The Book Revue
WELCOME TO A NEW TYPE OF BOOK CLUB
Read the book, then come to the cinema and watch the film. We will have a guest expert on hand at each screening to talk about the book, the film and to lead a post screening discussion.
The Book Revue takes place every two months. At each event, there will be book giveaways as door prizes. Our host presents a short introduction, and a discussion follows the screening.
$10 for members and seniors/$13 for non-members.
Much Ado About Nothing
Tuesday April 23, 2013, 6:45 p.m.
Shakespeare was supposed to have been born on April 23 (or maybe April 21) in 1564, 449 years ago. We’ll mark the day with a screening of the 1993 Kenneth Branagh adaptation of the play (also starring Emma Thompson, Denzel Washington and Keanu Reeves).
Our guest host for the evening will be Shakespeare and film expert Philippa Sheppard. Here are some of Philippa's comments about Branagh's film:
Before the release of the film, which is shot at the gorgeous Villa Vignamaggio in Tuscany, Kenneth Branagh the director revealed that he wanted "to show a primitive passion in which the characters live and love under the sun...The sun changes your thoughts and the rhythm of your actions." (Perfect for our wintry Spring, don't you think).
After the tremendous success of his first film, Henry V (1989) which played it safe by only using British actors, Branagh embarked on a policy of blind casting with this, his second Shakespeare adaptation.Denzel Washington plays Don Pedro beautifully, and a mix of British, American, and even one Canadian actor play the other speaking roles (Keanu Reeves who plays Don John attended the University of Toronto as an undergraduate). For his costumes, Branagh chose an indefinate period -- clothes that would not be so contemporary as to make the Elizabethan language sound strange, but not so stiff and formal as to alienate the modern audience.
One of the first sequences, in which the men return from war, is a brilliant and exciting homage to Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai and John Sturges' Magnificent Seven. Branagh also exploits many of the conventions of the romantic comedy in Much Ado About Nothing, particularly the screwball comedy with the spirited and slightly kooky heroine winning her man in spite of himself. In line with the conventions of romantic comedy, Branagh excises many of the lines in which the hero, Benedick, comes across as an incorrigible ladies' man.
Branagh indulges in many close ups of his sun-kissed actors, and also makes good use of slow motion and crane shots for some of the most joyful moments in the plot. The biggest change he makes to Shakespeare's script is that the young lover Claudio does not merely witness his fiance apparently talking to a man who stands outside her bedroom window the night before their wedding, he sees them making love. Branagh also cuts many of the elaborate cuckold jokes that are sprinkled throughout the play, many of which would be somewhat obscure for the film audience.
Tuesday, June 25, 6:45 p.m. The Last Picture Show: Book Revue host Geoff Pevere returns for a discussion of this coming-of-age story set in a small Texas town in the early 1950s. The Oscar-winning film, directed by Peter Bogdanovich, was based on a semi autobiogaphcial novel by Larry McMurtry. Among his novels are Terms of Endearment and Lonesome Dove. He also co-wrote the screenplay for Brokeback Mountain.
Pride and Prejuce
Tuesday, Feb. 26, 6:45 p.m.
We’re celebrating the 200thanniversary of the publication of this Jane Austen favorite in our next books and film event. We’ll be screening the 2005 version, directed by Joe Wright and starring Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet. (Perhaps a timely viewing given the recent release of Wright’s Anna Karenina. Our guest expert:Theresa Moritz. She’s a senior lecture at Woodsworth College, where she conducts a seminar titled Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in Her Time and Ours. She’s also a member of the Jane Austen Society. In her work, she focuses a good deal on the role played by contemporary adaptations of Pride and Prejudice in our society’s understanding of Austen.
Fantastic Mr. Fox
Tuesday, December 11, 2012, 6:45 p.m.
Based on Roald Dahl's adolescent novella by the same name, Fantastic Mr. Fox represents a number of firsts for its director, Wes Anderson: his first adaptation of another writer's work, and his first film to be entirely animated, through the retro, handmade stop-motion process.
