Monday, December 24, 2007

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1945 (Full Movie)

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Adaptations of The Picture of Dorian Gray

Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890) has inspired many cinematic, literary, and artistic adaptations.


Listed in chronological order of release.

  • Dorian Grays Portræt (1910)
    Directed by Axel Strøm
    Starring Valdemar Psilander as Dorian Gray
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray (1913)
    Directed by Phillips Smalley
    Starring Wallace Reid as Dorian Gray
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray (1916)
    Directed by Fred W Durrant; screenplay by Rowland Talbot
    Starring Henry Victor as Dorian Gray; Sydney Bland as Basil Hallward; Jack Jordan as Henry Wotton; Pat O'Malley as Sybil Vane
  • Das Bildnis des Dorian Gray (1917)
    Directed by Richard Oswald; screenplay by Richard Oswald
    Starring Bernd Aldor as Dorian Gray; Ernst Ludwig as Basil Hallward; Ernst Pittschau as Henry Wotton; Lea Lara as Sibyl Vane
  • Az Élet királya (1918)
    Directed by Alfréd Deésy; screenplay by József Pakots
    Starring Norbert Dán as Dorian Gray; Gusztáv Turán as Basil Hallward; Bela Lugosi (credited as Arisztid Olt) as Henry Wotton; Ila Lóth as Sibyl Vane
Albright's painting of Dorian Gray, from the 1945 film
Albright's painting of Dorian Gray, from the 1945 film
  • Directed by Albert Lewin; screenplay by Albert Lewin
    Starring Hurd Hatfield as Dorian Gray; Lowell Gilmore as Basil Hallward; George Sanders as Henry Wotton; Angela Lansbury as Sibyl Vane. Lansbury was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Considered by many to be the best version, although a love interest not found in the novel appears; Basil Hallward's niece played by Donna Reed. The film won the Academy Award for Best Cinematography, and is remarkable for its crisp black-and-white photography, and a handful of technicolor shots of the portrait, which was painted originally by Henrique Medina. Ivan le Lorraine Albright made the changes during the production. The picture took Albright a year to finish and currently hangs at the Art Institute of Chicago.
  • Dorian Gray, also known as The Evils of Dorian Gray or The Secret of Dorian Gray (1970)
    Directed by Massimo Dallamano; screenplay by Marcello Coscia; Massimo Dallamano and Günter Ebert
    Starring Helmut Berger as Dorian Gray; Richard Todd as Basil Hallward; Herbert Lom as Henry Wotton; Marie Liljedahl as Sybil Vane
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray (1973) (made-for-television)
    Directed by Glenn Jordan; screenplay by John Tomerlin
    Starring Shane Briant as Dorian Gray; Charles Aidman as Basil Hallward; Nigel Davenport as Henry Wotton; Vanessa Howard as Sybil Vane
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray (1976) (made-for-television)
    Directed by John Gorrie; screenplay by John Osborne
    Starring Peter Firth as Dorian Gray; Jeremy Brett as Basil Hallward; John Gielgud as Henry Wotton; Judi Bowker as Sibyl Vane
  • Le Portrait de Dorian Gray (1977)
    Directed by Pierre Boutron; screenplay by Pierre Boutron
    Starring Patrice Alexsandre as Dorian Gray; Denis Manuel as Basil Hallward; Raymond Gérôme as Henry Wotton; Marie-Hélène Breillat as Sybil
  • The Sins of Dorian Gray (1983) (made-for-television)
    Directed by Tony Maylam; screenplay by Ken August and Peter Lawrence
    Starring Belinda Bauer as Dorian Gray; Anthony Perkins as Henry Lord
  • Dorian, also known as Pact with the Devil (2001)
    Directed by Allan A Goldstein; screenplay by Peter Jobin and Ron Raley
    Starring Ethan Erickson as Louis/Dorian; Malcolm McDowell as Henry Wotton; Amy Sloan as Sybil
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray (2002)
    Directed by David Rosenbaum; screenplay by David Rosenbaum
    Starring Josh Duhamel as Dorian Gray; Rainer Judd as Basil Ward; Branden Waugh as Harry Wotton (changed from Henry for unknown reasons); Darby Stanchfield as Sybil Vane; Brian Durkin as James Vane
  • The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003)
    Directed by Stephen Norrington
    Written by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill
    Starring Stuart Townsend as Dorian Gray
  • Dorian (2004)
    Written and Directed by Brendan Dougherty Russo
    Starring Andrew Vanette as Dorian Gray; Stephen Fontana as Basil Hallward; Michael Multari as Henry; Danielle Matarese as Sibyl Vane
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray (2004)
    Directed by David Rosenbaum; screenplay by David Rosenbaum
    Starring Josh Duhamel as Dorian Gray
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray (2006)
    Directed by Duncan Roy; screenplay by Duncan Roy
    Starring David Gallagher as Dorian Gray
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray (2007)
    Directed by Jon Cunningham; screenplay by Jon Cunningham and Deborah Warner


  • The Detritus of Dorian Gray appeared in a book of poems with the same title written by Kevin Max.
  • Dorian, an Imitation (2002) is a modern take of the original book, written by Will Self.

Plays and musicals

A theatrical production of The Picture of Dorian Gray was staged by John Osborne in the mid 1970s.

The Hungarian playwright Matyas Varkonyi wrote a musical of the book. It was premiered in 1990. Website.

The Canadian playwright Ted Dykstra, along with lyricist Steven Mayoff, wrote a musical titled Dorian based upon the book. The musical premiered in 2002 and is set in the late 1900s, with the character of Dorian transformed from a member of the idle rich to an aspiring young model.[1].

In 2006 a Czech musical based on the novel premiered in Prague [2].

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

The Picture of Dorian Gray is the only published novel written by Oscar Wilde, and first came out as the lead story in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine on June 20, 1890.[1] Wilde later revised this edition, making several alterations, and adding new chapters; the amended version was published by Ward, Lock, and Company in April 1891.[2]

The novel tells of a young man named Dorian Gray, the subject of a painting by artist Basil Hallward, who is greatly impressed by Dorian's physical beauty and becomes strongly infatuated with him, believing that his beauty is responsible for a new mode in his art. Talking in Basil's garden, Dorian meets Lord Henry Wotton, a friend of Basil's, and becomes enthralled by Lord Henry's world view. Espousing a new kind of hedonism, Lord Henry suggests that the only thing worth pursuing in life is beauty, and the fulfilment of the senses. Realising that one day his beauty will fade, Dorian cries out, wishing that the portrait Basil has painted of him would age rather than himself. Dorian's wish is fulfilled, subsequently plunging him into a series of debauched acts. The portrait serves as a reminder of the effect each act has upon his soul, with each sin being displayed as a disfigurement of his form, or through a sign of aging.

The Picture of Dorian Gray is considered one of the last works of classic gothic horror fiction with a strong Faustian theme.[3] It deals with the artistic movement of the decadents, and homosexuality, both of which caused some controversy when the book was first published. However, in modern times, the book has been referred to as "one of the modern classics of Western literature."[4]

Plot summary

The novel begins with Lord Henry Wotton observing the artist Basil Hallward painting the portrait of a handsome young man named Dorian Gray. Dorian arrives later, meeting Lord Henry Wotton. After hearing Lord Henry's world view, Dorian begins to think that beauty is the only worthwhile aspect of life, and the only thing left to pursue. He wishes that the portrait of him which Basil is painting would grow old instead of him. Under the influence of Lord Henry, Dorian begins an exploration of his senses. He discovers an actress, Sibyl Vane, who performs Shakespeare in a dingy theatre. Dorian approaches her, and very soon, proposes marriage. Sibyl, who refers to him as "Prince Charming", rushes home to tell her skeptical mother and brother. Her protective brother, James, tells her that if "Prince Charming" ever harms her, he will kill him.

Dorian then invites Basil and Lord Henry to see Sibyl perform in Romeo and Juliet. Sibyl, whose only previous knowledge of love was through the love of theatre, suddenly loses her acting abilities through the experience of true love with Dorian, and performs very badly. Dorian rejects her, saying that her beauty was in her art, and if she could no longer act, he was no longer interested in her. Once he returns home, Dorian notices that Basil's portrait of him has changed. After examining the painting, Dorian realizes that his wish has come true - the portrait's expression now bears a subtle sneer, and later ages with each grave sin committed, whilst his own outward appearance remains unchanged. He decides to reconcile with Sibyl, but Lord Henry arrives in the morning to say that Sibyl has killed herself by swallowing prussic acid. Over the next eighteen years he experiments with every vice, mostly under the influence of a "poisonous" French novel, a present from Lord Henry. Wilde never reveals the title but his inspiration was likely drawn from Joris-Karl Huysmans's À rebours (Against Nature) due to the likenesses that exist between The Picture of Dorian Gray and À rebours.[5]

One night before he leaves for Paris, Basil arrives to question Dorian about the rumours of his indulgences. Dorian does not deny the debauchery. He takes Basil to the portrait which is revealed to have become ugly under Dorian's sins. In a fit of anger, Dorian blames the artist for his fate, and stabs him to death. He then blackmails an old friend named Alan Cambell, who happened to be a chemist, into destroying the body. Wishing to escape his crime, Dorian travels to an opium den. James Vane happens to be nearby, and hears someone refer to Dorian as "Prince Charming". He follows Dorian out and attempts to shoot him, but he is deceived when Dorian asks James to look at him in the lane, saying that he is too young to have been involved with his sister eighteen years ago. James releases Dorian, but is approached by a woman from the opium den, who chastises him for not killing Dorian and tells him that Dorian has not aged for the past eighteen years.

