Sunday, February 10, 2013

Three French movies

In an earlier post I recounted how having been inspired by three French movie trailers to end up reading 3 enjoyable books.  Well the movies were still on the agenda.  Movies have a reputation of cutting out explanations and adding in entertaining, but distorting details.  Do they maintain the spirit of the book or make their own meaning?  You can read my experiences with the books here:

My favorite example of the difference is with the Turkish book and novel,  "Bliss."  The author Zulfu Livaneli wrote the book and surprisingly wrote the music for the movie.  The book was as usual in more depth, but actually gave away the movie ending almost at the beginning.  Further in the book the author predicted if a movie was done it would have more of a Hollywood ending which it did and probably why he preferred to write the very enjoyable music.  They both dealt with honour killing and made the horror of it very evident.  Read more here:

"Sarah's Key" made me conscious that a book gets into the thinking of the characters more than a film.  I think the general theme of the book did get through with the performances and technical aspects being good.  From the movie trailer the shock was that the French were complicit in the Holocast.  In both the book and the movie that connection is slowly built up.  As in the books the modern day journalist efforts are paralleled with an experience in Nazi held Paris.  The journalist realizes that her husband's family was intimately involved and buried the emotions connected to it.  The mystery is carried into modern times while the obsessive journalist tries to track down Sarah.  Her own family problems become entangled.

Kristin Scott Thomas, most famous for "The English Patient" is an actress I have watched in a variety of French movies.  As she is bilingual it is natural for her to play the American journalist married into a French family.  The actors all make you feel this really happened and the director holds everything together.

"The Hedgehog" was another book that dealt with inner emotions.  3 main characters who all see themselves as "different."  The director and screenwriter,  Mona Achache at age 27 was directing her first movie.  Of the three selected movies only this one did not rely on any big stars.  Mona and the three main actors captured the mood of the book very well.  It is definitely a quirky book from beginning to end, but with characters that grow on you.  A young pre-adolescent girl, Garance Le Guillermie really captured the essence of the literary character who was very intelligent, but took a morbid view of life and gradually saw life more positively.  Josiano Balasko played an old ugly concierge in a luxury apartment building, but had inner beauty that the other two characters came to appreciate.  Josiano played her role perfectly and the viewer came to appreciate there is more to her than meets the eye.  Togo Isaygo played a sophisticated Japanese tenant who befriended both other characters and he fit the role from the book very well

Sometimes when you watch a movie you learn little cultural things that stick, even if trivial.  At one point a musical toilet startles you and later learn that it is a "Japanese thing".

The ending of the movie if anything reflected the book's ending in an even more effective manner.  It will disappoint those hoping for a Hollywood ending, but actually it makes a point about life.  The music running over the end credits is contemplative.  Throughout the movie, the music by Gabriel Yared was good to set the mood and my favorite parts were melancholic with cello and piano.

"delicacy" is the last movie from the three books.  It is unusual in that the author, David Foenkinos teamed with his brother Stéphane Foenkinos to write the screenplay and direct the movie.  Audrey Tatou as the leading lady is always delightful.  I had seen her co-star, Francois Damiens playing a bumbling brother in law in "The Heartbreaker".  In the book were accounts of a lot of trivialities that are part of life and relationships.  The brothers brought in Émilie Simon to write and sing the music which added some emotional support.  The movie captured some of the quirkiness of the book. It is common to put uncommon people together and "Delicacy" gives another version.  A young attractive widow from an ideal marriage meets someone not noticed by other people and and somehow responds to his awkwardness. In the real world we are often amazed and wondering what does she see in him or what does he see in her?  One of life's great wonders.  An enjoyable romance with good humour.

Movies are often inspired by books.  Books are always deeper and movies are selective in capturing the mood.  A good director takes the essence of what the book is trying to convey in a relatively short time.  The director has the advantage of a crew of people including actors, cinematographers, costume, make-up, special effects, music, etc. etc.  The writer has the advantage of our imagination.

Like many people if I like a movie enough I am anxious to read the book to get the fuller story. Sometimes it can work the other way.  I am glad that I read these three books first as reading gives an idea of the depth.  The movies in some ways did capture the essence of the original author and inevitably were forced to leave out some explanation that the reader could appreciate.

For some reason the French are coming up with some top movies, "The Intouchables" was one of my top three for 2012 and one that seems really attractive is "Rust and Bones"

1 comment:

  1. Hi John:

    Glad to know you're (also) into this.

    The earliest examples I can recall of movie/book experiences are 1/ Sophie's Choice, 2/ Kramer vs Kramer and 3/ Ordinary People. More recently, I've read/seen Silver Lining Playbook.

    The study of what you can do with which medium is also fascinating to me.

    I'll follow your blog, and maybe we can exchange some insights.