Featuring the voice work of George Clooney as Mr. Fox, Meryl Streep as his wife Felicity, Anderson regulars Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, and Michael Gambon , the film deftly balances appeal for children and adults alike with moments of Anderson's familiar deadpan wit, surprisingly visceral action and deep sentiment combined with the nostalgic familiarity of Dahl’s classic book.
Fantastic Mr. Fox features guest host Tom Dorey who is currently working on his PhD at York University in Communication and Culture. His Masters thesis at Carleton University discussed Wes Anderson in the context of contemporary auteurism.
Fresh off the heels of Anderson’s wonderful Moonrise Kingdom this past summer, this is sure to be a good night for The Book Revue. Admission is $10 for members and seniors, $13 for non-members, and includes a screening of Fantastic Mr. Fox, a brief discussion of the film and complimentary home-baked treats. We'll also have some door prizes, including a review copy of Tom Wolfe's latest novel Back to Blood. (How appropriate to give away a Wolfe at a screening about a fox!)
Book Revue patrons might also be interested in a special event on December 9th featuring the silent classic The Lost World (1925). At the time of its release, it featured key innovations in stop-motion animation, and as such it provides an interesting juxtaposition to Wes Anderson’s use of the same technique.
Tuesday, Oct. 30, 6:45 p.m.
In honour of Halloween, guest hosts Chris Alexander and Geoff Pevere introduce The Shining, considered one of cinema’s most terrifying horror films. The 1980 movie, directed by Stanley Kubrick, was based on Stephen King’s 1977 novel. The film stars Jack Nicholson as writer Jack Torrance, Shelley Duvall as his wife and Danny Lloyd as their son, Danny. Jack becomes the winter caretaker of an old, isolated hotel where Danny’s psychic powers, the sinister hotel and its ghosts and Jack’s own demons bring about a series of horrific events. The film is also known for the famous line, improvised by Nicholson, “Heeeeere’s Johnny.”
About our guest host: Chris Alexander is a Toronto film critic and editor-in-chief of FANGORIA magazine editor-in-chief Chris Alexander.
Geoff Pevere, who has hosted so many Book Revues, now writes a column in the Globe and Mail in the movie section on Fridays. He has recently launched a website focusing on some of his favorite obsessions, including westerns, rock music and film, crime genres and pop culture.
A Special August Book Revue: Goin' Down the Road
Tuesday, August 21, 2012
BOOK LAUNCH RECEPTION: 5:30 p.m.
INTRODUCTION AND SCREENING, 7 p.m.
DISCUSSION WITH GEOFF PEVERE AND DON SHEBIB: 8:30 P.M.
SECOND FILM: Down the Road Again, 9:15 p.m.
This Book Revue represents a number of firsts for our two-year-old books and films program. Here are eight reasons to come:
- It will be a book launch for our host Geoff Pevere’s recent publication: Donald Shebib’s Goin’ Down the Road with a 5:30 p.m. reception starting at 5:30 p.m.
- The reception will be licensed (cash bar) with complimentary food.
- U of T Press and TIFF are co-sponsoring the event, as publishers of Geoff’s book, which is part of their joint Canadian Cinema series. Also partnering are Union Pictures, the distributor of Goin’ Down the Road and its 2011 sequel Down the Road Again, and The Word on the Street, Toronto’s annual celebration of Canadian authors and culture, which takes place this year on Sunday, Sept. 23, at Queen’s Park Circle. Geoff is a Word on the Street presenter.
- Unlike our other books and film selections, the book is inspired by the film, and considers how this unique low-budget 1970 film became, according to Geoff, a cultural touchstone. "In some respects, it's our belated Birth of a Nation, our westward-ho(ser) Stagecoach, and our blue-collar Easy Rider all packed into one beat up, hundred-buck convertible Impala."
- Both author and film director (Don lives in the neighbourhood) will be present. Enjoy a discussion between Geoff and Don after the screening.
- Plus actor Doug McGrath and screenwriter Bill Fruet are expected at the cinema.
- Watch Don’s 2011 sequel, Down the Road Again. Yes, we’ve got a double bill, this time around.
- This will be the first public screening of Union Picture’s digital restoration of Goin’ Down the Road. This will be shown with The Revue's brand new digital projector, installed mid-August.
