June 2008 Archives

"Mausoleums, statues, monuments will never be erected to me ... Panegyrical romances will never be written, nor flattering orations spoken, to transmit me to posterity in brilliant colors."

So wrote John Adams to his friend Benjamin Rush in March 1809. He was right, in a way. Pigeons looking for a likeness of the unprepossessing second president of the United States will have to unload elsewhere. But TV viewers looking for the same thing are in luck: HBO is about to air again its extraordinary miniseries, John Adams, starting July 4.

I recently wrote an appreciative essay about this miniseries that also gives a quick overview of the slim pickings of films and TV shows dealing with the American Revolution.  Here 'tis ...
June 29, 2008 7:31 PM |
When Khaled Hosseini's novel The Kite Runner was first published, so many friends recommended it, I felt obliged to read it all the way through, even though my reaction was "Good story, uneven writing, will make a great movie."  Whatever else may be said of Mr. Hosseini, now a celebrity, his English prose is not getting any subtler.  And to judge by his second novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns, his tendency to belabor the obvious is getting unjustifiably rewarded.

Oh, well.  What would the book clubs of the world do without authors willing to provide pre-emptive answers to the "study questions" shoved at them by helpful publishers?  Readers who do not need such crutches can always go back to the classics.

Or watch the film, which in the case of The Kite Runner is a work of art quite superior to the book.  One of its many merits is that the director,  German-born Marc Forster, wisely decided to have the characters speak in whatever language is appropriate: Dari, Pashtu, Urdu, Russian, and English.  This may cut slightly into the film's US box office, but once in a while, it's good to remind Americans that not everyone speaks our language.

Further, the film was shot in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of far western China, and it looks so authentic, some Afghans who saw the premiere commented that they felt transported back to Kabul in the 1970s.  Unfortunately, a crucial scene where a young boy from the Hazara ethnic group is raped by some older boys proved sufficiently shocking to the Afghan authorities that the film is banned in that country -- and the young actors and their families had to be relocated in the United Arab Emirates.

Yet these troubles only vouch for the film's authenticity, which shines through all the necessary artifice of its high production values.  The cast is excellent, including the young stars who had never acted before, and Khalid Abdallah, a Scottish actor of Egyptian background, as the writer-narrator trying to redeem a youthful act of cowardice.  And most of all, this best-selling novel has been spared the Hollywood treatment that would only have accentuated its weaknesses.
June 14, 2008 11:59 AM |


Me Elsewhere


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