Robert's Reflections: Movies for Reading Groups
Everyone has a mentor -- whether it is a family member, teacher, boss, fellow colleague. Robert Segedy, veteran bookseller, was/is mine. His knowledge and experience of the book world has assisting me though my bookseller days and beyond. Robert is also a movie buff and has offered to write some recommendations for movies that are true to the book and are great for conversation with the book. Robert's Movie Recommendations will be a frequent feature. Here is one of them. Thanks so much, Robert!
The usual consensus on which is better, the book or the film, usually has the book winning hands down, and for the most part I must concur. However, lately I have been thinking about this subject and I have found myself making mental lists of all the exceptions. Just off the top of my head there's To Kill A Mockingbird, In Cold Blood, House of Sand and Fog, No Country for Old Men, The Maltese Falcon, and The Ballad of the Sad Cafe. I must confess that I am an avid movie viewer and my Netflix queue is always overflowing, but I am also a relentless reader, so it is rather easy for me to come up with an abundant list of choices.
I had always wanted to merge this idea of film and source, and believe that it could make for some interesting bookclub discussions. When many people think of this topic, they automatically think of some of the more successful box office blockbusters, such as Jaws by Peter Benchley, The Godfather by Mario Puzo, and so forth. A few of these films are just as good as the novel, if not better. Stephen King is a veritable never-ending source of material for Hollywood (check out his book, Different Seasons -- out of the four novellas presented, three were made into very successful films).
Many mystery writers have seen successful conversions of their work onto the screen, most recently Dennis Lehane, James Elroy and Richard Price. However, none of this is startling news -- Hollywood has been taking the printed word and translating it to hit films since the start of cinema, and even serious literary writers such as Fitzgerald and Faulkner have been known to lend their talents to the dream factory.
For every successful adaption of a great novel, there are any number of terrible films that did not come close to any of the greatness that the book invoked.
Fortunately, the mind's own ability to absorb the written word and create our own mental movies is so much more talented than any number of Hollywood's efforts.
What I am searching for is a film that somehow pulls off the impossible -- a film that captures the true essence of the book, a film that can come close to matching the images that I have created in my mind directly due to the author's storytelling skills. Some films succeed through the actor's portrayal of the character that they are playing, others are due to the director's vision, the style of the film, the cinematography, the lighting -- all of these elements are crucial in producing a film that delivers everything that the novel induced in me.
So what books/films do I consider enticing enough to venture that a bookclub may be persuaded to do a compare and contrast? Here is a selection of my favorites that I can easily endorse for both their literary value but also for their success in meeting some of the standards that I have explained earlier. Hopefully, the films that I have chosen will make a good jumping off point for your groups' own efforts.
Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor.
Written by one of my favorite writers, this unforgettable novel was uncannily brought to life by filmmaker John Houston.
Brad Dourif, in a searing performance as Hazel Motes, returns home from the war only to find his family has deserted him. As Motes finds his way in the big city he encounters an bizarre array of misfits; Harry Dean Stanton as Asa Hawks, the false preacher, Dan Shor is Enoch Emory, a boy with wise blood, and Amy Wright as Sabbath Lily, Hawks seductive daughter. In a moment of inspiration, Motes decides to form the "Church of Christ without Christ" where "the deaf don't hear, the blind don't see, the lame don't walk, the dumb don't talk, and the dead stay that way,"
Houston mesmerizingly captures O'Connor's Southern Gothic masterpiece. Truly a mind-bending experience.