Whilst at dinner one night, Dorian sees Sibyl Vane's brother stalking the grounds and fears for his life. However, during a game-shooting party the next day James is accidentally shot and killed by one of the hunters. After returning to London, Dorian informs Lord Henry that he will be good from now on, and has started by not breaking the heart of his latest innocent conquest, a vicar's daughter in a country town, named Hetty Merton. At his apartment, he wonders if the portrait would have begun to change back, losing its senile, sinful appearance, now that he has changed his immoral ways. He unveils the portrait to find that it has become worse. Seeing this he begins to question the motives behind his act, whether it was merely vanity, curiosity, or seeking new emotional excess. Deciding that only a full confession would truly absolve him, but lacking any guilt and fearing the consequences, he decides to destroy the last vestige of his conscience. In a fit of rage, he picks up the knife that killed Basil Hallward, and plunges it into the painting. Hearing his cry from inside the locked room, his servants send for the police, who find Dorian's body, suddenly aged and withered, beside the portrait, which has reverted to its original form; it is only through his rings that the corpse can be identified.

In a letter, Wilde stated that the main characters of The Picture of Dorian Gray are in different ways reflections of himself: "Basil Hallward is what I think I am: Lord Henry what the world thinks me: Dorian what I would like to be—in other ages, perhaps."[6]

* Dorian Gray - an extremely handsome young man who becomes enthralled with Lord Henry's idea of a new hedonism. He begins to indulge in every kind of pleasure, moral and immoral.
* Basil Hallward - an artist who becomes infatuated with Dorian's beauty. Dorian helps Basil to realise his artistic potential, as Basil's portrait of Dorian proves to be his finest work.
* Lord Henry Wotton - a nobleman who is a friend to Basil initially, but later becomes more intrigued with Dorian's beauty and naivety. Extremely witty, Lord Henry is seen as a critique of late Victorian culture espousing a view of indulgent hedonism. He corrupts Dorian with his world view, as Dorian attempts to emulate him. Basil calls him "Harry".
* Sibyl Vane - An extremely poor but beautiful actress with whom Dorian falls in love. Her love for Dorian destroys her acting career, as she no longer finds pleasure in portraying fictional love when she has a true love in reality.
* James Vane - Sibyl's brother who is to become a sailor and leave for Australia. He is extremely protective of his sister, especially as his mother is useless and concerned only with Dorian's money. He is hesitant to leave his sister, believing Dorian will harm her.
* Mrs. Vane - Sibyl and James's mother, an old and faded actress. She has consigned herself and Sibyl to a poor theatre house to pay her debts. She is extremely pleased when Sibyl meets Dorian, being impressed by his status and wealth.
* Alan Campbell - once a good friend of Dorian, he ended their friendship when Dorian's reputation began to come into question.
* Lady Agatha - Lord Henry’s aunt. Lady Agatha is active in charity work in the London slums.
* Lord Fermor - Lord Henry's uncle. He informs Lord Henry about Dorian's lineage.
* Victoria, Lady Henry Wotton - Lord Henry's wife, who only appears once in the novel whilst Dorian waits for Lord Henry. She later divorces Lord Henry in exchange for a pianist.
* Victor - a loyal servant to Dorian. Dorian's increasing paranoia, however, leads him to use Victor to complete pointless errands in an attempt to dissuade him from entering the room that houses Dorian's portrait.

Aestheticism and duplicity

Aestheticism is a strong theme in The Picture of Dorian Gray, and is tied in with the concept of the double life. Although Dorian is hedonistic, when Basil accuses him of making Lord Henry's sister's name a "by-word", Dorian replies "Take care, Basil. You go too far"[7] suggesting that Dorian still cares about his outward image and standing within Victorian society. Wilde highlights Dorian's pleasure of living a double life, describing how Dorian returns home sometimes to look at his portrait, and, when looking at the disfigurement of the portrait, "[grows] more and more enamoured of his own beauty, more and more interested in the corruption of his own soul."[8] Not only does Dorian enjoy this sensation in private, but he also feels "keenly the terrible pleasure of a double life" when attending a society gathering just 24 hours after committing a murder.

This duplicity and indulgence is most evident in Dorian's visits to the opium dens of London. Wilde conflates the images of the upper class and lower class by having the supposedly upright Dorian visit the impoverished districts of London. Lord Henry asserts that "crime belongs exclusively to the lower orders...I should fancy that crime was to them what art is to us, simply a method of procuring extraordinary sensations", which suggests that Dorian is both the criminal and the aesthete combined in one man. This is perhaps linked to Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, which Wilde admired.[9] The division that was witnessed in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, although extreme, is evident in Dorian Gray, who attempts to contain the two divergent parts of his personality, this is a recurring theme in many of the gothic novels of which "The Picture Of Dorian Gray" is one of the last.


The name "Dorian" has connotations of the Dorians, an ancient Hellenic tribe. Robert Mighall suggests that this could be Wilde hinting at a connection to "Greek love", a euphemism for the homoeroticism that was accepted as everyday in ancient Greece. Indeed, Dorian is described using the semantic field of the Greek Gods, being likened to Adonis, a person who looks as if "he were made of ivory and rose-leaves." However, Wilde does not mention any homosexual acts explicitly, and descriptions of Dorian's "sins" are often vague, although there does appear to be an element of homoeroticism in the competition between Lord Henry and Basil, both of whom compete for Dorian's attention. Both of them make comments about Dorian in praise of his good looks and youthful demeanour, Basil going as far to say that "as long as I live, the personality of Dorian Gray will dominate me."[10] However, whilst Basil is shunned, Dorian wishes to emulate Lord Henry, which in turn rouses Lord Henry from his "characteristic languor to a desire to influence Dorian, a process that is itself a sublimated expression of homosexuality."[11]

The later corruption of Dorian seems to make what was once a boyish charm become a destructive influence. Basil asks why Dorian's "friendship is so fatal to young men", commenting upon the "shame and sorrow" that the father of one of the disgraced boys displays. Dorian only destroys these men when he becomes "intimate" with them, suggesting that the friendships between Dorian and the men in question become more than simply Platonic. The shame associated with these relationships is bipartite: the families of the boys are upset that their sons may have indulged in a homosexual relationship with Dorian Gray, and also feel shame that they have now lost their place in society, their names having been sullied; their loss of status is encapsulated in Basil's questioning of Dorian: speaking of the Duke of Perth, a disgraced friend of Dorian's, he asks "what gentleman would associate with him?"[7] The novel is considered groundbreaking in the context that, in literature, "Dorian Gray was one of the first in a long list of hedonistic fellows whose homosexual tendencies secured a terrible fate."[12]


At one point, Dorian Gray attends a performance of Richard Wagner's opera, Tannhäuser, and is explicitly said to personally identify with the work. Indeed, the opera bears some striking resemblances with the novel, and, in short, tells the story of a medieval (and historically real) singer, whose art is so beautiful that he causes Venus, the goddess of love herself, to fall in love with him, and to offer him eternal life with her in the Venusburg. Tannhäuser becomes dissatisfied with his life there, however, and elects to return to the harsh world of reality, where, after taking part in a song-contest, he is sternly censured for his sensuality, and eventually dies in his search for repentance and the love of a good woman. It might even be argued that the end of the opera, in which a miracle announces the salvation of Tannhäuser's soul, suggests, perhaps, a more optimistic interpretation of Dorian's end than might otherwise be thought of.