TICKETS: We have special pricing for this event:
1. $20 for members and seniors: includes the reception, book and two films.
2. $26 for non-members: includes the reception, book, two films and a membership.
3. $10 for members and seniors for one film; $14 for a double bill. The reception is included.
4. $13 for non-members for one film; $17 for both films. The reception is included.
Copies of Geoff's book are available at the cinema.
The Black Stallion
About the Book
Walter Farley starting writing The Black Stallion when in high school and it was accepted for publication while he was still an undergraduate at Columbia University. Published in 1941, it was an instant success, and in 1944 won the Young Reader’s Choice Award. The New York Times stated: “The Black Stallion is about the most famous fictional horse of the century.”
This classic children’s book tells the story of teenager Alec Ramsay and the wild stallion whom he names The Black. With his love of horses Farley creates a compelling character, describing The Black: “The head was that of the wildest of all wild creatures – a stallion born wild – and it was beautiful, savage, splendid. A stallion with a wonderful physical perfection that matched his savage, ruthless spirit.”
Written in a simple, straightforward style, the book opens with teenager Alec Ramsay travelling by ship on his own after visiting his uncle in India. After he befriended the stallion, only he and the horse survive a dramatic storm at sea, and find refuge on an isolated desert island. Alec fights for survival and gradually wins the trust of the wild horse who ultimately allows him to ride him.
The two are finally rescued and return to Alec’s home in Flushing, New York. With the help of a former jockey Alec trains The Black to race and the book’s climax is the exciting match race against the two greatest horses in America.
Walter Farley wrote 34 books in total, with 20 about The Black, including The Young Black Stallion, written with his son, Steven. Many are still in print.
About The Movie
Carroll Ballard directed the 1979 film (118 minutes), with Francis Ford Coppola as executive producer. An artistic and commercial success, the movie was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as being “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.” The Black Stallion won several film awards for the exquisite music by Carmine Coppola (Francis’ father) and the magnificent cinematography of Caleb Deschanel. The movie critics site, Rotten Tomatoes, gave the film an 86 per cent approval rating.
The film features a strong cast, with Kelly Reno as Alec, Mickey Rooney as Henry, the former jockey and horse trainer, Teri Garr as Alec’s mother and Hoyt Axton as his father. The main star, of course, is the wonderful Arabian stallion, Cass Ole as The Black, assisted by three stunt doubles.
The movie generally follows the book’s narrative, with a few exceptions. For example, Alec is portrayed as a few years younger, and his father is killed in the storm, making Alec even more vulnerable. The film also adds the beautiful small statue of Busephalus, Alexander the Great’s horse, whose story parallels that of The Black and Alec.
Toronto audiences have an added bonus. They can try to identify the places in Toronto and its environs that stand in for Flushing, New York. The Red Rocket streetcar is the giveaway that many scenes were filmed here.
Critics praised The Black Stallion. Mark Deming wrote:
“First-time director Carroll Ballard captures the mysterious relationship between humans and animals, treating the stallion with the same intelligence and respect as the rest of his cast; he also draws fine, understated performances from Kelly Reno and Mickey Rooney, and Caleb Deschanel’s photography makes this a feast for the eyes. The Black Stallion is that rare contemporary family film that will fascinate adults as much as their kids, if not more so.”
Pauline Kael stated that The Black Stallion “may be the greatest children’s movie ever made” and another critic called it “one of the most breathtakingly beautiful and genuinely magical movies ever made.”
Carroll Ballard went on to make several other films featuring animals, including Never Cry Wolf, Fly Away Home and Duma.
The Black Stallion was the basis for a television series, Adventures of The Black Stallion, also starring Mickey Rooney.
Book Revue guest host Adam Nayman writes:
"Walter Farley's book is a rousing feat of description that the film version is more than equal to: Caroll Ballard's direction is lyrical in a way that Farley's prose never quite approaches. The first section of the film, done mostly without words, is an example of pure cinema; when it leaves the desert, the film is slightly more conventional but leans again on the strong narrative drive of the book and succeeds. It's a wonderful movie."
