Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Word to Image: Cinema inspired by poems

curated and notes by Konrad Steiner

Cinema is used here in a response to poetry. These tapes and films were chosen out of the American experimental tradition to exemplify various techniques of marrying the two arts. Poetry as the art of utterence and cinema the art of showing, both whole on their own, don't easily make a good couple. But these film and videomakers have taken up the challenge anyway by responding to the spirit and the letter of the poet, creating an original cinematic writing. Cinema and language meet head on, not unified as in conventional film, but remaining distinct and dancing, stepping on toes, wooing each other with the charms of mouth and eye and mind. You'll see images' own syntax shuffled, blended, chafing and dovetailing with language, you'll hear and read poets' work while seeing and hearing filmmakers' work. It's like having two extra senses!
  • Peter Herwitz, Songs of Degrees: With a Valentine (the 12 February) As To How Much
    Super 8mm, 5min color/sound on cassette (1990)
  • Thad Povey, Under a Broad Gray Sky
    16mm, 5min, color/sound (1995)
  • Rick Hancox, Waterworx
    16mm, 6min, color/sound (1986)
  • Marcus Nascimento, Video Haikai
    video, 8min
  • Nathaniel Dorsky, excerpts from "What Happened to Kerouac?"
    video transfer, 8min


  • Abigail Child, Prefaces
    16mm, 10min, color/sound (1981)
  • Henry Hills, Kino Da!
    16mm, 4min, color/sound (1981)
  • Martha Colburn, What's On
    16mm, 2min, color sound (1997)
  • Jim Flannery, Photoheliograph
    16mm, 12min, color/sound
  • Stan Brakhage, First Hymn to the Night -- Novalis
    16mm 3min color/silent (1994)"To write 'purely visual perception' is to write a meaningless phrase. Obviously. Because every time we want to make words do a real job of transference, every time we want to make them express something other han words, they align themselves in such a way as to cancel each other out. This, no doubt, is what gives life so much charm. Because it is by no means a matter of awareness, but of vision, of simply seeing. Simply! And the only field of vision that occasionally allows one merely to see, that doesn't always insist on being misunderstood, that sometimes allows its followers to ignore everything in it that is not appearance, the inner field."
    Samuel Beckett, 
    Le Monde et le pantalon, [1945]

Monday, March 22, 2010

Books to Movies: Readers' verdicts

The silver screen and the printed page have been nearly inseparable since the very first black-and-white movies flickered in dark theaters more than a hundred years ago.

And why not?
Novels, short stories and even nonfiction works provide an endless treasure of stories and characters.
That doesn’t mean something isn’t occasionally lost in the translation. For every “Gone With the Wind” or “Lord of the Rings” there’s a “Bonfire of the Vanities.”
So we asked a panel of film buffs and our readers to share their picks of the best and worst adaptations of books into movies.
A sampling of what our readers consider the best and worst movies ever made from books:
The best movie adapted from a book is "The Wizard of Oz" (1939).
Yes, quite a few elements in the movie are different from L. Frank Baum's book (silver slippers anyone?), but the core story of a little girl from Kansas being stranded in a fantasy world of wonder and danger remains.
This movie has stood the test of time and is loved all over the world. When I was a child it would come on only once a year, and I can remember anticipating its arrival almost as eagerly as Christmas morning.
Even when I watched it on my grandmother's ancient black-and-white television --and the movie never turned to color -- it was still a fantastic experience. If you doubt the power of this movie, try watching the eyes of a child seeing it for the first time.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Why we just can’t get enough of ‘Alice’

Almost 150 years after its creation, Lewis Carroll’s delightfully weird Wonderland world continues to fascinate — and to spawn merchandise. Jewelry, trinkets, clothing, cosmetics: We want it all.

March 07, 2010|By Adam Tschorn, Los Angeles Times

When Lewis Carroll popped Alice down the rabbit hole in 1865, he had no way of knowing that the girl in the pinafore dress — along with the creatures that populate "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and its 1872 sequel "Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There" — would become a permanent fixture on our pop culture landscape.

Alice (Mia Wasikowska) joins the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) and the White Queen (Anne Hathaway) in director Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland.  
Alice (Mia Wasikowska) joins the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) and the White Queen (Anne Hathaway) in director Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland. (Walt Disney Pictures)

The phenomenon encompasses more than the 100-plus versions of the book – the most recent of which, published last month, pairs Carroll's text with illustrations by Camille Rose Garcia and recently hit the Los Angeles Times and New York Times bestseller lists. It's something beyond the more than two dozen feature film incarnations, ranging from a star-studded 1933 version — in which Cary Grant played the Mock Turtle, W.C. Fields was Humpty Dumpty and Gary Cooper, the White Knight — to the Tim Burton take that opened Friday. And it's greater than the nearly dozen TV versions (the most recent a Syfy miniseries that included Kathy Bates as the evil Queen of Hearts who happens to run an emotion-emptying casino and Harry Dean Stanton as a shadowy operative code-named "the Caterpillar").