Wilde himself stated that "in every first novel the hero is the author as Christ or Faust." As in Faust, a temptation is placed before the lead character Dorian, the potential for ageless beauty; Dorian indulges in this temptation. In both stories, the lead character entices a beautiful woman to love them and kills not only her, but also that woman's brother, who seeks revenge.[13] Wilde went on to say that the notion behind The Picture of Dorian Gray is "old in the history of literature" but was something to which he had "given a new form".[14]

Unlike Faust, there is no point at which Dorian makes a deal with the devil. However, Lord Henry's cynical outlook on life, and hedonistic nature seems to be in keeping with the idea of the devil's role, that of the temptation of the pure and innocent, qualities which Dorian exemplifies at the beginning of the book. Although Lord Henry takes an interest in Dorian, it does not seem that he is aware of the effect of his actions. However, Lord Henry advises Dorian that "the only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing";[15] in this sense, Lord Henry acts as the devil's advocate, "leading Dorian into an unholy pact by manipulating his innocence and insecurity."[16]

Tír na nÓg

Another Irish tale which was of influence is of Oisín and Tír na nÓg (Land of Eternal Youth), a salutory tale of temptation and consequences.[citation needed] See also the Japanese folktale, Urashima Tarō, which shares some similarities, and Rip van Winkle.


When Dorian is telling lord Henry Wotton about his new 'love', Sibyl Vane he refers to all of the Shakespearean plays she has been in, referring to her as the heroine of each play. At a later time, he speaks of his life by quoting Hamlet.

Joris-Karl Huysmans

Dorian Gray's "poisonous French novel" is most likely Huysmans' À rebours.

Literary significance

The Picture of Dorian Gray began as a short novel submitted to Lippincott's Monthly Magazine. In 1889, J. M. Stoddart, a proprietor for Lippincott, was in London to solicit short novels for the magazine. Wilde submitted the first version of The Picture of Dorian Gray, which was published on 20 June 1890 in the July edition of Lippincott's. There was a delay in getting Wilde's work to press whilst numerous changes were made to the manuscripts of the novel (some of which survive to this day). Some of these changes were made at Wilde's instigation, and some at Stoddart's. Wilde removed all references to the fictitious book "Le Secret de Raoul", and to its fictitious author, Catulle Sarrazin. The book and its author are still referred to in the published versions of the novel, but are unnamed.

Wilde also attempted to moderate some of the more homoerotic instances in the book, or instances whereby the intentions of the characters may be misconstrued. In the 1890 edition, Basil tells Henry how he "worships" Dorian, and begs him not to "take away the one person that makes my life absolutely lovely to me." The focus for Basil in the 1890 edition seems to be more towards love, whereas the Basil of the 1891 edition cares more for his art, saying "the one person who gives my art whatever charm it may possess: my life as an artist depends on him." The book was also extended greatly: the original thirteen chapters became twenty, and the final chapter was divided into two new chapters. The additions involved the "fleshing out of Dorian as a character" and also provided details about his ancestry, which helped to make his "psychological collapse more prolonged and more convincing."[17]The character of James Vane was also introduced, which helped to elaborate upon Sibyl Vane's character and background; the addition of the character helped to emphasise and foreshadow Dorian's selfish ways, as James foresees Dorian's character, and guesses upon his future dishonourable actions (the inclusion of James Vane's sub-plot also gives the novel a more typically Victorian tinge, part of Wilde's attempts to decrease the controversy surrounding the book). Another notable change is that, in the latter half of the novel, events were specified as taking place around Dorian Gray's 32nd birthday, on 7 November. After the changes, they were specified as taking place around Dorian Gray's 38th birthday, on 9 November, thereby extending the period of time over which the story occurs. The former date is also significant in that it coincides with the year in Wilde's life during which he was introduced to homosexual practices.

The preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray was added, along with other amendments, after the edition published in Lippincott's received criticism. Wilde used it to address these criticisms and defend the novel's reputation.[18] It consists of a collection of statements about the role of the artist, art itself, the value of beauty, and serves as an indicator of the way in which Wilde intends the novel to be read, as well as traces of Wilde's exposure to Daoism and the writings of Zhuangzi. Shortly before penning the preface, Wilde reviewed Herbert A. Giles's translation of the writings of the Chinese Daoist philosopher.[19] In his review, he writes:

The honest ratepayer and his healthy family have no doubt often mocked at the dome-like forehead of the philosopher, and laughed over the strange perspective of the landscape that lies beneath him. If they really knew who he was, they would tremble. For Chuang Tsǔ spent his life in preaching the great creed of Inaction, and in pointing out the uselessness of all things.[20]

Overall, initial critical reception of the book was poor, with the book gaining "certain notoriety for being 'mawkish and nauseous,' 'unclean,' 'effeminate,' and 'contaminating.'"[21] This had much to do with the novel's homoerotic overtones, which caused something of a sensation amongst Victorian critics when first published. A large portion of the criticism was levelled at Wilde's perceived hedonism, and its distorted views of conventional morality. The Daily Chronicle of 30 June 1890 suggests that Wilde's novel contains "one element...which will taint every young mind that comes in contact with it." Although the element is not named explicitly, the homoeroticism of the novel, especially of the first edition, seems the likely subject. The Scots Observer of 5 July 1890 asks why Wilde must "go grubbing in muck-heaps?” Wilde responded to such criticisms by curtailing some of the homoerotic tendencies, and by adding six chapters to the book in an effort to add background.[22]

Allusions from other works

* Numerous songs and band names reference The Picture of Dorian Gray or its title character.
o Morrissey has made many references to Wilde's works; in the song "Glamorous Glue", Morrissey quotes Dorian's affirmation that he is "too much in love" to marry.[23]
o The Libertines also mention Dorian in their song "Narcissist", questioning the worth of being narcissistic.
o U2 also reference Dorian Gray in the song "The Ocean"
o Television Personalities has a song named "A Picture of Dorian Gray"
o Critical Mass has a song called "Dorian Gray", dealing with pornography
o James Blunt used the line "hides my true shape, like Dorian Gray" in his song "Tears and Rain"
o an industrial metal electronica group have also named themselves after the lead character Dorian Gray
o in "Scream," a song about lost love, the band Kill Hannah mention Sibyl Vane as an allusion to committing suicide
o in "You Ruined Everything," the American singer-songwriter Kristeen Young also alludes to Sibyl and her loss of artistic power after falling in love
o in Liz Phair's H.W.C., a song about the youth-giving effects of a male's semen, she sings: "Without you, I'm just another Dorian Gray"
o the song "Dorian" by the band Demons and Wizards, which specifically recalls the story of Dorian Gray
o INXS alludes to the novel in their song 'Who Pays The Price' which includes the lines 'As the years go by/Will it show on your face/Or stay hidden behind some door'
o The Futureheads have a song named 'A Picture of Dorian Gray'
o Farewell Flight also have a song named after Dorian Gray- 'The Murder of Dorian Gray' with the lyrics "Stare back, Dorian Grey, Your picture tells the story well...Stare back, Dorian Grey, Your mirror tells the story well"
o The American rock band Styx alludes to the book on their 1978 album Pieces of Eight. The song "Sing for the Day", written by Tommy Shaw, features the line: 'Ageless and timeless as Dorian Gray'
o A Swedish rock band named Dorian Gray also exists, with the first of their albums being titled The Sounds of Dorian Gray.
o Singer/songwriter Darren Hayes mentions Dorian Gray in his song "The Future Holds a Lion's Heart" from his fourth album. It features the line: 'When my heart was in the attic like The Picture of Dorian Gray'
o American glam metal band Mötley Crüe references Dorian Gray in their song "New Tattoo" in the line: "I could be your Dorian Gray."
o Heavy Metal band Savatage refers to Dorian Gray in the song Tonight He Grins Again from the album Streets: A Rock Opera: Something cold as pain, Burning inside my veins, I walk away, A shadow of Dorian Gray
* Will Self updated the novel by placing events in June 1981, a time according to Self when "Britain was in the process of burning most of its remaining illusions."[24] In Self's novel, the homoeroticism that was merely an undertone of the original work becomes an overt theme: Self's Dorian indulges in homosexual orgies. The portrait of Dorian is replaced with a postmodern piece of art involving video cassette recorders and televisions
* In Amanda Filipacchi's novel Nude Men, one of the main characters is Lady Henrietta, a painter of nude men, who is a female version of Lord Henry from The Picture of Dorian Gray. Like Lord Henry, she states her philosophies (which some might find immoral), in ways that make them sound very logical.
* Rick R. Reed also wrote A Face Without a Heart, a variation on The Picture of Dorian Gray; in lieu of a portrait, Reed has a sophisticated hologram which changes with each sin that Dorian commits
* The Picture of Dorian Gray was also parodied by contemporary journalist and novelist Robert S. Hichens in The Green Carnation
* The 2006 Irvine Welsh novel The Bedroom Secrets of the Master Chefs has a number of similarities with The Picture of Dorian Gray
* In Jasper Fforde's book The Fourth Bear, the protagonist Jack Spratt purchases a new car from a car dealership run by Dorian Gray. The car does not get damaged in accidents with a painting of the car in the boot getting damaged instead. The cars odometer also goes backward with it eventually been destroyed when it reaches zero.
* The American comic book series Starman has the unageing anti-hero The Shade discuss his own friendship with Oscar Wilde. The Shade insists that Dorian Gray is based on a real being, an immortal man who uses a demonic poster to steal souls. Interestingly the author made an error in having the character refer to the novel as the "Portrait of Dorian Gray." Although an unintentional mistake by the author this was later incorporated into a major plot elements for the character.
* Dorian Grey is also mentioned in the film The Seven Year Itch.
* In the third book of the Nancy Drew Girl Detective Super Mystery book series, Nancy participates in a TV reality show about solving mysteries. The name Dorian Gray and Oscar Wilde appear several times as clues (with one of the other cast members mentioning that it was a famous 19th century novel), and Nancy visits Wilde's grave in Paris.
* The character Dorian in the British science-fiction series Blake's Seven channels all his negative emotions and acts into a hideous creature living far beneath the surface of the planet Xenon, in much the same way as Dorian Gray. When the creature is killed, Dorian dies an horrific death.
* In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode Man of the People, Ambassador Alkar channels all his negative emotions into female 'receptacles' with whom he has bonded. The receptacles suffer from accelerated aging. When the bond is severed Alkar dies of sudden old age.
* In the American TV series Get Smart there is an episode from the fifth season called "Age Before Duty". In this episode, there is a scientist named Felix, who develops a paint that he calls "Dorian Gray". When this paint is used on a picture of somebody to retouch the picture, in order to make the person in it look old, the person ages extremely fast in real life (in a matter of hours; for instance, the episode begins with a man dying of old age, even though he is only 28 years old).
* Dr. John Dorian, the main character on the television show Scrubs, is a reference to Dorian Gray as Dr. Dorian frequently wanders off in fantasy daydreams. Dr. Robert Kelso, the chief of medicine at the fictional hospital in Scrubs is named after Lord Kelso.