Midnight Cowboy, Tuesday, May 22, 6:45 p.m. The 1969 film, directed by John Schlesinger, won Oscars for best picture, best director and best adapted screenplay. It stars Jon Voight (Angelina's Dad), Dustin Hoffman and that poignant harry Nilsson song Everybody's Talkin'. The book is one of three novels by American writer and actor James Leo Herilhy.
The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, Tuesday, March 20, 6:45 p.m.
Here are some of our host Geoff Pevere's comments about our March selection, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold:
"When Martin Ritt's adaptation of John le Carré’s career-making 1963 novel hit the screen, it was met with a combination of excitement and confusion: excitement because nobody had ever seen a spy movie quite like this one, and confusion for the same reason: where were the girls, the gadgets and the nuclear-armed supervillains?
"No, this was no Bond, but then le Carré was no Ian Fleming. Although the two authors shared a real-life history in the British security service, their approach to fictionalizing the experience was diametrically opposed. Where Fleming used his past as the raw material for macho, comic-book fantasy, Le Carré captured the drab and tragic workaday reality of the spy business.
"This was what The Spy Who Came in From the Cold depicted with such stark power, and what Martin Ritt's movie captured with such electrifying precision. As the spy whose heart contradicts his duty, Richard Burton was smolderingly effective."
About the Film:
Released in 1965
Directed by Martin Ritt
Starring Richard Burton, Claire Bloom,Oskar Werner.
The Age of Innocence, Sunday, February 26, at 3:30 p.m.
Book Revue fans, for February we're offering our first Sunday event. We also welcome our guest host Adam Nayman, who will introduce the film and take part in a post-screening discussion.
Adam is a critic for The Grid in Toronto and a contributing editor to Cinema Scope. He also writes on film for The Globe and Mail, Cineaste and The Walrus and teaches documentary cinema at Ryerson University.
About the Book:
Edith Wharton's novel of 1920, which made her the first woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for fiction, is a keen examination of the rules and etiquette of upper-class New York of the 1870s. Wharton constantly pits New York against European society of the same time, portraying the former at once as quintessentially modern and grotesquely primitive. The novel examines the relationship between Newland Archer and his high society wife May as well as the object of his desire, May's ostracized, European cousin Ellen. In these two women Newland finds emblems of new society and old values. Wharton, herself, was a worldly and modern woman. She, like Ellen, split her adult life between Europe and New York. And she, also, was the divorcee of a marriage that brought her to Europe. Wharton is therefore understanding of Ellen's position in this relationship, though it's really Newland's growth as a character that she has focused on.
Pulitzer Controversy: The three fiction judges in 1921 chose Sinclair Lewis’s Main Street, but was overruled by the Columbia University trustees who praised the book for its “wholesome atmosphere of American life and the highest standard of American manners and manhood.” Wharton wondered if they had understood the book. For more on the controversy, click here.
About the Film:
This stately 1993 adaptation stars Daniel Day-Lewis, Michelle Pfeiffer and Winona Ryder (the latter in an Oscar-nominated performance). Joanne Woodward provides an excellent voiceover narration, tender yet demonstrating an assertive voice for women of the mid-19th century. The film appears to be a departure for Scorsese, closely following two of the roughest films of his career, Goodfellas and Cape Fear. What people often forget is that throughout his career Scorsese has interspersed his dark and gangster films with domestic dramas, sometimes through the eyes of female protagonists (New York, New York, Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, Kundun). What is most surprising, perhaps, is how deftly Scorsese recreates the frightening world of upper New York, where behaviour, heritage and marriage have as much control over one's life as the rules of the street and the crime organizations Scorsese has so well portrayed in his other films. This is an important film for Scorsese, fitting squarely within the director's cannon.
Oscar Info: Scorsese’s latest film, Hugo, leads the pack for Oscar nominations. Art Direction is among one of the 11nominations. Dante Ferretti, the production designer for Hugo, worked first with Scorsese on The Age of Innocence, having served his apprenticeship in Rome on films directed by Pasolini and Fellini. The Age of Innocence was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Art Direction, winning for Best Costume Design.