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959)

Hiroshima Mon Amour is an acclaimed 1959 drama/romance film directed by French film director Alain Resnais, with a screenplay by Marguerite Duras. It is about a relationship between a French woman and a Japanese man. It was one of the first French New Wave films and made innovative use of flashbacks.

Hiroshima Mon Amour concerns the experiences of a French actress (Emmanuelle Riva), referred to as Elle (she), who performs the role of a nurse in a film being shot in post-war Hiroshima. She meets a Japanese architect (Eiji Okada), referred to as Lui (him) and, separated from their spouses, they become lovers. The early part of the film recounts, in the style of a documentary, but narrated by the so far completely unidentified characters, the effects of the Hiroshima bomb on August 6, 1945, in particular the loss of hair and the complete anonymity of the remains of some victims. The man had been conscripted into the Japanese army, and his family were in Hiroshima on that day.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Alice in Wonderland (1903)

The first-ever film version of Lewis Carroll's tale has recently been restored by the BFI National Archive from severely damaged materials. Made just 37 years after Lewis Carroll wrote his novel and eight years after the birth of cinema, the adaptation was directed by Cecil Hepworth and Percy Stow, and was based on Sir John Tenniel's original illustrations. In an act that was to echo more than 100 years later, Hepworth cast his wife as the Red Queen, and he himself appears as the Frog Footman. Even the Cheshire cat is played by a family pet.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll)

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (commonly shortened to "Alice in Wonderland") is an 1865 novel written by English author Charles Lutwidge Dodgson under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll. It tells the story of a girl named Alice who falls down a rabbit hole into a fantasy world populated by peculiar and anthropomorphic creatures. The tale is filled with allusions to Dodgson's friends. The tale plays with logic in ways that have given the story lasting popularity with adults as well as children. It is considered to be one of the most characteristic examples of the "literary nonsense" genre, and its narrative course and structure have been enormously influential, especially in the fantasy genre.

to read the full book, click on image below.

Cinematic and television adaptations

The book has inspired numerous film and television adaptations. This list comprises only direct and complete adaptations of the original books. Derivative works and works otherwise inspired by but not actually based on them (such as Tim Burton's 2010 film Alice in Wonderland), appear in Works influenced by Alice in Wonderland.

The Last Man on Earth (1964)

Based on the chilling Richard Matheson science fiction classic story I am Legend and later remade as The Omega Man (1971) starring Charlton Heston, and the last one I am Legend (2007) starring Will Smith. 

This classic features Vincent Price as scientist Robert Morgan in a post apocalyptic nightmare world. The world has been consumed by a ravenous plague that has transformed humanity into a race of bloodthirsty vampires. Only Morgan proves immune, and becomes the solitary vampire slayer.

Wuthering Heights (1939)

The earliest known film adaptation of Wuthering Heights was filmed in England and directed by A. V. Bramble. It is unknown if any prints still exist.

The most famous was 1939's Wuthering Heights, starring Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon and directed by William Wyler.

This adaptation, like many others, eliminated the second generation's story (young Cathy, Linton and Hareton). It won the 1939 New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Film and was nominated for the 1939 Academy Award for Best Picture.

Wuthering Heights (Bronte Sisters)

Brontë, Emily, 1818-1848; Brontë, Anne, 1820-1849
To read the full book, click on image below.

Nosferatu (1922)

Originally released in 1922 as Nosferatu, Eine Symphonie Des Grauens, director F.W. Murnau's chilling and eerie adaption of Stoker's Dracula is a silent masterpiece of terror which to this day is the most striking and frightening portrayal of the legend.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Frankenstein (Mary W. Shelley)

To read the full book, click on image.

Frankenstein (1910, Full)

Frankenstein is a 1910 film made by Edison Studios that was written and directed by J. Searle Dawley. It was the first motion picture adaptation of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. The unbilled cast included Augustus Phillips as Dr. Frankenstein, Charles Ogle as the Monster, and Mary Fuller as the doctor's fiancée.

Shot in three days, it was filmed at the Edison Studios in the Bronx, New York City. Although some sources credit Thomas Edison as the producer, he in fact played no direct part in the activities of the motion picture company that bore his name.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Adaptation Addict: When Is A Movie As Good As The Book? | Airlock Alpha

A comparison between successful remakes and the new Percy Jackson movie helps answer the question.
(This column may contain spoilers for "Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief")

I like nothing better than taking something like a good book or comic and seeing it well done in another medium. Whether I watch on the television or especially in a movie theater, I sit in absolute anticipation that what I loved in the original will still be there on the screen.