Film, television and theatrical adaptations

Main article: Adaptations of The Picture of Dorian Gray

The Picture of Dorian Gray has been the subject of several film remakes.

* According to the BBC, the most notable adaptation was Albert Lewin's 1945 film The Picture of Dorian Gray,[25] which won an Oscar for "Best Cinematography, Black-and-White".[26] One of the most noted aspects of this version was Lewin's choice to portray the film in black and white despite the fact that technicolor was available at the time. Instead, he shot the film in black and white, and used a "breathtaking" technicolor effect to show the effects Dorian's actions have on the portrait.[27]
* The BBC created a highly regarded TV version in 1976, with Peter Firth as Dorian Gray.
* Dorian Gray was a character portrayed by Stuart Townsend in Stephen Norrington's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which was based on the graphic novel of the same name, written by Alan Moore. Dorian Gray was not originally included in Moore's graphic novel, and Dorian's inclusion was a decision made by Norrington. A "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" is assembled in an attempt to stop the villain "The Fantom" from destroying Venice. Dorian Gray is selected for his immortality; however, the film version expands upon the novel by suggesting that not only does the portrait keep Dorian from aging, but also from suffering injuries. In addition, Dorian is unable to look at his own portrait; if he does, then the "spell" will be broken, and his powers will be lost — effectively killing him, as he had already reached an age impossible for any mortal being, as well as suffered numerous injuries. During the film, he is revealed to have had a past relationship with fellow immortal Mina Harker — here a vampire — but it is later revealed that he is actually a double agent, secretly working for the Fantom, who has stolen his portrait to blackmail him into acquiring samples of the other League members so that he can duplicate their powers. At the conclusion of the film, Dorian fights Mina in a duel, which ends when he is pinned to the wall with his own sword and forced to look at his portrait, turning him to dust in a matter of seconds.[28]
* A new film version of The Picture of Dorian Gray is currently in production, directed by Jon Cunningham and filmed in the Czech Republic.[29]
* The Faustian theme of The Picture of Dorian Gray has also made it a popular choice for television, being adapted for use as a storyline for episodes in some television series':
o The theme of being able to remain young forever was used in the British science fiction TV show Blake's 7 in the episode Rescue which debuted season 4. In it a character named Dorian forces others to absorb his physical and mental defects via a monster he holds in a cave.
o Star Trek: The Next Generation also used the novel as inspiration for its 129th episode Man of the People. In the episode, an Ambassador Vel Alkar uses women as an object to which all of his negative aspects can be channelled. This results in the women's dispositions changing, each becoming more and more irritable. They also begin to age much more quickly, until they "burn out" and die. Deanna Troi becomes a near victim, until a plan is created to cause Vel Alkar to receive all of the emotions he has channelled away from himself. When this occurs, he rapidly ages and dies from his own emotions, much in the same way Dorian Gray does after confronting his portrait at the end of The Picture of Dorian Gray
* An operatic version of The Picture of Dorian Gray was staged by Lowell Liebermann. Liebermann wanted to base a play on The Picture of Dorian Gray because "the book made an impression on [him] as no other book has yet done".[30] Premiered at the Monte Carlo Opera in 1996,[31] Liebermann put a lot of emphasis on the musical score of the play, saying:

The entire opera is based on a twelve-note row which is used not serially, but tonally. It is first heard at the beginning of the opera in pizzicato cellos and basses. It is harmonised as Dorian's theme and then as the painting theme. As the painting disintegrates and becomes corrupted, so does its theme. The twelve consecutive scenes of the opera occur in the keys of the consecutive pitches of the note-row. In this manner the entire opera becomes one grand passacaglia, a variation of Dorian's theme, a picture of the picture---the tonal structure generated by a non-tonal device, a further metaphor for the form/content divide that generates the novel's dramatic structure.
—Opera World

* The afternoon ABC daytime drama Dark Shadows (1966-1971) featured a storyline clearly inspired by Wilde's novel, in which a portrait of Quentin Collins aged grotesquely while Collins himself remained youthful. ABC also presented an adaptation of Dorian Gray itself as a 1973 entry in its Movie of the Week series directed by Glenn Jordan, produced by Dan Curtis and starring Shane Briant.
* The Sins of Dorian Gray is a 1983 ABC television movie featuring Belinda Bauer as an actress whose first screen test as a young starlet ages, while she becomes a star known for remaining unusually youthful.

Footnotes and references

1. ^ The Picture of Dorian Gray (Penguin Classics) - Introduction
2. ^ Notes on The Picture of Dorian Gray - An overview of the text, sources, influences, themes and a summary of The Picture of Dorian Gray
3. ^ glbtq >> literature >> Ghost and Horror Fiction - a website which discusses ghost and horror fiction from the 19th century onwards (retrieved 30 July 2006)
4. ^ Books of the poet: Oscar Wilde - a website which gives synopses for several books, including The Picture of Dorian Gray (retrieved 27 August 2006
5. ^ Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray. Highbeam Research. Retrieved on 2007-04-26.
6. ^ The Modern Library - a synopsis of the book coupled with a short biography of Oscar Wilde (retrieved 6 July 2006)
7. ^ a b The Picture of Dorian Gray (Penguin Classics) - Chapter XII
8. ^ The Picture of Dorian Gray (Penguin Classics) - Chapter XI
9. ^ The Picture of Dorian Gray (Penguin Classics) - Introduction
10. ^ The Picture of Dorian Gray (Penguin Classics) - Chapter I
11. ^ glbtq >> literature >> Wilde, Oscar - an analysis of the works of Oscar Wilde (retrieved 29 July 2006)
12. ^ Meloy, Kilian (2007-09-24). "Influential Gay Characters in Literature". Retrieved on 2007-10-09.
13. ^ Oscar Wilde Quotes - a quote from Oscar Wilde about The Picture of Dorian Gray and its likeness to Faust (retrieved 7 July 2006)
14. ^ 'The Picture of Dorian Gray (Penguin Classics) - Preface
15. ^ The Picture of Dorian Gray (Penguin Classics) - Chapter II
16. ^ The Picture of Dorian Gray - a summary and commentary of Chapter II of The Picture of Dorian Gray (retrieved 29 July 2006)
17. ^ The Picture of Dorian Gray (Penguin Classics) - A Note on the Text
18. ^ GraderSave: ClassicNote - a summary and analysis of the book and its preface (retrieved 5 July 2006)
19. ^ The Preface first appeared with the publication of the novel in 1891. But by June of 1890, Wilde was defending his book (see The Letters of Oscar Wilde], Merlin Holland and Rupert Hart-Davis eds., Henry Holt (2000), ISBN 0-8050-5915-6 and The Artist as Critic, ed. Richard Ellmann, University of Chicago (1968), ISBN 0-226-89764-8 — where Wilde's review of Giles's translation is incorrectly identified with Confucius.) Wilde's review of Giles's translation was published in The Speaker of 8 February 1890.
20. ^ Ellmann, The Artist as Critic, 222.
21. ^ The Modern Library - a synopsis of the book coupled with a short biography of Oscar Wilde (retrieved 6 July 2006)
22. ^ CliffsNotes::The Picture of Dorian Gray - an introduction and overview the book (retrieved 5 July 2006)
23. ^ IMEAT - Morrissey's Sources - a site that chronicles The Smiths and Morrissey lyrics. This page deals sepecifically with the allusions to other works that can be found in Morrissey and The Smiths' lyrics (retrieved 26 August 2006)
24. ^ Observer review: Dorian by Will Self - a review of Will Self's reworking of The Picture of Dorian Gray (retrieved 26 August 2006)
25. ^ BBC - Films - review - a review of Albert Lewin's film version of The Picture of Dorian Gray (retrieved 27 August 2006
26. ^ Awards for The Picture of Dorian Gray - a list of awards presented to Albert Lewin's film version of The Picture of Dorian Gray (retrieved 27 August 2006)
27. ^ Movie Review - Picture of Dorian Gray, The - a review of Albert Lewin's film version of The Picture of Dorian Gray (retrieved 27 August 2006)
28. ^ Dorian Gray, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen - an overview of Dorian Gray as he is presented in the film The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (film) (retrieved 27 August 2006)
29. ^ IMDB listing for new movie (retrieved 21 June 2007)
30. ^'s Opera Insights: The Picture of Dorian Gray - a discussion of The Picture of Dorian Gray, and the play by the same name composed by Lowell Libermann (retrieved 30 August 2006])
31. ^ us Operaweb - The Picture of Dorian Gray - an overview of the operatic version of The Picture of Dorian Gray, with quotes from the composer (retrieved 30 August) 2006