The Graduate (1967), directed by Mike Nichols.
Tuesday, January 24, 6:45 p.m.
The Graduate was based on Charles Webb's novel of the same name from 1963. He wrote it after graduating from Williams College, basing certain characters on people within his family's circle. The story follows the protagonist, Ben (played by Dustin Hoffman in the film), during the period after he graduates college. While trying to figure out what he wants to do with his life – his parents pressuring him to attend a top-notch Grad school – Ben becomes involved with Mrs. Robinson, the wife of his father's colleague.
Webb has been asked repeatedly since he wrote the book about his own similarities to the characters and events depicted in the novel. Finally, he admitted the name of his real-life inspiration for Mrs. Robinson, though to this day he denies that they had a relationship. Read the article “The Real Life Parallels of The Graduate” here.
The film, adapted by Calder Willingham and Buck Henry and directed by Mike Nichols in 1967, is still considered one of the best films of all time (appearing on most canons) and one of the highest earning as well (considering inflation). It was nominated for 7 Academy Awards, winning for Best Director, including Best Picture, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actress and Adapted Screenplay. Only Nichols' second film (following Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf) and Dustin Hoffman's first major film, The Graduate features everyone involved at the top of their game. The casting process was long – Robert Redford was Nichols' first choice for Ben, and everyone from Ava Gardner to Doris Day and Joan Crawford was considered for the role of Mrs. Robinson – and ended up with actors of considerable age discrepancies from their characters. Age plays such an important role in the film, with the “middle-aged” Anne Bancroft playing the character with the strongest libido. Though in the film Mrs. Robinson claims to be twice Ben's age – and ultimately Ben marries her daughter – Bancroft was in truth only six years older than baby-faced Hoffman at the time of shooting. The casting proved successful, for the film still garners praise 44 years later and continues to be one of the most-quoted of all time.
Join host Geoff Pevere to discuss The Graduate's adaptation from page to screen. Baked goods are provided free of charge with your admission, as always.
Tuesday, December 13, 6:45 p.m.
- Directed by Spike Jonze
- Starring Nicholas Cage, Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper, Tilda Swinton
- 114 mins
- Rated 14A
Screenwriter Charlie Kaufman explores the difficult task of adapting a book for film in this comedy-drama, one of 2002’s most innovative films, directed by Spike Jonze. Battling writer’s block Kaufman, a character in the film played by Nicholas Cage, finally creates a dramatic adventure for an orchid thief and the book’s author, Susan Orlean, portrayed by Meryl Streep. Orlean’s 1998 non-fiction book, The Orchid Thief, tells the story of John Laroche, a group of Seminole Indians arrested for poaching rare orchids, and the extremes people go to gratify a passion.
As always, there will be free book giveaways and complimentary snacks after the screening.
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Other Past Book Revue Events:
The Sweet Hereafter
November 22, 2011
The Revue was thrilled to have director Atom Egoyan attend our November Book Revue and discuss The Sweet Hereafter in a candid wide-ranging interview. The 1997 film adapted from the fine Russell Banks novel, published in 1991, examines the fractured lives of residents in a small British Columbia village after a tragic school bus accident. Excellent performances by the cast, including Ian Holm, Sarah Polley and Bruce Greenwood, create a special film, which won three prizes at Cannes and was nominated for two Oscars. The film can also boast a 100% positive critics’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Atom Egoyan and Geoff Pevere © Mike Charbonneau
October 25, 2011
Roman Polanski wrote and directed this intelligent and convincing adaptation of Ira Levin’s best-selling thriller, published the previous year in 1967.
Both book and film tap into the pall settling on America that led LBJ to cancel his re-election bid for the presidency and opened the door to Richard Nixon.
As host Geoff Pevere observes:
“By the time the Polish-born boy-wonder Roman Polanski came to America to make a movie of Ira Levin's best-selling novel Rosemary's Baby in 1968, there was a creeping sense across the country of the horror coming home to roost: assassinations, race riots, atrocities perpetrated by 'our boys' in Vietnam. And no movie captured this with more chilling authority, wit and sheer subversive creepiness than this.”
