Friday, December 03, 2010

Watching and reading

I suppose it is 71 years late, but over the past two evenings we have been watching Gone With The Wind. It was prompted by my wife deciding to read Scarlett the fairly recent sequel to Margaret Mitchell's magnum opus. It has been about 40 years since she read the original, so the get up to date for the start of the sequel we decided to watch the movie.

It is very melodramatic of course and the acting style is dated, but I was surprised at just how good it was. Clark Gable gives a great performance, as does Olivia de Havilland. I can't get on with Leslie Howard's tedious patrician nor Vivien Leigh's spoiled brat. But the production values were superb.

We have also watched two other films from the same era, both directed by Henry Hathaway. The House on 92nd Street and Call Northside 777 were both made in a semi-documentary style on location. The first is about the immediately pre-war and wartime FBI and German spies, and the latter about a reporter, James Stewart, who seeks to right an miscarriage of justice.

These films are to be commended because of the sharpness of their cinematography, the clarity of the plot line and the effective performances of the principals. You can hear every spoken word!

I've also been reading through some books. Another Minnette Walters, The Chameleon's Shadow, is a splendid read. The protagonist is an army captain returned from Iraq terribly injured from an IED. When someone tells him he is lucky to be alive, he reacts angrily. If he were really lucky the device would have left him intact and killed someone else. His anger does not stem from his injuries, though - he can bear them - it is a broken relationship that makes him hate women.

He gets caught up in a murder mystery - three old men have been killed, at least two of them gay. This is a psychological thriller and well up to Miss Walters' usual standard. I have also read No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy. I found it hard to like at first, since McCarthy is no Jane Austen. The style is strange. It reads more like a screenplay. It is almost all spoken of unspoken dialogue and there is hardly a sentence with a verb in it. In addition it is mostly in a southern Texas dialect. A young man out hunting deer comes across 8 bodies, a load of drugs and 2.4 million dollars in a drug deal gone wrong. He takes the money and runs. Big mistake. One of the characters is the most unmitigated villain I have come across yet one of the most moral. In part it is a novel about the disintegration of western society. In part it is about the integral violence of America. In part it is about the loss of religion. In the end it is a great book, but a strange one belonging to a different literary genre than most of what passes as a novel.

1 comment:

Sylvie said...

Terry, I love the film Gone With The Wind. However, I took the book on holiday with me some years ago and have to say it is one of the best books I have ever read. I finished the book with sympathy for Scarlett and the way she tried so hard to hold things together. I didn't feel this in the film. One day I must read it again to see if I get the same reaction. Maybe during one of my hospital inpatient stays!