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Reviews: Atonement

to read more please click on titles

Atonement / **** (R)

"Atonement" (R, 122 minutes) An event on the lawn of an English country house is misinterpreted by a 13-year-old girl, and leads her to a wicked lie that destroys all possibility of happiness her herself, hr older sister (Keira Knightley) and her sister's lover (James McAvoy). Begins in sheer happiness, ventures through the horror of the war in France and London, ends in darkest irony. One of the year's best films, a certain best picture nominee. Rating: Three stars.
The daughter of an upper-class British family (Keira Knightley) falls for a housekeeper’s son (James McAvoy), with tragic results.

Review: Atonement Sizzles In A Most Pleasing Manner

Atonement is great, but it's great like a magic trick in that I'm afraid talking about it, even a little, will disturb your experience. I'd like you to have the same journey I did - not knowing much about it, then perhaps giving it grudging respect midway through before finally succumbing fully to its charms as the final credits roll. This is the sort of film that's constructed to impress an audience without expectations of what it is... or what it's supposed to be.
The story, based on Ian…

Keira Knightley in Focus Features, Universal Pictures International's "Atonement"

Movie Review | 'Atonement': Lies, Guilt, Stiff Upper Lips

Atonement” is an almost classical example of how pointless, how diminishing, the transmutation of literature into film can be.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Romeo and Juliet on screen

Franco Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet (1968)

In putting Romeo and Juliet on screen, the director must set the action in a social context that illuminates the characters, and mediates between the Renaissance play and modern audiences.[1] In 1970, George Cukor commented on why his "stately" and "stodgy" 1936 adaptation had not stood the test of time, saying that if he had the opportinity to make it again he would "get the garlic and the mediterranean into it".[2] Yet that performance (featuring Norma Shearer and Leslie Howard, with a combined age over 75, as the teenage lovers) had garnered no fewer than four Oscar nominations.[3]

The films' openings highlight each director's care to establish authenticity: Cukor introduces his characters in a shot of a scene played on a proscenium stage; Renato Castellani's 1954 version opens with John Gielgud, famous as a stage Romeo, as the Prologue in Elizabethan doublet and hose; Zeffirelli sets his scene with an overview of Verona, and his Prologue, in voiceover, was another famous stage Romeo: Laurence Olivier. In contrast, Baz Luhrmann's 1996 film, Romeo + Juliet, was targeted at a young audience, and opens with images of television and print journalism.[4]

A particular difficulty for the screen-writer arises towards the end of the fourth act, where Shakespeare's play requires considerable compression to be effective on the big screen, without giving the impression of "cutting to the chase".[5] In Franco Zeffirelli's 1968 version, Juliet's return home from the Friar's cell, her submission to her father and the preparation for the wedding are drastically abbreviated, and the tomb scene is also cut short: Paris does not appear at all, and Benvolio (in the Balthazar role) is sent away but is not threatened.[6] In Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet, the screenplay allows Juliet to witness Romeo's death, and the role of the watch is cut, permitting Friar Lawrence to remain with Juliet and to be taken by surprise by her sudden suicide.[7]

In total, Shakespeare's play has been filmed over 40 times. In addition, several reworkings of the story have also been filmed, most notably West Side Story, Prokofiev's ballet and Romanoff and Juliet. Also, several theatrical films, such as Shakespeare in Love and Romeo Must Die, consciously use elements of Shakespeare's plot.


* Romeo and Juliet (USA, silent, 1908)
o J. Stuart Blackton director
o Florence Lawrence as Juliet
o Paul Panzer as Romeo
* Romeo and Juliet (USA, 1936)
o George Cukor director
o Norma Shearer as Juliet
o Leslie Howard as Romeo
o John Barrymore as Mercutio
o Andy Devine as Peter
+ The film received four Academy Awards nominations:
# Best Picture - Irving Thalberg, producer
# Best Actor in a Supporting Role - Basil Rathbone - as Tybalt
# Best Actress - Norma Shearer
# Best Art Direction - Cedric Gibbons, Fredric Hope and Edwin B. Willis
* Romeo and Juliet (UK, 1954)
o Renato Castellani director
o Susan Shentall as Juliet
o Laurence Harvey as Romeo
o Flora Robson as the Nurse
o Mervyn Johns as Friar Laurence.
* Romeo and Juliet (Italy, 1968)
o Franco Zeffirelli director
o Olivia Hussey as Juliet
o Leonard Whiting as Romeo
+ The film won two Academy Awards:
# best cinematography
# best costume design.
+ It had two further Academy Award nominations:
# Best Director
# Best Picture.
* BBC Television Shakespeare Romeo and Juliet (TV, UK, 1978), released in the USA as part of the "Complete Dramatic Works of William Shakespeare" series.
* The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet (USA, 1983)
o William Woodman director
o Blanche Baker as Juliet
o Alex Hyde-White as Romeo
* Romeo and Juliet (TV, UK, 1988)
o Joan Kemp-Welch director
o Ann Hasson as Juliet
o Christopher Neame as Romeo
* The Animated Shakespeare Romeo and Juliet (TV, Russia and UK, 1992)
o Efim Gamburg director
o Felicity Kendall as narrator
o Clare Holman as the voice of Juliet
o Linus Roache as the voice of Romeo
* Romeo+Juliet (aka “William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet”) (USA, 1996)
o Baz Luhrmann director
o Claire Danes as Juliet
o Leonardo DiCaprio as Romeo
+ The film received one Oscar nomination for Best Art Direction and Set Decoration (Catherine Martin and Brigitte Broch)


* Beneath the 12 Mile Reef (USA, 1953) transposes the general plot of the play to rival fishing families in Depression-era Florada.
* Romanoff and Juliet (USA, 1960) is a film of Peter Ustinov's theatrical Cold War adaptation.
* West Side Story (USA, 1961) is the film of a Broadway musical adaptation of the Romeo and Juliet story, set in 1950s New York, by Stephen Sondheim and Leonard Bernstein
o Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins directors
o Natalie Wood as Maria
* Romie-0 and Julie-8 (Canada, 1979) is a made-for-television animated film in which the two leads are depicted as robots who fall in love.
o Clive A. Smith, director
o Greg Swanson as the voice of Romie-0
o Donann Cavin as the voice of Julie-8
* The Sea Prince and the Fire Child (Japan, 1981) is an anime adaptation.
* Tromeo and Juliet (USA, 1996) is a "trash" adaptation, tagged: Body Piercing, Kinky Sex, Dismemberment. The Things That Made Shakespeare Great.
o Lloyd Kaufman director
o Lemmy from Motörhead as narrator.
o Jane Jensen as Juliet Capulet
o Will Keenan as Tromeo Que
* Love Is All There Is is a comic take on the tragic story, set in The Bronx, involving two Italian immigrant families who own opposing restaurants.
o Nathaniel Marston as Rosario (the Romeo character)
o Angelina Jolie as Gina (the Juliet character)
* Romeo Must Die (2000) is a martial arts film variation on the Romeo and Juliet theme.
o Andrzej Bartkowiak director
o Jet Li as Han
o Aaliyah as Trish O’Day
* حبك نار (Hobak Nar or Your love is fire) (Egypt, 2004) is an Egyptian film, setting the tragedy in modern Cairo.
* Pizza My Heart (USA, TV, 2005) is a comic adaptation set in Verona, New Jersey.
* Romeo & Juliet: Sealed with a Kiss (USA, 2006) is an animated adaptation of the story told with seals and features a kid-friendly happy ending.
* Romeo x Juliet (Japan, TV, 2007) is an anime series derived from the play.