The story follows Rosemary, a young woman happily married to Guy, a charismatic and ambitious actor. After they move into their dream apartment in Manhattan’s Bramford, a prestige building with a dark past, strange things begin to happen, centred around their elderly neighbours, Minnie and Ramon.
Polanski, writing his first screenplay, was unaware that he could make changes to the source material so the film is unusually faithful to the book. His script was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.
The frightening tale of Satanism and vulnerability owes much of its success to the strong performances by Mia Farrow, as the pregnant wife caught up in events beyond her control and John Cassavetes as her husband who will do anything to further his career. Ruth Gordon won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role as the eccentric and perhaps evil, Minnie.
The film was widely praised and the American Film Institute ranked it 9th in their 100 Years…100 Thrills list. The critics website, Rotten Tomatoes, gave Rosemary’s Baby a 98% positive rating.
Roger Ebert called it “a brooding, macabre film, filled with a sense of unthinkable danger….Polanski has taken a most difficult situation and made it believable. In this sense he even outdoes Hitchcock.”
About the Author:
Ira Levin, also a playwright, wrote only seven novels over 40 years, but among them were other high-profile film adaptations: The Stepford Wives and The Boys from Brazil.
Here’s how the New York Times described his work in its Nov. 14, 2007 obituary: “Combining elements of several genres — mystery, Gothic horror, science fiction and the techno-thriller — Mr. Levin’s novels conjured up a world full of quietly looming menace, in which anything could happen to anyone at any time. In short, the Ira Levin universe was a great deal like the real one, only more so: more starkly terrifying, more exquisitely mundane.”
Levin was disturbed by the interest in Satanism unleashed by Rosemary’s Baby, according to a comment he made to The Los Angeles Times in 2002: “I feel guilty that Rosemary’s Baby led to The Exorcist, The Omen. A whole generation has been exposed, has more belief in Satan. I don’t believe in Satan. And I feel that the strong fundamentalism we have would not be as strong if there hadn’t been so many of these books.
“Of course,” Mr. Levin added, “I didn’t send back any of the royalty checks.”
September 27, 2011
Persepolis, a French Oscar-nominated animated film, is the coming-of-age story of a bright, outspoken Iranian girl during the Islamic Revolution.
Created by Marjane Satrapi, this unusual graphic novel is a compelling coming-of-age story, chronicles her childhood and adolescence in Iran and Vienna.
In powerful black-and-white comic strip images Persepolis covers the years that saw the overthrow of the Shah’s regime, the Islamic Revolution and the devastating effects of the war with Iraq. “Persepolis paints an unforgettable portrait of daily life in Iran, of the bewildering contradictions between home life and public life and the enormous toll repressive regimes exact on the individual spirit.” (Pantheon Graphic Novels website)
Satrapi, intelligent and rebellious, must struggle to find her place in the world, dealing with issues of growing up, freedom and religion. She is surprisingly candid in describing her life and her failings, including a shocking betrayal.
Because of her outspokenness, Satrapi ultimately goes into exile in France, promising her parents that she will never return to Iran.
Persepolis, originally published in two parts, is also available in one volume, The Complete Persepolis.
Satrapi co-wrote and co-directed the animated French film released in 2007. It closely followed the book, using the same bold style as the graphic novel, creating a universal feel to the story. The film was a great success, winning several awards including the Jury Prize at Cannes and Most Popular Film at the Vancouver International Film Festival, as well as garnering an Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Feature.
The critics on the Rotten Tomatoes website gave Persepolis a 97% positive rating, praising the adaptation.
Peter Bradshaw, of the Guardian, wrote: “Here is an adaptation so simple and so frictionless in its transformation of the source material that it’s almost a miracle.”
Persepolis, as both a book and a film, is an original and moving story – wise, funny and heartbreaking.
THE TALENTED MR RIPLEY
Tuesday, August 23 at 6:45 p.m.
Geoff Pevere returns with Patricia Highsmith's novel, The Talented Mr. Ripley, brought to the screen in 1999 by director Anthony Mingella. It has a strong cast, including Matt Damon, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow and Philip Seymour Hoffman, among others.
