L13FC: Play into Film

 

It’s Friday the 13th. You all are my lucky charms. Welcome back to this month’s rendition of the Lucky 13 Film Club. I have been thinking about plays which were adapted to film. Ever wonder why what works on the stage somehow gets lost in translation on the screen? Why do some films feel like a play but never were? Whether a satire or silly or serious, a successful adaptation from the stage to the screen is not easy. Why? Let us focus our discussion on plays and NOT MUSICALS.

Thinking beyond a list of favorites, who are your favorite characters? Often I am so-so about the film adaptation as a whole, but an actor’s delivery or a line by the author has been tattooed on my heart. What are some of your lasting impressions?

Cindy’s choices:

When Rev. Hale tries to atone for the death warrants he has assigned in Arthur Miller’s The Cruciblehe begs Elizabeth Proctor to persuade her husband John to confess to witchcraft in order to save his life.

John Proctor (DDL), Joan Allen as Elizabeth Proctor

For the principle of honesty, she answers, “I believe that be the Devil’s argument.”  I see and hear actress Joan Allen say this on the Cape Cod shore in the 1996 film version. When situations arise in my life where I hear people bend and rationalize the truth including interior dialogues with myself–should I or not? I hear Goody Proctor’s voice.

The Night of the Iguana by Tennessee Williams is an enjoyable 1964 film in all regards. Richard Burton gives an energetic performance especially when he’s sweating it out wrapped up and trapped in the hammock.

Deborah Kerr with Richard Burton in The Night of the Iguana (1964)

T. Lawrence Shannon: I thought you were sexless. But you’ve just become a woman. And do you know how I know that? Because you like me tied up! All women, whether they wish to admit or not, would like to get men into a tied-up situation.

Is there truth in his statement? Hmmm. The gender relations in the 1960s. The dynamic between a mother and son. A husband and wife. The femme fatale and her victim. What intrigues me about the comment is that Hannah Jelkes (Deborah Kerr) is “good” and “cerebral” thus lacking the qualities that make her female. To be sexless also means she lacks the qualities that make her male. How interesting to be neither sex. She abstains from the hypocrisies and degradation of both sexes and becomes the Buddha in the film whether she likes it or not.

David Mamut‘s play/film Glengarry Glen Ross (1992) scorched with an excellent script and meaty acting from the entire cast.  Alec Baldwin played the worst boss imaginable and typecasts himself for twenty more films in his future. Anyway, Shelley Levene (Jack Lemmon) was exceptional. The scene that stuck was the one where he was battered and worn by his colleagues and Blake, and then, with a snap of a finger, he got on that phone to made a sale like his life depended on it. His demeanor changed from weak to aggressive remarkably. I was wowed by Lemmon’s performance and truly felt horrible for Shelley and his outcome. Here’s more on Jack Lemmon found HERE.

Al Pacino as Shylock in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice (2004) made me smile. It is my second favorite play by Shakespeare and the film version directed by Michael Radford was entertaining and visually interesting due in part to the cast: Jeremy Irons, Joseph Fiennes, and Lynn Collins. The Act III, scene I monologue by Shylock rouses indignation, and I see Shylock in a whole new light.

A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams, 1947, starring Marlon Brando and Scarlett O’Hara as Blanche

My ultimate favorite line is Blanch DuBois when she pitifully says, “I’ve always depended on the kindness of strangers.” Poor Blanche. When her beauty faded, so did her options. Loss of hope and desperation makes for desperate decisions. Haven’t we all been there at some point in our lives? Is Williams suggesting there’s a bit of Blanche in all women? Trying to exist with the cards stacked against us, encouraged by men to use whatever charms for their enjoyment while simultaneously condemned for using them? Smarts and ingenuity were not readily accepted by society prior to roughly 1980.  We’ve come a long way, baby. Right?

Plays bring up issues that are fun to think about and discuss. I’ll list some plays to jar your memory. What character or line sticks with you?

Raisin in the Sun, Amadeus, Barefoot in the Park, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Arsenic and Old Lace, Doubt, Closer, Long Day’s Journey into the Night, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, August: Osage County, Fences, Driving Miss Daisy, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Dial M for Murder, On Golden Pond, The Lion in Winter, and countless Oscar Wilde & Shakespeare adaptations…

Five Shots: The Colors of Southern Italy

Here is the final post of miscellaneous shots when our traveling group visited Southern Italy a few weeks ago. I loved the colors of Italy most of all. Did you miss the trip? Here are the other posts:  SORRENTO, CAPRI,  and ROME.

Pompeii
The Streets of Pompeii
Eruption Mt. Vesuvius, Aug, 79
When it blew, 20 feet of ash suffocated the residents.
Lemons and Oranges
Hydrangeas–my favorites.
pomegranate in the making
Candy
Tyrrhenian Sea
The Green Door
spaghetti-e1531236141890.jpg
Spaghetti
Bougainvillea and Spears
Emerald Grotto, Capri
Capri Blue
Punta Carena Lighthouse, Capri

Which one do you like best?

