Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Spring Update

As of tonight, my thesis on The Road is done. That is, done enough that I can present it on Monday and then answer what will likely be some fairly intimidating questions from some fairly intimidating academics. I can't wait. It's not officially finished though until the end of the semester, when a complete draft is due for sending off for publication to various scholarly journals. There will be no word for a while whether it will actually be accepted for publication, but I've been working long and steady on this thing and I like to think that my chances are decent. I won't mind if it comes to nothing, though. I did the the best I could. 

As I've been studying the novel (this week I'm reading it for the third time this semester) my love for it has reached an almost inexplicable level. I suppose there's a good chance of that happening with any novel one spends so much time with, but that does not erase the fact that I think The Road was perfect novel for me to study and that perhaps because so no book will ever stick with me more for the rest of my life. I don't want to elaborate right now, though; it's all written down in my paper and I need a break from for a few days.

As I've been studying it I've also revisited John Hillcoat's 2009 adaptation of the novel, which I loved then and still find quite good. However, the main argument in my paper (which, not to be vain, I'm really pretty fond of) could barely be made based off the film alone. When I've wrestled with so many ideas in the book and then see the film and discover they're absent, the film becomes a little less interesting. I suppose that's what intense scrutiny of a novel does to its film counterpart. All of the movie's other virtues, though, remain intact: Viggo Mortensen's dirty, harrowed face, Guy Pierce's imperfect mouth (his character is described in the text: "when he spoke his mouth worked imperfectly, and when smiled"), the visual imagining of the gray, blasted landscape, and flawless re-creations of crucial scenes (the bunker, the father's childhood home, that terrifying encounter with the cannibals). But there are sentences in the text that give rise to complexities and problems that simply cannot be captured in the film. Example: when the father washes blood from the his son's hair, in the book he turns it into a ceremony. This is fascinating. It allows one to consider the role of ceremony in this story, and in particular, in the father's actions. In the film, we can only see the washing out of the blood and the son weeping. It is very emotional, very sad, but it doesn't really go beyond that.

Other things cinema related of late: I've seen Inherent Vice three times now, the last two viewings in the span of 24 hours. I wanted to see it again after that, but decided to wait until the blu ray comes out in two weeks instead (as expected for a Paul Thomas Anderson film, the cover art is new rather than just a print of the theatrical poster, which always makes buying the blu-rays of his movies a little more exciting). When I start writing on here again regularly, the first thing I want to post is a piece on the film. 

Watching it also prompted a little neo-noir kick: over Easter weekend I saw Body Heat, Red Rock West, and After Dark, My Sweet. All three are spectacular. I'd started Body Heat four or five years ago, but fell asleep half way through and never returned to it. It's one of the most thoroughly entertaining and all-around well made thrillers I've seen in a long time, that is, next to After Dark, My Sweet (anyone else get a Lauren Bacall vibe from Rachel Ward in it?) which made me long for James Foley to have a late career comeback. He's only 61, and while he's found a nook directing House of Cards episodes, it'd be a shame if his film career ended with that dumb Bruce Willis/Halle Berry Hitchcock-wannabe Perfect Stranger from 2007. 

I also finally started to dig into the Jaques Tati criterion blu ray set with a long-delayed viewing of Mon Oncle. There's more Keaton here perhaps than in any of his films, and it's also probably the most accessible title in his filmography (though I might actually start a stranger to his work on Hulot's Holiday just because it's only 87 minutes as opposed to this one's 116) Next on the agenda: Trafic. And speaking of French things, I re-watched The Aristocats. It wasn't as great as I remembered, but the soundtrack is still killer, and the inciting plot element--that the butler is angry because the old lady is going to give her fortune to her cats--is downright hilarious. 

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