A book is not a movie, and a movie is not a book. People equate film and literature all the time because they are the media through which stories are told, but the means they use to tell these stories are very different. A book is at liberty to say, “Anything essential is invisible to the eye” (Saint-Exupéry The Little Prince), but film at its core is visual, based on action: things that people do, things that people say. Literature on the other hand can enter the realm of the mind, probing into the minds of its characters, laying bare their thoughts to the reader, who in turn sees it all in their own mind’s eye. In order to adapt a book into a film fundamental changes must be made, something that fans of a book can find hard to understand sometimes. You cannot just transcribe a book into screenplay format, it has to be condensed, restructured, and made visual, but what must remain in a good adaptation is the spirit of the book. That is what is sacred, and that is what needs to survive any cuts, changes and alterations. It is this fact that makes adaptation a very tricky art. Mark Osborne’s new film of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s beloved The Little Prince (coming to Netflix August 5) balances on this high wire. Continue reading →
There’s a moment in The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys where Tim Sullivan, a brash 14 year old with a broken arm and a crumbling home played by Kieran Culkin, breathlessly talks about the genius of William Blake. This has been singled out by some reviewers as a false note in the script. Would a comic book obsessed eighth grader really be so fascinated by an eighteenth century romantic poet? Surely this is just a device the director, Peter Care, used to include the ideas of innocence and experience in his coming of age tale. Of course it is a device, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not also beautifully authentic; adolescence is full of the intoxicating blend of high and low art, to Tim and his best friend Francis (Emile Hirsch, in his film debut) William Blake and Stan Lee can be spoken of in the same breath. The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys allows its young protagonists to be troublemakers and thinkers, pushing the narrow boundaries of their provincial lives through their pranks (both childish and with serious consequences) and their questions. In short it takes its young protagonists seriously, even when the people around them still treat them like children. Continue reading →
The movie musical is a strange beast, you can’t linger on the shore, you can’t just dip a toe in, you have to dive in head-first and hope you don’t give yourself a concussion. Reserved detachment is not an option. Now this can be scary, there are a whole lot of bad movie musicals out there (I’m still recovering from the tongue lashing I got from Tom Hooper’s rendition of Les Misérables), but there is also something beautiful about surrendering yourself to a world so completely separate from your day-to-day existence. If the movie musical is a strange beast then the rock opera can be a monster; stringing unrelated songs together to form a narrative usually results in a nostalgic patchwork, doing justice to neither the story nor the source material. But against all odds Across the Universe is something special. Continue reading →
I first encountered Swedish director Lukas Moodysson in a review by one of my favorite critics, Anthony Lane of The New Yorker. Lane opened his review of Moodysson’s second film Together with: “Just when I was starting to despair of ever finding a decent movie about life in a Swedish hippie colony in the mid-nineteen-seventies, along comes a perfect example.” For me at 15 this was the zenith of film criticism. I hung the quote on my wall and frequently referenced it, but it wasn’t until I was 20 when my Swedish roommate gave me Together for my birthday that I actually saw the film.
Together displays two of Moodysson’s sharpest skills: a gift for capturing the look and feel of earlier eras, and the ability to get startlingly good performances from child actors, but it is in his delightful 2013 film We Are the Best! that these strengths get the showcase they truly deserve. Based on the graphic novel Never Goodnight by Coco Moodysson (who also happens to be Lukas Moodysson’s wife) We Are the Best! follows the ups and downs of three 13 year-old girls as they start a punk band in 1982 Stockholm. Continue reading →