Thursday, July 12, 2007


"Booking Through Thursday
"1. In your opinion, what is the best translation of a book to a movie?
"2. The worst?
"3. Had you read the book before seeing the movie, and did that make a difference? (Personally, all other things being equal, I usually prefer whichever I was introduced to first.)
"And, by all means, expand this to as long a list as you like. I’m notoriously awful myself at narrowing down to one favorite ANYTHING. So, feel free to list as many “good” or “bad” movie-from-books as you like. (Heaven knows that’s what I’ll be doing….)"

How about a book that was made into a television series? I choose I, Claudius by Robert Graves, a book which tells the stories of the ancient Roman Caesars in all their wicked and cunning glory. The series was top-drawer, a classy, production that was, mostly, faithful to the book. I saw the series years before I read the book. Each is superlative in its own right. I doubt it would have made a difference to my opinion if I'd read the book first. I consider them both so far above average reading and viewing fare that I cannot recommend them too heartily.

This is, arguably, my choice for the worst screen adaptation: Midnight In the Garden of Good and Evil, by John Berendt. The book is a good diversion; in fact, I recommend it as a beach book. I'll call the book historical fiction, meaning that the author took a true murder case, added personal interviews and a fat dollop of secondhand information, mixed in a lot of wild imagination and served it up as a book that made the New York Times bestseller list about fifteen years ago.

The movie version was directed by Clint Eastwood, who was not the right man for the job. The film was tired and anemic with the exception of the actor who portrayed himself, a drag-queen named Chablis. The story takes place in Savannah (Georgia), a city I know well. Despite the vividly colorful city and people, the movie was lackluster. Mr. Eastwood needed to take time to get to know Savannah and her citizens. Savannah doesn't give herself easily, but she is well worth the time and the effort as she rewards the patient person with her riches.

Robert Altman directed a screen adaptation of The Gingerbread Man. Like Midnight, it was shot largely in and around Savannah around the same time as Mr. Eastwood shot his film. The word on the street was that Mr. Altman and Mr. Eastwood ought to have switched positions because neither was suited for the film he chose, but each would have succeeded admirably with the other's movie.

(submitted by Moon Rani)

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