Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Express Yourself--The Last Two Movies I Saw

Ironically the last 2 movies I watched were both adaptations of books by great American writers. Both are remarkable for their faithfulness to their source material, and for giving a great actor and iconic role.  That is however pretty much all they have in common.

Thursday was my day off, and I watched The Maltese Falcon. Adapted from the novel by Dashiell Hammett, which is one of the founding works of the hard boiled detective school, it was turned by John Huston, in his directing debut, into a founding work of film noir. Warner Brothers had already made 2 previous versions in the last 10 years. No one has tried to make another version, although a sequel was attempted in the 70's.  Legend has it that John Huston created the script by simply retyping the book's conversations as dialogue and its narrative as stage directions.

Most importantly, of course, it made a star of Humphrey Bogart; but it was also a break through film for Elisha Cook Jr., Peter Lorre, and Sidney Greenstreet.  Like many films of the 30's and 40's it is fascinating in part because it slips so much past the censors and right into the lap of the audience.

The torturous search for the jewel encrusted bird can be viewed on so many levels, detective film, meditation on greed and obsessive quests, a character study.

What lingers longest of course is the brilliance of Humphrey Bogart as the classic anti-hero, a cynical loner, but not without his own sense of honor and ethics.  The movie, like the falcon itself, is "the stuff that dreams are made of."

Sunday night, in honor of Fathers Day, TCM (my favorite channel) ran To Kill a Mockingbird. Its not the first time they have done this, but tonight it seemed a perfect movie to watch with my daughter. 

I have often said that if I were teaching film making I would show this movie as a perfect example of how to adapt a book into a film. I have read Horton Foote's Oscar winning screenplay and its effect is the same as reading the book, the only one I have read which I can say that about.

This time I watched with my 14 year old daughter, who normally disdains movies in black and white, but consented this time to please the mama.  I tried to abstain from techie talk during the film, but had to point out a few well filmed or well shot moments. 

The rest of the time I just cried at all the traditional gotcha moments, plus a few extra because it was after all Fathers Day, and I have been fatherless for 20 years, and well Gregory Peck is such a perfect dad in this movie.  (Short of watching Field of Dreams with my son, nothing could produce more tears on this occasion,)

 So this last couple movies I watched have been really great ones. Don't be fooled though.  I watch a lot of dreadful movies too. The Express Yourself Blog Hop just caught me on a good week.  Hope you got to watch a good movie this week too.

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