Significant Parallels

* Theatre of Blood features a Shakespearean actor who takes poetic revenge on the critics who denied him recognition, including a fencing scene inspired by Romeo and Juliet.
* Shakespeare in Love dramatises the writing and first performance of Romeo and Juliet.

Films featuring performances

A number of films feature characters performing scenes from Romeo and Juliet, including the 1912 and 1982 film versions of Charles Dickens's Nicholas Nickleby, Cured Hams (1927), Drama De Luxe (1927), Broadway Fever (1928), The Hollywood Revue of 1929, Playmates (1941), Time Flies (1944), Les Amants de Verone (1944), Marjorie Morningstar (1958), Carry on Teacher (1959) Shakespeare Wallah (1965) and, significantly, Shakespeare in Love (1998).[8]


1. ^ Tatspaugh, Patricia "The Tragedy of Love on Film" in Jackson, Russell "The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare on Film" (Cambridge University Press, 2000, ISBN 0-521-63975-1) p.135
2. ^ Tatspaugh, p.136
3. ^ Tatspaugh, p.136
4. ^ Tatspaugh, p.136
5. ^ Jackson, Russell "From play-script to screenplay" in Jackson, Russell "The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare on Film" (Cambridge University Press, 2000, ISBN 0-521-63975-1) p.30
6. ^ Russell, p.30
7. ^ Russell, p.31
8. ^ McKernan, Luke and Terris, Olwen (eds.) "Walking Shadows: Shakespeare in the National Film and Television Archive" (British Film Institute, 1994, ISBN 0-85170-486-7) pp.141-156

Further reading

* Martin, Jennifer L. "Tights vs. Tattoos: Filmic Interpretations of 'Romeo and Juliet'." The English Journal. 92.1 Shakespeare for a New Age (Sep 2002) pp. 41-46 doi:10.2307/821945.
* Lehmann, Courtney. "Strictly Shakespeare? Dead Letters, Ghostly Fathers, and the Cultural Pathology of Authorship in Baz Luhrmann's 'William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet'." Shakespeare Quarterly. 52.2 (Summer 2001) pp. 189-221.

The text from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Review: The Kite Runner: A Stirring Tale of Redemption

By Laura Flanders, AlterNet. Posted December 15, 2007.


Khaled Hosseini's moving novel and film hits on all the right themes for a tale about the West and Afghanistan.

Within the first five minutes of the newly released film The Kite Runner, the leitmotif is laid out in a Karachi-to-California telephone call. Come home to Afghanistan, the protagonist, a young writer "Amir" is told by an ailing uncle. It won't be an easy journey, the uncle explains, but it's not too late: "There is a way to be good again."

At the level of metaphor, the film adaptation of Khaled Hosseini's best-selling novel is right on target. Abuse of power, remorse, shame, grief, guilt and the dream of redemption: They're exactly the right emotions to stir in a movie about the United States and Afghanistan. The Kite Runner is a tear-jerker for the politically conscious. Unfortunately, when it comes to real-life U.S.-Afghan relations, the metaphors hit more bases than what's actually on the screen.

Scripted by David Benioff (Troy) and directed by Marc Forster (Monster's Ball), the Kite Runner mostly follows the narrative of Hosseini's surprise hit, published in 2001. In 1970s Afghanistan, a wealthy widower's son, "Amir," romps through lush, cosmopolitan Kabul with his best (perhaps only) friend "Hassan," the family servant's son.

Kite Runner (theatrical trailer)

Clouds are gathering, of course, over the boys and their country. Afghanistan is slipping from a modern secular state into an internationally fuelled civil war. The elegant city of Amir's affluent father "Baba" is crumbling. (Playing the aristocrat turned gas station attendant, "Baba," Iranian Homayoun Ershadi turns in the standout performance of the film.) As ethnic tensions are stoked, loyal Hassan is brutally attacked by a gang of bullies while young Amir watches and does nothing. Soon afterwards, the Soviets invade Afghanistan, and the world does the same.

Hosseini has said that his story is about global indifference, "It foretells what happens to Afghanistan in the ensuing decade after the Soviet invasion. Afghanistan like Hassan, served a purpose. And once that purpose has been served, it is abandoned and brutalized and people just stand around and watch."

The symbolism is obvious. Hassan is loyal, adoring, obedient to a fault. He tells his master/friend Amir that he'd eat dirt if asked. Used, victimized and abandoned, Hassan is a transparent stand-in for Afghanistan, the buffer state brutalized in successive "Great Games" -- first between the Russian and British, and then the Soviet and U.S. empires.

There's just one glitch. Neither the Americans nor the British make an appearance. Religious zealots inexplicably emerge, cruel counterparts to cruel communists. Secular Kabul's caught in between. "The Mullahs want to control our souls. The communists say we have no souls," says Baba. There's no third player in this tale. There's no covert U.S. assistance to rebel Mujahadeen, for example, no paying of bullies to serve the Cold War.

We know from President Carter's advisor Zbigniew Brzezinkski that the official version of Afghan history is hokum. U.S. intervention didn't follow the Soviet Army's invasion, it preceded it. In a 1998 interview with Le Nouvel Observateur, Brzezinski recalled:

We didn't push the Russians to intervene, but we knowingly increased the probability that they would ... That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Soviets into the Afghan trap ... The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter. We now have the opportunity of giving to the Soviet Union its Vietnam War.

The only "American" in The Kite Runner is Amir, the guilt-ridden refugee who does as his uncle tells him. He goes to Afghanistan, performs an act of rescue and returns home redeemed. He gains his "manhood" while he's about it, proving he's not quite the pushover his father feared him to be.

Redemption for the United States will come harder.

In November 2001, Laura Bush promised rescue. "Our hearts break for the women and children in Afghanistan," she told the world in the middle of her husband's post 9-11 bombing campaign. "The fight against terrorism is a fight for the rights and dignity of women," said the First Lady. The U.S. Air Force was dropping 15,000-pound "daisy cutter" bombs on medieval Afghanistan at the time. Hillary Rodham Clinton wrote in Time Magazine: "We, as the liberators, have an interest in what follows the Taliban."

Ironically, or perhaps not so ironically, the talented child actors in The Kite Runner are now living in exile in the United Arab Emirates after their guardians voiced anxieties that they could be ostracized or targeted by ethnic and religious extremists. In the real world, what's "followed" the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan are more heavily armed warlords, more theocracy and more Taliban.

Some will say it's unfair to hold the movie of a novel to task for repeating the propaganda version of U.S. history, but the myth of the United States as macho rescuer is not only misleading, it's deadly -- for people in Afghanistan and around the world. Shed all the tears you like as you're watching, but don't leave the remorse in the cinema. Try as it might, Hollywood can't purge our guilt, or dissuade us of the need to act.

Top five movie adaptations of comic books

Movies meant for both the comic book enthusiast and the average moviegoer

By Mike Riga
, Brandeis University's Community Newspaper

So while we’re all anticipating the upcoming sequel to Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and the Watchmen adaptation, let’s take a moment to look back at what the latest comic book-inspired movie binge has brought us. It has brought us total and utterly unfaithful and terrible adaptations of comics like Judge Dredd and the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. We’ve seen visual power trips like the unintentionally hilarious 300, and some just general big time let-downs (The Incredible Hulk and every Spiderman movie come to mind).

However, regardless of how true the filmmaker keeps to source material, comics have provided a literary blueprint for many a movie, some of which have been excellent. There have been attempts at morbid dramas, like David Cronenberg’s A History of Violence, or some intentional romps into cliché and goof like Ghost Rider and the Fantastic Four series. However, here are five of my favorite recent comic book adaptations that have found themselves on the big screen.

5. Constantine

For a movie as critically panned as this one, I ask the reader to look past the source material. Certainly there are the discrepancies between the Hellblazer comic the movie is based on and the movie itself, most of all replacing a blonde, grumpy, British lead with Keanu Reeves (casting Reeves at all was probably not the best choice).

At the same time, however, director Francis Lawrence provides an action-packed, murky, and visually interesting thriller, with great supporting turns from Tilda Swinton, Peter Stormare, Rachel Weisz, and scene-stealer extraordinaire Shia LeBouf. The movie also keeps the interesting dynamic between heaven and hell going, and its depiction of Hell as well as Satan himself, is well-thought out and executed. It’s not a perfect movie, but fun nonetheless.

