute one for the other and each is valid but distinct. It’s like comparing a musical transcription to its original form, especially an orchestral transcription of a solo piano work. Even if the transcription is done by the composer, the orchestral tonal palette and registral array transform the work into something inherently new. Because, of course, the music is more than the sum of its notes.

      • I agree. They really are different art forms. Did you see the discussion on Where the Wild Things Are? I did 3 or four posts looking at movie and book. I may spend some time on Tangled as I look at Rapunzel, too. Have you seen Tangled?

  2. HI
    I just went and read the discussion on Where the Wild Things Are. We have the book in Hebrew actually, and I’m thinking I should also get it in English to compare and see if the impression and impact are the same in the original and translation. Our son used to love the book and I remember it would elicit interesting questions/comments from him. Your discussion of the movie makes me want to run out and rent it tonight. As usual I’m about a year behind what you are talking about currently; but your blog makes for thought provoking reading.

    And yes, we saw Tangled last week. There was a lot there. I’m embarrassed to admit that my main memory of the story Rapunzel is through the perspective of a little girl’s admiration/envy of her long beautiful hair. (Interestingly, I can’t remember the color.) I remember that we happened to read the story just a few weeks after what I considered a traumatic haircut. I had long hair and my mother wanted my sisters and me to have summer haircuts. I was 5 or 6 years old, and the hairdresser decided that I’d look cute in a pixie, very short hairstyle. No amount of pleading on my part could change her mind! So there you have it. I think I need to read Rapunzel again with a fresh perspective.

    • What a wonderful perspective from which to view the Rapunzel story, though, and what a Wicked Witch of a hairdresser


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