Sunday, February 11, 2007

Smells stranger than fiction

A childfree weekend, and anyone who knows me knows that this means work and movies. I'm slogging away on formatting two extremely interesting Visual Arts PhD theses and correcting volume two of Mary Gilmore's Collected Verse, and somehow trying to write a course plan for a casual book arts gig that has been dangled in front of me like a plump juicy worm on a hook. The hook is, of course, less time to work on my own project, but I'd be a stupid fishie for not snapping it up to savour that juicy wormy goodness amidst the tang of metal and my own blood. This will be my first proper teaching gig (as opposed to recreational adult classes) and of course I'll put way too much work into preparing for it, but c'est la vie.

Best Beloved and I went to the movies last night and ran into some friends at the cinema. 'I thought you never had time to go to the movies' she said. 'No,' I cheerfully replied. 'Movies are the things I do make time for, while everything else suffers.' So I take this moment to apologise to anyone I've been neglecting. When I down tools on a child-free weekend, I need dark rooms and Dolby sound, not people. But I will get more social soon, especially when I start getting out and about with the new academic year.

So, movies. Last night we saw Stranger than Fiction, and this morning I saw (by myself) Perfume. On friday night BB went to Pan's Labyrinth, which he really liked (I had to drive Bumblebee to meet his father, who was running late).

I came out of Stranger than Fiction and just wanted to turn around and go back in and watch it again, because now that I know what happens, I want to sit through it and really watch. And listen. And think. It's great. I don't want to give any spoilers; anyone who loves literature, or has had any experience with authors, writing or humanities academia should see this movie.

It's also the best thing Will Farrell has *ever* done to date. I'm not a fan of his movie choices, he seems to have graduated from the Mel Brooks school of comedy, a thing that make my toes curl in revulsion. But here he hits the right note, constantly. And one of the most interesting moments last night was the cinema audience's reaction during his proposition scene. I don't know if that was because the last three rows were newly-minted adolescents, or if it happens at every screening. I'll find out if I go back.

Emma Thompson is brilliant as a frustrated author; what other woman would let strings of her own spit stretch out on-screen? I also really enjoyed Dustin Hoffman's character, his academic ego and his pursuit of the best story at any cost.

Hoffman is also in Perfume: the Story of a Murderer, although the single-mindedness he shows in Stranger than Fiction is now the attribute of a different cast member: Ben Whishaw, who plays Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, and is far too pretty for the role, no matter how much sludge they fling over him. I did enjoy the dirty fingernails.

If anyone still needs proof that the printed word has exceptional powers, this adaptation is it. The book is marvellous in its evocativeness; the movie is stunningly beautiful, but lacking the space to let the imagination really sense the smells. Maybe it's the combination of a visual feast with a musical score; there just isn't room for scent. And they cropped all the really interesting bits out, and dwelt upon parts that translated to sight for far too long. Two and a half hours, and I felt it about three-quarters of the way through.

I came out of Perfume glad to have seen it, but not interested in ever really seeing it again, not while I've got that magical book on my shelf. It is worth seeing, if only the once. I enjoyed recognising the talent, such Alan Rickman (swoon), John Hurt, and having a flash of recognition at seeing Rachel Hurd-Wood, who played Wendy in the last version of Peter Pan. My, she's growing up. And the location shots are fabulous, especially on the big screen. But if you love the book, as I do, lock up your heart, go with caution, and you'll come out intact. Otherwise, go and see Stranger than Fiction, and hopefully come out elated. And don't forget to tell me what you think of them...


Anonymous said...

When I went to Stranger Than Fiction I also noted the crop of newly minted adolescents that were in the audience. It made me think about the kind of audience that Will Farell normally attracts: those who like a kind of underdeveloped scatalogical variety of humour. But this film was not their kind of film, and I noticed a few walked out, or they just radiated confusion when all the literary terms were inserted into everyday conversation. I normally avoid Will Farrell--although I thought he was very good in The Producers--but I went to this film anyway because I saw the preview and thought I'd like it, which I did. And I agree, you want to go back and watch it again; it's intellectual and exciting, because it loves narrative and revels in its possibilities.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Ducky, a most excellent movie. I came out of the cinema reeling with literary vertigo. It's a brilliant movie that works on several different levels - one of the cleverest works of fiction I've encountered in years. My wife and I babbled about it for hours afterwards.


Mummy/Crit said...

I haven't seen either yet, and missed my child-free opportunity yesterday, but Someone(? Hell, I'm hopeless, I can't remember who it was, and I'm in a rush to get to wirk, so I can't check all the usual suspects) in the blogosphere had remarked also on the same problem you had noticed in Perfume - that the book was so evocative in smells, but that there wasn't room for it in the movie (I think they (jokingly) suggested scratch-and-sniff cards. Still, as I've neither seen nor read it.... I can probably get the beloved to go and see 'stranger than fiction' though.

Meredith Jones said...

Ok, I will do myself a favour.

AD why can't I add you to google reader? It says "no blog feed available" whenever I try.

Ampersand Duck said...

I don't know, Meredith! I work on Bloglines... I'll do some research. Can anyone else tell me anything? It's probably something really obvious that I need to set or do.

Anonymous said...

I saw it last night!

I will be brave and admit that I love Will Farrell BECAUSE of his comedy - he had me at 'Superstar' - but it was also nice to see him do something away from that. There was also a lot of younger people in my theatre too (I could tell because of the talking and burbing) but I didn't see anyone walk out.

I was a liiiiiittle troubled by the age difference though...?

But it was VERY good.

Ampersand Duck said...

I don't think the age difference was THAT great -- Maggie's not a spring chicken anymore -- but it was definitely better than a lot of movies around. Look at Woody -- he certainly likes to be seen next to pretty young things like Scarlett Johanssen, even if he's not the love interest. Anyhoo, I would have even forgiven an age difference that big, because I'm so grateful for such a good script.

Glad you liked it Enny!

lauren said...

hey &D, purely based on your blogreport, a friend and i took advantage of tight-arse tuesday and movie money and went to see STF. it was as excellent as you suggested. emma thompson was brrrilliant and i think i almost died twice each time she was doing research! i don't know about you, but the ending fucked with me. i didn't like it, but i liked the fact that i didn't like it the same way it wasn't liked on screen. it was like being john malkovich all over again! i could easily go back and see it again. maggie was ace - she suits that tattoo like armani and speaking of suits - dustin hoffman was superb! i loved the slight throwback to rainman (dunno if that was intentional or not).

Ampersand Duck said...

Hooray! Good result. I think your reaction to the ending is probably what the writer wanted, and all hail to him.

lauren said...

i know!! and i still a can't work out whether i like that or not either :)

Anonymous said...

Your dislike of Mel Brooks comedy fills me with sadness. :(

Stranger than Fiction is a wonderful film, and has many, many great one-liners. Personally, I'd go back and see it again just to watch Maggie Gyllenhaal through that pizza against the wall a second time.

Ampersand Duck said...

Oh Tim, I did like 'To Be or Not To Be' in a weird sorta way, and I can cope with 'Blazing Saddles' -- I don't mind other people liking them... I gave my son a copy of 'Spaceballs' last year (I'm actually starting to regret that) because of his Star Wars obsession. I just think he's a good example of the American inability to convey something with subtlety.