Mailer vs. Eggers vs. Sendak vs. Gogol
Here's Norman Mailer and Rip Torn beating the shit out of each other, back when writers had a healthy, antagonistic relationship to Hollywood:

And now here's Dave Eggers and Spike Jonze talking about how they jumped Maurice Sendak and took his story gold in an interview for The Guardian:

"Desperately Seeking Sendak"

I generally don't write about Eggers because I am not sufficiently convinced that he is a fiction writer or even likes fiction. But I found this article illuminating anyway. It is a good illustration of how cranky old creators who have had long and successful careers can be persuaded to turn their genius books into crap movies that flicker briefly and then die, killing the "source material" forever with the entropy of popular success and "reimagining."

"Where the Wild Things Are" will never again be anybody's secret treasure. The DNA for Sendak's monsters probably now belongs to Archer Daniels Midland.

But this interview shows us how blind we can be about our own work. Sendak hates those soul-less new mansions that keep appearing on his block. He hates the soul-less movie adaptation of his friend's book because he has the objectivity to see the flatness and failure. As an artist, he sees that movies aren't an apotheosis, that movies are instead imagination's graveyard.

But he can't help himself. His movie will be different. His book will be the one that is finally stronger than Hollywood's steamroller. He can't see how impossible this is. The flattery is too powerful. The money is too good. The adulation from young Eggers and young Jonze is too intoxicating. He can't explain exactly why he wants Max's room to morph into a forest as in the original book instead of having Max sail away for Wild Island. He can't explain it because it is a part of him. In the end, he nods and steps aside, furrowing his brow, chewing his thumb, knowing he has lost.

And now, just to prove that I don't hate an entire artistic medium -- only laziness! -- here's an example of a movie adaptation done right. It is an adaptation of Nikolai Gogol's short story "The Nose" done with pinscreen animation by Alexander Alexeieff and Claire Parker. It is not an adaptation so much as a resurrection. The spirit of fiction is preserved, despite the shortcuts of the visual medium. One must watch this sitting forward, elbows on knees, engaged, paying attention, awake, putting the narrative together piece by piece, not afraid to make mistakes:

Makes you want to read the original short story, doesn't it?

Here it is: "The Nose," by Nikolai Gogol!

Imagine if "Where the Wild Things Are" had been filmed using pinscreen animation.

Imagine if for two hours the only dialog was the 300 words from the original picture book.

Posted by miracle on Sun, 29 Nov 2009 19:24:02 -0500 -- permanent link

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