4. Sin City

Yes, it’s graphically violent, and most certainly not for everyone (or a large percentage of everyone for that matter), but Sin City is a totally absorbing experience. One of the signs of a successful film is its ability to transport the viewer into a world that is different from the one they know. Director Robert Rodriguez pulls this off using the latest in CGI and green-screen studio technology.

Following a series of lowlifes and noble scumbags in the murderous Basin City, the film is beautiful, gloriously and intentionally unrealistic, and full of eye candy, weapons, ridiculous stunts, and some great acting from an ensemble cast along the way. If you don’t like blood, guts, and sex stylized and deconstructed, don’t watch this movie. If you do, you will love Sin City.

3. Hellboy

Let’s get this straight; Hellboy is one of the most lovable superhero’s out there. A big cuddly red demon, which devours vats of spaghetti in one meal and loves kittens, Hellboy, played with a gruff, goofy, and lovable bravado by Ron Pearlman, exudes screen presence. Where movies like Sin City get by on frowns and action, Hellboy plays like a monster version of Indiana Jones, with adventure, humor, and romance. We don’t just get Hellboy fighting evil dog zombies, but we also get to see him toss little pebbles from rooftops at his ex’s new suitor and match wits with Arrested Development’s Jeffrey Tambor. It’s just a fun movie from director Guillermo del Toro, who would later move on to greater things, such as last year’s amazing Pan’s Labyrinth. If you are looking for just a great, cornball, popcorn film, Hellboy is it.

2. Road to Perdition

Many of you probably never thought the Tom Hanks crime and family thriller originated as a graphic novel, but it did. Following up his Oscar-winning film, American Beauty, Sam Mendes gave us this. What “this” is is a story of a father (Hanks) and son on the run from the father’s employer (Paul Newman), a mob boss. Hanks, who is the handy man for Newman, is pursued by Newman’s son, a spoiled, murderous brat, and a psychopathic assassin, played by Daniel Craig and Jude Law, respectively. The movie not only has great character depth, something Mendes has always been masterful with, but also has moments of nervous tension as pursuers meet pursued, tempered with small tender moments between father and son. It’s a brilliantly put together movie, with two or three scenes so well executed by the director that they should not be missed.

1. Batman Begins

The pinnacle of all superhero movies to this date, Batman Begins is the first Batman movie to stay true to the brooding, dark nature of the comics. Bruce Wayne, now played by the world’s best young actor, Christian Bale, is shown becoming Batman, and this allows director Christopher Nolan to expound upon the detailed nature of his hero’s psyche. There are no overtly comic quirks that plagued the Burton and Schumacher films, and the Dark Knight is portrayed as realistically as he possibly can be. You can almost imagine this film taking place in real life.

Gotham City is firmly realized, not as an industrial wasteland, or a bilious party town, but a dirty, working class metropolis peppered with interesting characters like Lt. Gordon (finally given respect by Gary Oldman) and the frightening Dr. Jonathan Crane (Cilian Murphy is creepy!). Overall, this may not be the greatest movie ever made, but it is hands down the best adaptation of a comic book to the big screen to this date, although my money is on The Dark Knight, where Batman meets his nemesis, the Joker, for the first time, creating some serious competition.

Comic book movies can be a lot of fun as pure popcorn entertainment, and can stretch from genres as wide as vampires (30 Days of Night) to outsider existentialism (Ghost World, American Splendor). Some comic book movie might even make you think. There are about 3 million more of these films coming out in the near future, so it is a good time to drop what you are doing and become a comic book geek while it’s still a subculture.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Interview: 'The Kite Runner' Novelist Khaled Hosseini


Born in Afghanistan in 1965, Khaled Hosseini left in 1976 as his family was relocated to Paris as part of his father's work for the diplomatic service. It was fortunate timing; while preparing to return to Kabul in 1980, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan plunged the nation into decades of chaos some would suggest it has yet to emerge from. Gaining political asylum in America, Hosseini's family moved to San Jose, California; after attending medical school, Hosseini worked as doctor in Los Angeles -- and wrote his first novel. Not only was The Kite Runner published, but it was on the New York Times best-seller list for over two years, and eventually printed in over 42 languages. Now, after years of development and no small share of controversy, The Kite Runner has come to the silver screen; after screening the film for the closing night of the 30th annual Mill Valley Film Festival, Hosseini spoke with a roundtable of journalists in San Francisco about the challenges of adaptation, the genesis and possible fallout of the film's controversial scene of sexual assault and his own memories of Afghanistan. Cinematical's questions are indicated.

Cinematical: What did you learn about the process of movie making going through this experience?

I underestimated the sheer amount of labor it takes to shoot the seemingly simplest scene, just the amount of work that goes just into setting up a scene and how each member of the team has to do their job exactly right, otherwise the whole thing falls apart. It's very labor intensive. It's also very monotonous. It's exciting in a way, but -- you're doing the same thing over and over and over again. So there's a sense of monotony. I underestimated how exhausting it was. The hours are very long and physically it's very demanding. I don't know how some of these guys do it for 10, 20, 30 years, especially the crew. It's a lot of hard work.

How involved were you in the process?

I was kind of a cultural consultant, a story consultant. Maybe the best way to illustrate it is with an example; I went to L.A. and sat in an office with the producers and we looked at hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of pictures that a scout had taken around the world. And they wanted me to kind of chime in and say if there was any locale that could be used to as stand in for 1970s Kabul. And we looked at Turkey and Tunisia, Morocco and India, Pakistan, but western China, the minute those pictures started coming up, I said, 'This place.' So they went out there and the Afghans who have seen the film are startled at the resemblance.

So that kind of thing – questions about dress, about food, about the way a home is decorated, a variety of things of that nature. But I didn't write the screenplay. Obviously, David (Benioff) did. I read the screenplay and we all kind of chimed in our ideas and David wrote another draft, but really it's his creation.

How do you feel the film captures Amir's betrayal of Hassan, the scene where the boy is attacked? From the work you had do creating that scene, how do you feel about seeing it on screen?

I think the scene was shot tastefully. I think in other hands, it could have really been exploitative, kind of graphic, and I don't think there's any need for that. When the boy walks out of the alley and you see the droplets of blood in the snow, I always feel this incredible moment in the audience where they go, 'Oh!' Suddenly, it elevates the film to another level. The stakes are raised at that moment. It's really a devastating moment.

(KH Continued:) We might as well talk about that scene. You probably have questions about it, since it's been in the news. But I feel that that scene is pivotal to the movie. There's been talk, people say, 'Maybe you should take away that scene. Take it out of the movie.' But then I think you have to scrap the whole movie, because what happens in that alley is so reprehensible that it scars the central character in a way and he carries the guilt of what happened there for the rest of his life, and is in many ways, it's the reason he goes back there and puts himself in danger's way to rescue a boy he's never met. I think if it was just a simple beating in the alley, it would stretch the limits of plausibility that he would be so affected by that. So I think the scene is pivotal.

On the other hand, I think that, because of the circumstances around that scene, because of the real-life circumstances that I'm sure we're going to talk about, that scene can't overshadow the story. Because even though that scene is pivotal, the movie is not about that scene, no more than the book is about that scene. This is not something – some of the headlines have said, 'The Kite Runner, a story about rape and sexual predators.' It's not a story of rape. It's not a story about sexual predators at all. And it's not a story about kites! [Laughs] It's a story about fallible people who make mistakes and pay for it in all sorts of way. It's a story about people and their children. It's a story about people losing their homeland. It's about forgiveness. It's about honor and cowardice. We have to look at the story in a more panoramic way, rather than myopically, focusing on one scene and having that scene kind of overshadow the story you're trying to tell. The film denounces that. The story denounces what happens in that alley.

Some people have said, you know, 'this film supports rape.' That's preposterous, absolutely preposterous. The spirit in which this film was made, the people involved in this film, the story of the film, is so antithetical to those charges.

How hard was it to create that scene in the book? Did you have alternative ways you wanted to do it? Or was that always the way you wanted to show it?

It was important to me that was happened in that alley was rape, because I can't think of an uglier crime. It's a crime where one person exerts their will in the ugliest, strongest fashion over another human being. To me, the scene when I was writing it, has a kind of allegorical dimension to it, as well, in many ways. A lot of Afghans feel, whether it's right or not is debatable, but nevertheless that's how they feel, what happens to Hassan in that alley -- after he runs that kite for Amir and after he has served his purpose – he is abused and raped, while Amir watches; they felt that is what happened in Afghanistan. Once a million Afghans died and the Soviets were defeated, which is no small way contributed to the end of the Cold War, once that happened, the international community just kind of watched while the Afghan community was brutalized by these warlords and by the extremists and the Taliban and they did nothing.

