Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Book Purist

M has reached the age where she questions every film made based on a book. I have often thought that with the current pressures of modern life and constant exposure to electronic media, that the visual grammar of films would make for an easier introduction to some of the much loved books in my library.
Case in point, the Jeeves and Wooster stories of P.G. Wodehouse. I randomly happened on the BBC version on Netflix and we were soon rolling over laughing in unison at Jeeves' supercilious 'Indeed, sir's and Bertie Wooster's madcap schemes that need the Jeeves rescue missions to recover from disaster. I went ahead to get the companion edition of J&W novels, hoping that M would give it a try.
And she has, very successfully, taking to it like a duck in water. She has read her way through The Code of the Woosters and loves to discuss arcane details that never made it from print to film.
We watched Heidi recently, and M promptly declared that she would give it passing marks, but only just. She didn't mind the rearranging of some of the events from the book, but felt that some of the characters weren't quite as true to the book as she had hoped.
But the movie extravaganza based on Frances Hodgson Burnett's classic 'A Little Princess' scored majorly in the failing department, despite being gushed over by critics as wonderfully artistic and creative. The transfer of the story from England to the US, the period from the Victorian era to the World War I period,  the overly arty introduction of dream sequences with cartoonishly painted characters from Hindu mythology, all of these had us giving up on the main movie. It makes one want to go to bed and curl up with the original book in question, rather than watch the screen version.
The Borrowers, with its simplified, designed to please the US fan base, storyline, with brief nods to the original, scored as a Fail, again.
At this rate, I shall (a) either stick with ordering movie versions only if they are guaranteed to be from the 80's Brit vintage years (b) forego getting the movie version entirely, rather than listen to complaints about yet another director who has not 'read the book'.
In that spirit, I suspect we shall hear more complaints about the recent Spielberg adaptation of Tintin in The Secret of the Unicorn. While being given charitably good reviews, the red flag that went up on my skimming of those is that Captain Haddock doesn't once utter 'Billions of blistering barnacles'. Andy Serkis and all the hoopla of motion capture notwithstanding, this version will not stand a chance with The Book Purist.

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