01 May 2007

Words to Screen: "Jindabyne" and "Notes on a Scandal"

Jindabyne , a two hour long movie adapted from a 24 page Raymond Carver story "So much water so close to home", has just opened in New York City, almost a year after it was released in Australia.

There's a catalogue of opinions (on balance favourable if not enthusiastic) on Rotten Tomatoes
but the standout for me is A O Scott in The New York Times. His review, which while giving due credit the film's strengths (acting and cinematography), rightly damns it for bulking up Carver's story with politically correct twaddle.

I wish I could have written his last two sentences:

It’s not just that the clean, efficient lines of Carver’s story are blurred and tangled. The real flaw is that the movie’s best features — the aching clarity of its central performances [ie Laura Linney and Gabriel Byrne's] — threaten to be lost in a wilderness of metaphor and mystification.

Scott has also produced a video review, which at the moment can be found by searching the NYT site. In this he describes Laura Linney's acting with elegant precision:"A paragon of wounded intelligence, a smart woman not quite sure of herself and in a situation that she she struggles to understand".

Notes on a Scandal is a 92 minute long movie adapted from Zoe Heller's novel which I read either side of watching the film. The book's length (c240 pages) means that the plot has been stripped down and some characters eg Sheba (Cate Blanchett)'s daughter Polly written out or down. The balance between the two principal characters: Barbara/Judi Dench and Sheba, has also been shifted to emphasise the former's nastiness. No doubt the screenwriters (of whom Heller herself was one) had their reasons for doing so, but I can't see why.

Of lesser importance, but in some ways even more intriguing, is the depiction of Bangs. In the novel he is an Arsenal supporter but in the film, where he's not one of the truncated characters, he is a rabid Spurs fan. Can anyone suggest any reason why this might be so?

It doesn't surprise me that the Rotten Tomatoes reviewers were more favourably disposed towards this film than they were towards Jindabyne. The New York Times review by Manohla Dargis is also worth a look.

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