When I went to Afghanistan after I wrote the book, before it was published, it was chilling for me, because people would use that word 'rape.' In conversation, they would say, 'You know, people came and raped this country and nobody did anything.' It was just incredible for me to hear that, given that I had just written this novel with this scene, with that idea, and that I would hear it echoed in these people. It was a really remarkable experience.

Cinematical: Your protagonist is a writer, which can work very well in books. Writers are reactive, they're observational, they keep to themselves. Normally, the writer-protagonist doesn't terribly work well in film, because those very qualities don't work well on-screen. Do you feel like that jump translated on screen, or do you worry that audiences are going to watch Amir as a boy and as a man say, 'Why didn't he do something sooner?' Is film a slightly more dynamic medium than fiction for you?

I don't know. Amir is a writer. That's important in the novel, but I don't think it's all that central. It ties in with some of the themes in the story, Amir reading Hassan his new story and the power dynamics that were present. I find it hard, as well, to watch writers on screen and there are a whole slew of movies about writers, but I think Marc's approach to not focus too much on that was probably the right one, because it's a difficult thing to pull off. I think it's done with the right amount of balance. Actually, one of the things that is different about this film is that you actually get to hear some of his writing. Usually, you see the writers writing, but you never hear their actual writing, but there's that lovely piece that David Benioff wrote that he reads for his father at the bedside in the hospital. But, anyway, there are films about writers and some work really well and some that don't, but I don't really think this movie is per se about writers and writing.

Has the book been widely read in Afghanistan? Has it been translated?

To the extent that it can be read in a country where 70% of the people are illiterate. There's virtually no awareness of it, I think, in the countryside. Within the urban areas, much more, but even then, basically among the educated professionals. A lot of people are [illiterate]. That's hopefully changing how. I think one of the successes of Mr. Karzai's regime has been in the field of education. That tide is turning.

There is awareness. I was in Kabul last month and I found that the awareness of my book was largely in the expat community. But film was different. Film is a whole different medium.

Cinematical: If you hear that there are pirated copies of the film The Kite Runner being sold in Kabul, will you feel depressed or vindicated?

That's a fait accompli. That's going to happen within days of the film's release. Nobody can kid themselves about that. That's just reality. It's not my film per se, so I won't feel any more – there are pirated copies of my book, you know, in Iran, where it's had multiple printings. They're written my letters that said, 'We're going to publish your book. Unfortunately, we don't have copyright laws, so we're going to publish your book. We just wanted to let you know.'

The imagery that really comes across in the book and the film is of the kite flying and the kite running. Can you speak about where you came up with that?

That's one of the central images of my own childhood. I spent a lot of winters in my childhood flying kites with my brother, with my cousins, with friends in the neighborhood. It's what we did in the winter. Schools close down. There was not much to do. There was a movie theater that played the same film for three or four weeks, so you had to find something – we flew kites is what we did. And the way they're shown in the film is really kind of exhilarating that you're up there with the kite. It's quite thrilling the way the special effects guys have pulled that off. Visually, it's pretty breathtaking.

There was a kite master on the set, a guy whose life is – he's a kite fanatic. He's from Afghanistan and he's a master kite flyer himself. He was on the set throughout the shoot in China. He helped choreograph all the kite scenes and he taught the kids how to hold string and how to do it convincingly. A lot of energy went into creating those scenes.

How many years was it from the time you left Afghanistan until you were able to visit again, and what was the most shocking thing you found on returning?

27 years. I left when I was 11. I went back when I was 38. The most shocking thing was actually seeing with my own eyes and walking and feeling with my own hands just the devastating effect of two decades of war. And seeing the people who were affected by it. And seeing the neighborhoods that I knew from the '70s demolished, obliterated essentially. It was quite shocking. It's one thing to see it on TV. It's another thing to actually walk in the streets and see those homes completely razed and imagine what is must have been like the moment a rocket hit that home, who was present, who was inside that home. People would say "There are still bodies underneath those things."

Cinematical: When they signed Marc, did you breathe a huge sigh of relief that you didn't have to think about imagining Michael Bay's The Kite Runner or some other worst-case scenario?

That was never a real fear, because I didn't option the book to people who would hire Michael Bay to direct The Kite Runner. Bill Horberg and Rebecca Yeldham are very literate, well read, smart, eloquent people who have adapted several novels to the screen and haven't gone that route. I enjoyed all three of Bill Horberg's adaptations, The Quiet American, Cold Mountain, and The Talented Mr. Ripley. I thought all were classy production and had a lot of merit, so I didn't really fear that that was going to happen.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Review: Love in the Time of Cholera


One of the most beloved literary classics of the 20th century -- and rightfully so -- the 1985 novel Love in the Time of Cholera by the Colombian-born Gabriel García Márquez made its first cinematic appearance in 2001. In Peter Chelsom's Serendipity, it was the book in which the playful Sara (Kate Beckinsale) wrote her name and phone number, in the hopes that her would-be lover Jonathan (John Cusack) would find it. He spends years searching for it, flipping through every copy of the book that he can find. That movie doesn't have many fans, but I'm fond of it, and in a way, it's truer to the spirit of Márquez's novel than Mike Newell's more straightforward movie adaptation that opens in theaters this week. Whereas Chelsom's film attempted to capture the feel of the novel, Newell's film attempts nothing more than a translation.

That's a big problem right there. The novel was originally written in Spanish, and though the English translation is quite beautiful, it's still a translation. The new movie is filmed in English, so it's an adaptation of a translation. Then, we have a director from England, Mike Newell, who has absolutely no cultural connection to the Caribbean, where the story is set. Of course, no director could perfectly, accurately represent the novel on the screen, but it's possible to start from a slightly better vantage point. On top of that, the story takes place over fifty years, which in a novel is no problem. But in a movie it requires layers of age makeup, a process that, as movie technology gets better and better, seems to get worse and worse (imagine how awful this will look on HD-DVD or Blu-Ray six months from now). And, on an emotional level, stories that cover that kind of immense time span tend to leave out life's most innocuous, but telling and truthful, moments in favor of great plot lurches and story highlights. It becomes like a Reader's Digest "condensed novel."

Javier Bardem plays Florentino Ariza, the slightly awkward but practical young man who falls for Fermina Daza (Giovanna Mezzogiorno) and waits for her for over half a century. During that time, because of family conflicts, Fermina marries Dr. Juvenal Urbino (Benjamin Bratt). While Florentino waits for their nuptial ties to unravel either by death or divorce, he watches his fortunes grow and becomes a lover extraordinaire, so accomplished in bed that Hugh Hefner would tip his hat. Oddly, the movie chooses to cast another actor (Unax Ugalde) as the young Florentino, then slathers him in makeup to give him something closer to Bardem's blocky face; he looks like the Elephant Man. (How Fermina could fall for this beast in the early parts of the film is a mystery.) Meanwhile, Miss Mezzogiorno is expected to carry the entire fifty years all by herself, without the benefit of younger or older look-alikes. Both actors struggle with the age aspect; Bardem tries to act gawky and awkward while young, and in old age, both make various attempts to be creaky and stooped. None of it works, and the actors only appear vaguely comfortable during the middle section, and closer to their own real ages. (Mezzogiorno is 33 and Bardem is 38.)

Yet, in spite of all these layers of problems, the journeyman Newell gives the movie a very welcome light touch, as opposed to the severe, reverential approach that, say, Merchant-Ivory would have brought to such an important novel. After all, the story is slightly absurd and slightly magical, and Newell seems to understand that (perhaps it helps that he just came off of a Harry Potter movie). He keeps it sunny and a bit goofy: in one sequence, working as a letter-reader and letter-writer for the illiterate peasants, Florentino serves a man and a woman in love with one another and winds up writing letters to himself! In another, when Dr. Urbino unexpectedly pays a call, Florentino attempts to keep his cool, but allows himself a few seconds of panic while searching through a drawer.

Aside from the makeup troubles, Bardem manages to keep a wry smile behind his line readings, as if he were amused by the whole charade. He grows more and more comfortable with his seductions, and his ease and confidence rubs off on us. Likewise, the casting of the slightly loony John Leguizamo as Fermina's father and the easygoing Bratt as Fermina's lawful husband makes the movie more relaxed and lively. However, these small points are only an oasis in a sea of troubles. Marquez's work is huge, passionate, amazing and magical, and it's difficult for movies to capture all that without resorting to spectacle or bombast. Newell gets points for approaching it with calmness and confidence, but I suspect that the true man for the job should have been Alfonso Cuaron (another Harry Potter vet), whose collective films embody broad humor, erotic passion and magical realism as well as a beautiful intimacy. As with Serendipity, Cuaron might have found a device to get closer to the essence of Florentino and Fermina without letting all that makeup get in the way.