Highsmith introduces us to the compelling Tom Ripley, her most famous character, in The Talented Mr. Ripley, the first of five Ripley novels. This tale of identity and intrigue, set along the beautiful coast of 1950s Italy, traces Tom’s climb up the social ladder with the help of murder.
Minghella’s adaptation, starring Matt Damon and Gwyneth Paltrow, draws on various cinematic influences, including Hitchcock, to portray Ripley, a sexually ambiguous sociopath, who both desires his conquest, Dickie Greenleaf, and wants to be Dickie. The fascinating results deserve repeated viewings.
The Quiet American, July 26, 2011
This book, by Graham Greene, should have been required reading for any American going into the foreign service or the CIA. If ever anyone could say “I told you so,” it was Greene in his assessment and predictions for American foreign policy in Southeast Asia and just about everywhere else in the world. It’s interesting to look back at the reviews, when the book was first published, and more recently.
Reviews circa 1956:
In 1956, an English professor from Ivy League women’s school Smith College wrote a critical and dismissive review in the New York Times in which he challenged what he saw as a flawed view of the United States. Robert Gorham Davis wrote:
“If much of the description of Indochina at war is written with Greene's great technical skill and imagination, his caricatures of American types are often as crude and trite as those of Jean Paul Sartre.”
The review concludes: “When Graham Greene grants primary justice to the Communist cause in Asia, and finds insupportable its resistance under the leadership of America, he raises inevitably this question: Has he reconciled himself to the thesis that history or God now demands of the church and of Western civilization a more terrible surrender than any required of the tormented characters in his fiction?”
One can’t help but think Joe McCarthy, who fell out of favour in 1954 and died in 1957, was looking over Davis’s shoulder. To read the whole review, click here:
Fast Forward, 2002:
The release of 2002 movie adaptation, directed by Australian Phillip Noyce, was postponed because of the 9/11 destruction of the Twin Towers in New York City.
Reviewer C.P. Farley on Powells.com acknowledges how right on the mark Greene was in his perspective on America’s role abroad.
“There's little doubt that Greene harbored negative feelings toward America. In a number of his novels, the American characters are naïve, or corrupt, or both. But it's also hard to deny that this subtle, moving depiction of one American innocent causing unwitting harm in Vietnam proved prophetic.”
As the United States teetered on the brink of the Iraq war, this reviewer asks in 2002:
“But it will be even more interesting to see if Greene's uncannily accurate assessment of the American character was limited to a specific time and place. Considering what happened in Vietnam as a result of American good intentions, let's hope so. Given current American posturing on the world stage, I would hate to think that Fowler's assessment of Pyle was still relevant: "I never knew a man who had better motives for all the trouble he caused."
Is there any question as to the answer?
Read the whole review: http://www.powells.com/review/2002_10_26.htm
The Film’s Reception:
It was well reviewed, earning an 87 per cent on the Rotten Tomatoes site. The critics are also full of praise for the book and the sensitivity of the adaptation.
Says Stephanie Zacharek of Salon.com “Greene's novel was amazingly prescient about the increasingly aggressive role the United States would take in Vietnam. Noyce's movie, even though it was made with the benefit of hindsight, manages to capture the wonder and awe of Greene's perceptiveness.”
About the adaptation:
“Greene's prose is so distilled that you realize a filmmaker could soak up the better part of 15 minutes dramatizing the emotional resonance Greene packs into just a sentence or two. But Noyce treads softly and cautiously, especially when the temptation to overdramatize is greatest.”
The Remains of the Day
Tuesday, June 21 at 6:45 p.m.
Time for some more British period drama. As Roger Ebert says, "The Remains of the Day is based on the Booker Prize novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, which I would have thought almost unfilmable, until I saw this film.” Starring Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson, it was brought to the screen in 1993 by director James Ivory and producer Ismail Merchant (Room with a View, Howards End).
And for July:
Geoff Pevere is taking a well deserved vacation during July (after 12 Book Revues!), but we are pleased to announce that book and film critic and author Phil Marchand will step in for the month. Phil, like Geoff, lives in the neighbourhood. We are preparing a list of books and films from which you'll be able to pick your July title. Keep checking The Revue's Facebook page (link here) for your chance to vote.
