Happy November. Hope your Halloween was sweet and fun.
concluding season seven
Cortney Palm is the naked sushi girl. The last one is
from the DVD extras.
McCart and Richie
Giocante in Secret Defense (2009) in 720p
Danowski in Herr Lehmann aka "Berlin Blues" (2003)
Vargas in The Name of the Rose (1986) in 720p
Did they do a good job on the transformation?
This is a comple question, since it hinges on a sub-question. Are you going to try to make a faithful adaptation of this book, therefore creating a work of cinematic art? Surely you realize that this project would require a six hour movie, would cost a fortune, and would appeal to a miniscule portion of the potential movie-going audience. Are you going to make a commercially viable movie? In that case, you are going to arouse the ire of the literati who worship this book.
I'm going to piss off a lot of you with this series of pronouncements, but here's the reality, as I see it.
This is, without a doubt, even in English translation, the most dazzling and brilliant and rewarding book I've ever read. Forget about the twentieth century, this is probably the greatest novel ever written. It is also one of the most difficult to read. It is not as difficult as Finnegans Wake, but is more difficult than Ulysses or A Clockwork Orange, for example. It took me a couple weeks to get through it, and I didn't try to translate all the untranslated phrases, or to understand the mélange of languages spoken by the one crazy monk. If I wanted to understand everything, it would have taken me an entire course on this book, and ongoing discussions with others who were also reading it simultaneously. Not many people have that kind of time. The book is filled with theological digressions, literary inventions, philosophical arguments and counter arguments, and as much scholarship as any book ever written. It is so good in English translation that I can't even imagine how good the original must be.
Having offered that, let me then proceed to state that if I were charged with making it into a movie, I would do one of two things. If the movie were subsidized, I'd try to evoke the spirit of the master as closely as possible. If the movie were a commercial venture made by investors expecting a profit, I would chop the sucker to bits, maybe even change it completely, in order to find the key to "selling" the concept to a mass audience. I would have changed it even more than director Jean-Jacques Annaud did. I would deliberately have made a shitty adaptation of the literary masterpiece, and would have Hollywoodized it even more (albeit in different ways), because that original masterpiece is simply not a commercial property.
Annaud tried to do pretty much what any of us would have done, given a financial expectation from the backers. He made a film which is a kind of a more accessible reduction of the book. What else could he do? Was he supposed to just throw the investor's money away? I think he made a good film which is not a perfect representation of the book, but which makes some thoughtful elements of the book accessible to an audience that would not normally have been able to appreciate it. While the movie bombed at first-run theaters in the USA, it was a solid performer in the rental market, and has thus found a reasonably wide audience.
The only problem that I see is that Annaud did not choose to make either a great work of art or a money-making mass audience film. He tried to compromise, succeeded partially and failed partially at both. But it is still a good film, and I thank Annaud for making such a splendid work. Do you know why? Because I saw the film first, just had to know more, and that prompted me to read the greatest book I have ever read. Damn, if that isn't a reason to thank a filmmaker, what is?
I am thankful to Connery for appearing in the film, thus assuring some business from his legion of fans, and saving it from the complete obscurity it would have achieved without him. And I think William of Baskerville (Hound, James Hound) is probably his most interesting portrayal, although he'll always be the REAL James Bond to me as well.
The denizens of the Cheers bar once debated the sweatiest movie. (Spartacus? Cool Hand Luke?) In that same inquisitive spirit, we might ask which movie in history had the ugliest cast. Tod Browning's Freaks? One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest? Whichever film holds the argument, The Name of the Rose must surely be a valid contender, despite the handsome, normal appearance of its main stars, Connery and Slater.
I was pleased with the DVD. The print is very well illuminated, even in the darkest and most macabre scenes. Even the details of the dark sex scene are quite clear. In addition to the good transfer, there are some worthwhile features. The director does a full-length commentary. (He is a gossipy and generous guy, and he's always interesting, if not very focused.) There are also two featurettes. One is a "making of" from back in 1986, and the other is a new interview with the effusive and expansive director.
In a spirited and realistic sex scene, Valentina Vargas provides one of the more explicit gyno/procto shots ever committed to mainstream celluloid. Annaud points out in a DVD featurette that he never told Christian Slater what was coming in this scene. Slater knew that there was a love scene in the script, of course, but did not know that the director told Valentina Vargas to surprise Slater by making the scene as real as possible, and to be as aggressive as she could. Slater's natural reaction was captured on camera, and was perfect for the character, who was a naive and virginal novice monk being overpowered by a lusty, experienced peasant girl. I don't know if Vargas actually packed in the Slater Sausage at any time, but if not, she came damned close. Slater's penis also makes a few appearances on camera.
