One consolation of seeing leaves turn yellow (yes, I’m seeing it already) is the kick-off of fall Film Festivals. This year at TIFF and NYFF, there are several movie adaptations of books and stage plays. The following are some titles announced so far. (Images below are book covers. For film images click on links.)
Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF Sept. 4 – 14)
I don’t like to compare, but for this one, the film version may just be better than the book which I found disappointing considering the appealing title. With a globe-trotting storyline, what better way to experience it than to see the sights and hear the sounds on the big screen. But of course, how it’s adapted is crucial. Considering the cast, I hope the film can bring at least a couple hours of happiness: Simon Pegg, Rosamund Pike, Toni Collette, Stellan Skarsgård, Christopher Plummer.
In this adaptation of Roth’s 30th book (published 2009), Al Pacino plays the older man attempting to experience a total rejuvenation via an affair with a much younger woman, played by Greta Gerwig. Directed by Barry Levinson (Oscar Best Director for Rain Man, 1988). I’d read several of Roth’s previous books and learned not to be shocked by what he described. However, would I be interested to explore what’s in store in The Humbling? TIFF has about 300 films screening, I think I’ll let the diehard Roth or Pacino fans rush in for this one, albeit I’m quite fond of Greta Gerwig. BTW, a film adaptation of his Pulitzer Prize (1998) winning American Pastoral had been announced.
If Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past can be turned into graphic novels, Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet can be visualized in an animated film. Animations are not my usual movie choice in recent years but this time at TIFF I’d like to catch this one. The adaptation is a collaboration of international animation artists, voiced by Beasts of the Southern Wild‘s child star Quvenzhané Wallis, with Liam Neeson voicing the poet. Directed by Roger Allers, who is the writer and/or director of some memorable Disney collection such as The Little Matchgirl (2006), The Lion King (1994), Aladdin (1992), Beauty and the Beast (1991).
Newest film version of the 1888 play by Swedish playwright August Strindberg. Adapted and directed by Liv Ullmann, the famous Ingmar Bergman actress; maybe relevant here is her role in Persona (1966). Apparently, or maybe not so, Strindberg was exploring the psychological make-up of ‘womanhood’ and the complex interplay of nature, nurture, and circumstance. I finished reading the play with an apprehensive sigh… will this be a good role for Jessica Chastain? This is not a sympathetic character, Miss Julie, a confused, flirtatious mistress seducing her valet. A film that would rest mainly on character and acting. So maybe Chastain is a good choice. The valet? Colin Farrell, not too sure about that one. Samantha Morton’s the cook, thus forms the triangle of power play.
American playwright Israel Horowitz adapted his own 1996 stage play onto screen and directed it, with three prominent actors performing. This one is on my must-see list at TIFF. An American inherited from his late father a Paris apartment which to his surprise, is occupied by an old lady who, according to the legal arrangement, has the right to live there till she dies. Her daughter forms the invincible alliance. This entangled threesome: Two-time Oscar winner Maggie Smith (The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, California Suite), who will turn 80 later this year, her equally formidable daughter, Kristin Scott Thomas (Oscar nom for The English Patient), and the unlucky (or maybe not) American, Kevin Kline (Oscar winner for A Fish Called Wanda). Whether a stage play or film, these three would make a dream cast.
Julianne Moore plays an accomplished academic, Columbia (Harvard in book) University professor battling early onset Alzheimer’s disease, based on the novel by neuroscientist turned writer Lisa Genova. Genova first self-published her book, later Simon and Schuster picked it up and the rest is history. It’s now selling in 30 countries and translated into more than 20 languages. Genova, a Ph.D in neuroscience, gives much credibility to her book. How will the film pan out? Julianne Moore would be one who can deliver a nuanced performance. Cast includes Kristen Stewart and Alec Baldwin.
On the heels of his Oscar nominated Dallas Buyers Club last year, Canadian director Jean-Marc Vallée brings out a totally different kind of production. Wild is based on the NYT #1 Bestseller memoir by Cheryl Strayed. Screenplay by the reliable Nick Hornby (Oscar Best Adapted Screenplay nom for An Education, 2009). Following the death of her mother, Strayed, then 26, divorced, devastated, drugged, went on a long-distance hike, 1,100 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail through California and Oregon. ‘Wild’ has a double inference here: the nature trail and the character walking on it. The journey could well be redemptive and perilous at the same time. The books in Strayed’s backpack included Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor. Reese Witherspoon and Gaby Hoffmann star.
NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL (NYFF Sept. 26 – Oct. 2)
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
To open NYFF is the premiere of this highly anticipated film adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s popular suspense novel. Two-time Oscar Best Director nominee David Fincher (The Social Network, 2010; The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, 2009) helms. Yes, the buzz is also due to Ben Affleck (Oscar winner, Argo, 2012) playing the husband who finds his wife missing one day and thus begins the extraordinary sequence of events down the rabbit hole. Rosamund Pike plays the mysteriously gone girl. Yes, I’ve read the book. And just because of that, knowing the twists and ending, will I still be interested in watching this ‘suspense thriller’?
Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon
Five-time Academy Award nominee, writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson’s works include The Master (2012) and There Will Be Blood (2007) for which Daniel Day-Lewis won one of his three Best Actor Oscars. But the film I like best is his Punch-Drunk Love (2002). Author Pynchon’s most famous book probably is Gravity’s Rainbow, which I’ve only heard of but not read. Actually, I haven’t read any of Pynchon’s noir detective novels. Pot seems to be the motif. Anderson directs Joaquin Phoenix again after The Master, cast includes Reese Witherspoon, Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, Jena Malone.