Admission Prices for 2011:
$10 for seniors and members; $12 for non-members. Purchase a pass to 5 Book Revue screening/discussions for only $40 ($8 each). Share your pass among friends.
The Revue continues to offer the perfect forum for film-loving bookworms and book-loving cinephiles: The Book Revue, a monthly program that examines how an author’s printed words are translated by screenwriters and directors into images on a screen.
As always, there will be complimentary baked goods and cookies following the screening, as well as a ticket-stub draw for free books.
Book Revue discussions are intriguing. Says Pevere: “Movies and literature have always performed a complicated and fascinating dance: sometimes in harmony, sometimes in conflict, and sometimes by completely ignoring the other partner. But the process of adaptation remains one of the most illuminating ways to understand both the similarities and the differences between these two storytelling forms. By studying how one becomes the other — or tries to, or fails to, or becomes something else completely — we can only increase the pleasure we take in both."
Gomorrah, Tuesday, May 31, 6:45 p.m. This powerful, sobering 2008 film strips away any romanticism that Hollywood may have bestowed on organized crime and its practitioners. Gomorrah is set in an ugly environment of underground garages and concrete apartment buildings where the foot soldiers of the Neapolitan crime syndicate Camorra live and routinely get shot. It’s based on the best-selling book by Roberto Saviano, who went undercover to get his story about how the Camorra operated.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Tuesday, April 26, at 6:45 p.m. Directed by New York artist Julian Schnabel and based on the true story of Elle editor Jean-Dominique Bauby, who was paralyzed by a stroke.
Out Of Sight, Tuesday, March 29, 2011, at 6:45 p.m.
Says Pevere: "For years, there's been something of an Elmore Leonard paradox: How can somebody who writes such effortlessly entertaining, smart and plot-driven crime novels be so difficult to adapt to the screen? What is it about Elmore Leonard's books that somehow defy most attempts to translate the pleasure of the prose to the medium of movies? And why, of them all, did Steven Soderbergh's 1998 adaptation of Out of Sight, seem to get it so right? Because it did: Soderbergh's movie is a joy to watch and a true tribute to the man who wrote the novel. At the next Book Revue, we'll try to find out why. "
Critic Roger Ebert also has praise for the film, saying that it "plays like a string quartet written with words instead of music, performed by sleazeballs instead of musicians."
Apologies to those of you who may have started reading Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye, but we’ve had to postpone that screening. It will be rescheduled later in the year. Instead, we’ll be reading and watching Out of Sight. The book was published by American crime writer Elmore Leonard in 1995. The 1998 film was directed by Steven Soderbergh and stars George Clooney and Jeniffer Lopez.
Here's what the film critics say:
- “Like Get Shorty, Out of Sight has been adapted with deftness and fidelity by Scott Frank, who knows exactly how to translate Leonard's narrative voice to the screen.” – Janet Maslin, New York Times.
- “As always with the best of Leonard, it's the journey, not the destination, that counts, and director Soderbergh has let it unfold with dry wit and great skill. “ – Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times
- “Steven Soderbergh’s most ambitious and most accomplished work to date.” – Emanuel Levy, Variety
- "For once in a mainstream production, the narrative machinery works on all cylinders without any wasted motion or fatuous rhetoric. They don't make movies like this anymore, in this overcalculated and overtested era." – Andrew Sarris, New York Observer
About Elmore Leonard:
Born in 1925, Elmore Leonard has published 48 novels, starting in 1953, as well as screenplays and short stories. He began writing in the western genre but is now described as a crime writer. About half of his novels have been adapted to both the large screen and small screens, as has his short stories, including two versions of 3:10 to Yuma. Also well known: Get Shorty,Hombre and Mr. Majestyk.
His page turners have earned critical acclaim and praise from other writers such as Martin Amis, Saul Bellow and Stephen King. “Your prose makes Raymond Chandler look clumsy,” Amis reportedly told him.
Leonard has offered his 10 rules for writing. The most important: “If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”
His rules appeared to have worked.