Archive for the ‘Novel Adaptation’ Category

The Counterfeiters (Die Fälscher)

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

the_counterfeitersThe Counterfeiters (Die Fälscher), from Austrian director Stefan Ruzowitzky, tells the true story of concentration camp Jews who escaped the gas chambers by counterfeiting for the Nazis. The film is based on a memoir written by Adolf Burger, a Jewish Slovak typographer who was imprisoned for forging baptismal certificates to save Jews from deportation and later interned at Sachsenhausen.

In 1942 the Nazi’s launched Operation Bernhard, which aimed to flood the economies of their enemies with millions of forged British pound and US dollar notes, whilst bolstering their own flagging war chest. And who better to do it than the Jews, whose payment was their life, as long as they were needed? So, in the world’s largest ever counterfeiting scam, dozens of Jewish printers, typographers and a few ex-cons in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp were set to work on the forgery of some £130 million. At the helm was Salomon “Sally” Sorowitsch (Salomon Smolianoff in real life), played by Karl Markovics, who had lived the highlife as a professional counterfeiter before his six year ordeal in the concentration camps. “Why earn money by making art?” he asks one person. “Making money by making money is so much easier.”


Crouching Tiger/Kung Fu Hustle box set

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

crouching-tiger-dvdThe newly released double box set of Ang Lee’s enigmatic epic Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) and Stephen Chow’s slapstick farce Kung Fu Hustle (2004) couldn’t offer two more different perspectives on the Wuxia genre of filmmaking.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is a great deal more than a mere kung fu film. This sweeping, majestic fable is a near masterpiece, combining beautiful cinematography, fight scenes that will take your breath away and a two touching love stories with very different outcomes.

Based on the fourth part of a 1930s pentalogy by novelist Wang Du Lu with a script by James Schamus, Crouching Tiger is concerned with the theft of a holy sword, the Green Destiny, which belongs to the legendary warrior Li Mubai (Chow Yun-Fat). Looking for a quieter life, Mubai entrusts his sword to the gifted martial artist Yu Shulien (Michelle Yeoh), with whom he shares an unspoken love. Yu takes the sword to Beijing, where she meets Jen (Zhang Ziyi), the teenage daughter of a political bigwig, whose nurse bears a striking resemblance to the murderous witch Jade Fox (Cheng Pei-Pei). But when the sword is stolen, everyone leaps into action in a frantic search to retrieve it.


From Hell

Thursday, November 27th, 2008

Following on from the earlier ramble about the forthcoming Watchmen film (which may or may not happen) we rifled through our DVD collection and dragged out The Hughes Brothers 2001 adaptation of From Hell – another Alan Moore graphic novel adaptation, this one about Jack the Ripper.

Given that the book is nearly 600 pages long, it’s not surprising that the film adaptation loses several plot points, and is very liberal with the narrative; the film is more of a Victorian whodunnit, whereas Moore and artist Eddie Campbell practically reveal the identify of the Ripper within the first few pages.

Nevertheless, the film is an enjoyable romp, whether you’ve read the book or not. The violence is delivered with the same trademark Hughes Brothers style, and despite the claret (of which there is quite a lot) none of the nastiness ever feels obtuse or gratuitous – the Victorian London created in From Hell is a vision of putrescence, overflowing gutters, gin palaces and gas lamps around which the fleas and flies dance inbetween feasting on the bodies of murderees.

Killings are all too common in Whitechapel, and so it takes a particularly vicious and brutal slaying of a ‘bang-tail’, for its residents to sit up and take notice; “it was the way she was done,” which draws the attentions of Inspector Abberline (Johnny Depp), a character based on the real police Inspector who followed up the Ripper murders in 1888.


Zhou Yu’s Train (Zhōu Yú de huǒchē)

Friday, November 21st, 2008

Propelled to fame playing regal beauties in grandiose historical dramas such as Raise the Red Lantern and Farewell my Concubine, Chinese actress Gong Li takes a professional U-turn in this bittersweet romance with hints of French cinema from director Zhou Sun, recasting herself as Zhou Yu, a thoroughly modern, independent woman whose sexuality is part of her personality. Torn between two lovers, the ethereal introvert and the easygoing charmer, Gong takes comfort in somnolent train journeys through the countryside of northwest China. Zhou Yu’s Train is adapted from the novel by Cun Bei.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Le scaphandre et le papillon)

Tuesday, November 11th, 2008

Directed by celebrated painter Julian Schnabel, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly tells the remarkable tale of Jean-Dominique Bauby (Mathieu Amalric), the 43-year old Parisian fashion editor and playboy who, at the zenith of wealth and success was paralysed by a stroke and suffered from “locked in syndrome”, where he is alive and conscious but unable to communicate with the world.

Bauby wakes up in hostpital from a coma to find himself paralysed from head to toe and unable to speak. The only part of his body he can move is his left eyelid, which he uses to communicate. The pretty speech therapist (Marie-Josee Croze) recites the alphabet in the order of most frequently used letters, and Bauby chooses a letter by blinking. Thus, letter by letter, blink by blink, he ‘dictates’ his extraordinary memoir on which this film is based.

Love in the Time of Cholera – out now

Friday, September 5th, 2008

Love in the Time of Cholera is based on the sumptuous, florid novel by Nobel Prize winning Columbian author Gabriel García Márquez. The film adaptation by Mike Newell, who is best known for Four Weddings and a Funeral and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, just goes to show that the best novels rarely work well on the big screen.

The setting is the small Columbian town of Cartanega around the year 1900. The young clerk Florentino (played by Unax Ugalde as a teenager and Javier Bardem as an adult) catches a glimpse of wealthy beauty Fermina Daza (Giovanna Mezzogiorno) through an open window as he is going about on an errand. A poet of sorts, Florentino eventually wins Fermina’s heart by writing letters to her and the two embark on a breathless courtship (complete with Romeo and Juliet balcony scene).


Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress – out now

Monday, August 18th, 2008

The beguilingly titled Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress is based on writer/director’s Dai Saijie’s best-selling autobiographical novel of the same name. Set in the Chinese Cultural Revolution during the 1970’s, the film centres around two adolescents who have committed the sin of being born to “reactionary” parents – doctors who dared to suggest that Chairman Mao might not be entirely perfect. On account of their background, the boys are sent on a rural “re-education” camp where they are to learn the virtues of Maoist thinking and hard work, which includes much lugging of human excrement up a hill.

However, their gruelling stay is brightened by meeting the captivating daughter of the local tailor, known simply as the Little Seamstress (the boys never bother to find out her actual name). An uneducated peasant, the two bourgeois city-boys seek to open her mind through forbidden Western novels which they have stolen from another member of the camp — classics from the likes of Dickens, Flaubert and, yes, Balzac, the Little Seamstress’ favourite. The boys also read “The Count of Monte Christo” to the old grandfather, which inspires him to add many elegant details to his garments.


I Am Legend – out now

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

Will Smith, a sci-fi legend himself, stars in the latest version of Richard Matheson’s classic chiller I Am Legend. He plays the last human survivor in a post-apocalyptic New York City.

After the pretty average reviews, we at DVD Rental didn’t have high expectations of this film, but have to say, we were pleasantly surprised when we got out copy through the post.

For those who have not read the book, nor seen The Omega Man (the 1971 version starring Charlton Heston) the plot follows Robert Neville, who has only his dog Sam for company (and a few shop window mannequins he’s made friends with) and his struggle to both discover the cure for a virus that has spread throughout the world, and see through each day in the streets of an empty New York.