 

 

Are You Not Entertained? Books, Shows, and a Film

I can recommend several books this month as well as an entertaining television series to binge on and one outstanding movie which deserves praise and recommendation.

BOOKS

The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin (The Aviator’s Wife). The flavor of NYC elite starring Truman Capote and his socialite friends. Benjamin takes real people and imagines their thoughts and feelings. Historical fiction? No. Not a biopic. It claims to be fiction, but I don’t know how. It’s entertaining if you like Truman Capote, and peeking into the culture of the lives of the rich and famous in the 1950s and 60s. It’s not disclosed when, but a cable limited series of the book starring Bryce Dallas Howard as Truman Capote’s best friend, Babe Paley, wife of CBS founder William Paley is on the horizon. 3.5/5.

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom is historical fiction set on a Virginia plantation during the early 1800s. It follows the life of an orphaned Irish girl who is raised by slaves in the kitchen house. When she turns older, she is sent to live with white relatives of the owner of the plantation. It’s a saga that ends like a soap opera, but the historical climate is impeccably created by Grissom. 4/5.

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen is the best-written book of the lot. As one would expect since it is the winner of the Pulitzer Prize. If the torn fabric between Vietnam and the United States during the war interests you, then you’d be quite satisfied. Its dark humor and dissection of both sides of the government are revealing and damning. 4/5

Thunderstruck by Eric Larson (The Devil in the White City) I found the history surrounding Guglielmo Marconi and his wireless communication very interesting. A second plot surrounds a murder of the (almost) perfect crime where the culprit is arrested due to Marconi’s invention. If you like Edwardian London, the history of the wireless, and the makings of ocean liners, you’d enjoy this well-researched historical novel. 4/5

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders is a winner of the Booker Prize and spouts of magnificence but I cannot fathom why. It’s the staccato narrative which inserts ever line or so the source it came from that I find infuriating. The story surrounds Abraham Lincoln and the death of his son Willie in 1862. I’m all for research, but I’m accustomed to seeing the endnotes or the Bibliography after the fact rather than be the narrative. I just couldn’t wrap my head around it. Please, tell me why you liked it. Should I pick it up and try again?

Mr. Churchill’s Secretary by Susan Elia Macneal. I was trying to find a mystery. I rarely read them and so I milled around the mystery section at the bookstore and found the first of many by Susan Elia Macneal. I liked the topic–Britain during the Blitz, Winston Churchill, and a young woman who becomes not only his secretary, but solves the mystery of spies. Read this if you are reclining by the pool and your head is muddled from too many Margheritas the night before. You will then find it intellectually satisfying. Her strength was the descriptions of London. Her strength was the rise of her protagonist. She sets the historical climate well. Her varying POV discloses all the mystery, so it seemed self-defeating. Still. When you want easy entertainment, this is your novel. 3/5.

The Alienist by Caleb Carr is the right mix of intelligent writing and engaging plot. Set in 1896 New York, Carr’s best attribute is to create the historical climate of the city and the contrasting worlds of poverty, decadence, science, and technology into a thrilling chase of a serial killer. The tale is the American version of Jack-the-Ripper. You like ghouls and gore? You will like this story. Now that I’ve read the book, I’m anxious to watch the series starring Dakota Fanning, Daniel Brühl, and Luke Evans. 4.5/5.

SHOWS

She’s only my step-sister and mother’s not really crazy, just the result of badgering by greedy white guys.

Taboo (2017) is the BBC television drama series starring the marvelous Tom Hardy as James Delany who returns from Africa to London in the early 1800s with a key bit of property that would secure a trading route to China. It’s something the U.S. and the British would like to have. Delany outwits both governments and side steps death creatively. Its dark, foul plot is its weakness but deviousness was never executed by such a fantastic cast. My favorite character is played by Tom Hollander as the eccentric chemist who turns shit into explosives. If only a little light entered the dismal lives to balance out all the taboos and witchery. Did they all really say “fuck” so much back then? Or is this the sphere of influence of Games of Thrones? 4/5.

THE MOVIE

The Skin of the Wolf (2017) by Samu Fuentes

Blunt? Affected by the reclusive scenery? Grappling with morality? Sickness and Melancholia? Sounds like Chekov, doesn’t it? Well, this Spanish film is outstanding. I haven’t seen such a good movie in ages. Let the abandoned monastery in the Pyrenees and the wolves and breathtaking visuals seep in. Watch how the characters who say so little, say a lot. This is a story of a nineteenth-century mountain man whose loneliness motivates the purchase of two daughters. Unable to show tenderness, only when they are hurt does his sensitivity come through. Its subtlety might bore some. Critics thought it was too long and asked too much from the audience. I thought the haunting score, and the male-female dynamic of marriage fascinating. If you can hang on until the final act, you won’t be disappointed. Mario Casas gave an outstanding performance. 4.5/5

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