That feeling of adoration that I had for certain characters or interest in a compelling storyline drives me to keep trying again and again. There is nothing better than to walk away from a movie remake thinking that the writers, the director, and the cast absolutely nailed it, or in the case of the Lord of the Rings trilogy movies made it even slightly better.

But there is nothing like that feeling of “meh” or even utter disappointment when walking away from a poorly done adaptation. 

A lot of excitement can surround a film adaptation of a good book. There have been some very nicely done film remakes in past years, although I am still on the fence as to how well done the Twilight series is as far as being representative of the books (please don’t send me hate e-mails). However, the second film did do a better job than the first.

I think that the Harry Potter series qualifies to be at the top of that list. But what makes that series and other successes work? And what makes others absolutely fail? 

These were the questions that I was considering while sitting through the latest adaptation “Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief.” 

Many reviewers are calling the new Percy Jackson movie the new Harry Potter, and because of this I anticipated an absolutely fun time like I had when reading the first of Rick Riordan’s book series. I can definitely see the similarities between the two series: it is a coming of age story for a young teenage boy, there are magical powers involved, there are interesting characters, and there is a lot of action.  

While making a judgment on “Percy Jackson,” let’s compare it to what the Harry Potter series does well. 

First of all and maybe most importantly, the Harry Potter series remains very faithful to the books. One of the key reasons is because author J.K. Rowling was very involved in the approval of the scripts. She even steered them away from unfaithful scenes that wouldn’t match the books, like when they wanted to give Dumbledore a girlfriend in a flashback. 

On his official Web site, Riordan admits to having sold the movie rights to Disney more than five years ago and even before the first book was published so that it could get more publicity. This means that the screenwriters for the movie had every opportunity to make changes that they wanted to. That decision may have helped the book and the rest of the five-book series gain the popularity that it now has, but I can bet there were some changes to the basic story that may have made Riordan regret this decision.

Unlike Harry Potter where we are introduced to several colorful characters, there were only a few of the major characters present in “Percy Jackson." I don’t know if they think that we viewers are incapable of meeting multiple characters or if the choice was made in the name of streamlining the plot. But there were some characters, albeit not the most important ones, that I missed and that I think will be essential if they choose to film all five of the book series.

More importantly, since Percy is dealing with the Olympians, you would expect him to interact with more than just Zeus, Athena, Poseidon and Hades. In fact, there was a complete omission of Ares and his house at Camp Half Blood.

Speaking of Camp Half Blood, one of the fun aspects of Percy discovering his demigod status and joining everyone at the camp is his placement. Yes, it is very reminiscent of the Sorting Hat at Hogwarts. But at Camp Half Blood, your house is chosen when the god that sired you claims you. One of the things that make an adaptation at least satisfactory if not completely successful is staying true to the basic plot. In order to do this, the writers have to go to the source material and find the important plot kernels that need to stay to maintain faithfulness.

In Harry Potter, although there have been plot points that have had to be dropped because of adapting 600-plus pages into a two-hour movie, the basic and most important kernels remain. My biggest complaint about the “Percy Jackson” movie is that they changed the major storyline of the chief gods Zeus and Poseidon not claiming their children, which makes them an anomaly at the camp. The feelings of abandonment and father issues that Percy and other demigods feel make the characters more fascinating.  
Take away the flaws and complications, and movie Percy becomes very flat. Also, if they want to continue the series, the issue of god parenting becomes extremely important. 

I know that in order to make a movie from a book a reasonable length, changes have to be made. Only Peter Jackson was daring enough to take extra scenes that were straight out of the books, film and score them, and add them as extended versions to appease the diehard fans.  

Harry Potter, and now possibly the last Twilight book, took the lengthy last books of the series and split them into two movies in order to do it justice. For a smaller book like “Percy Jackson,” I wonder why they had to make such a major change that ultimately took away from what could have been a film success. 

Was there anything I liked about the movie version of “Percy Jackson”? Absolutely. I liked the actor they chose for Percy, but I bet he could have handled the more complex character of the book. I think that they brought the setting of the book into our modern world very well, although I think that some of the songs that they chose will date the movie in the future, whereas Harry Potter will always seem timeless.  

My favorite part of the movie was the character Grover who I think added even more cheekiness than the character in the book did. But I wonder whether or not they will make more of the book series. If they do, they’ll have to make up for some plot points that they chose to change. 

If I had to choose between the movie or the book, I’m afraid that for “Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief,” the movie’s deficiencies affect its fun factor. My advice to those that liked the book is to wait for the DVD or reread the book.  

For those who haven’t read the book yet, it’s your choice whether to spend your money at your local bookstore or at the movie theater for this one. However, I am not deterred and will return to the theater for many upcoming adaptations including the updated “Clash of the Titans” and Tim Burton’s vision of “Alice in Wonderland.”

Adaptation Addict: When Is A Movie As Good As The Book? | Airlock Alpha