Backlinie in 1941 (1979) in 1080hd
I suppose it was more than fitting that this film was a
December release in 1979 and was therefore playing on the
day the 70s ended, because the story of this film was a
microcosm of the story of Hollywood in the 70s. (See my
reviews of Heaven's
Gate and One From
the Heart for the historical backdrop and the
parallel stories about Francis Ford Coppola and Michael
In the happier times, Spielberg had just about single-handedly ushered in the era of the blockbuster with Jaws in 1975, and had then followed up with the commercially successful and critically lauded Close Encounters. He was Hollywood's infallible wunderkind. Of course, every director will have a failure sooner or later, but Spielberg had never had one at that point, so he was virtually given a blank check to do whatever he wanted to do with whatever resources he needed.
What Spielberg wanted to do was a comedy, and the resources he needed turned out to be six months of shooting and $32 million, not as much as Cimino's studio-destroying Heaven's Gate, but more than Coppola's studio-destroying One From the Heart. 1941 cost a bundle because Spielberg didn't favor one of those sardonic, personal Woody Allen comedies, or a zany spoof like Airplane, but a big old fashioned madcap Hollywood comedy like It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World - with lots of big stars in constant motion, surrounded by big expensive effects. Spielberg himself described it best with astonishingly accurate self-perception: "We went from one plot to seven subplots. But at the time I wanted it - the bigness, the power, hundreds of people at my beck and call, millions of dollars at my disposal, and everyone saying yes, yes, yes."
His friends wondered why he chose this project, because he had never shown any sign of being funny, but comedy was the rage at the time, and that's what he wanted to do, so the great director hired stars from Animal House, Saturday Night Live, Laverne and Shirley, and SCTV, and put them into a contrived story about the paranoia in California in the days immediately following Pearl Harbor. The idea behind the story wasn't so bad at all. America wasn't sure whether Tokyo was planning further assaults on American soil, so people in authority were hastily creating emergency civil defense plans, and Average Joe was preparing to enlist, be drafted, or defend his house in hand-to-hand combat if need be. Californians were reporting real or imaginary sightings of enemy aircraft and enemy submarines. A lot of people were acting paranoid, and a deep patriotism was sweeping the land. There is probably the clay for a good comedy there.
This movie isn't it.
Why did it fail despite great comedians and a great concept? Spielberg simply found he had no gift for comedy. As he told author Peter Biskind, "Power can go right to the head. I felt immortal after a critical hit and two box office hits, one being the biggest box office hit in history up to that moment. I was very indulgent on 1941 simply because I was insecure with the material. It wasn't making me laugh or any of us laugh, either in dailies or on the set. So I shot the movie every which way I knew how, to try to save it from what it actually became, which is a demolition derby."
Spielberg is exactly correct in his perception. The film equates destruction with humor, on the speculation that more and bigger explosions produce proportionate increases in laughter. Thousands of things are destroyed by hundreds of explosions. When the characters are not noisily breaking big things like theaters and houses and paint factories and amusement parks, they are noisily breaking small things like plates and eggs. The actors seem to feel that they have to compete with the explosions on a decibel level, and most of the film's lines are delivered in big, loud, obvious ways, as if every character were performed by Jerry Lewis. 1941 is not only too noisy, but just too busy in general. The characters and the camera are in constant frenetic motion, and there are often many things going on at once, and/or many people within sight of the camera. There are so many sub-plots that it isn't possible to get involved in any of them, and some of them are just plan grating. Above all, the film just isn't funny. I don't know if I laughed once during the entire film. Not even at Belushi.
Spielberg knew it was a poor film after he had assembled it. He was so certain that it would be a disaster that he skipped the premieres and headed to Japan with Amy Irving. He was right about the film. The reviews were bad, and the box office was disappointing, to say the least. This chart of five consecutive Spielberg releases just about says it all:
As they say on Sesame Street, one of these things is not like the others.
The time when he got off that plane in Japan may have been the low point of his life. He not only had to hear about the film's anemic two million dollar opening weekend, but he had broken off with Amy during the flight. Oh, well. He would go on to plenty of happy endings, good relationships, and some of the best films of all time.