Sunday, June 22, 2008

Books and films

My book group has devised a course of meetings where we read a book and see the film version for comparison. Our first one is The Painted Veil by Somerset Maugham.

I read a lot of S Maugham when I was in my twenties. Absolutely loved his depictions of the British colonial life and his succinct sparse prose which cut straight to the heart of his characters revealing all their weaknesses and foibles. His short stories are wonderful. He deals with life's basics--love, loyalty, hate, fear, greed. Emotions which cross all boundaries of time, culture and race.

I enjoyed The Painted Veil as a movie but hadn't read the book. I'd forgotten just how good a writer he is. So far, the movie is a very faithful rendition. Naomi Watts and Edward Norton are easy to picture, as I read, in their roles of Kitty and Walter Fane. Similarly the countryside of China is beautifully filmed and having been to China twice I can visualise the sights and sounds, see the local people. Some things in rural China won't have changed very much since the 1920s.

Some book/film transitions are woeful eg I couldn't bring myself to watch Captain Corelli's Mandolin. Couldn't get my head around the concept of Nicholas Cage having anything to do with such a wonderful book. From the snippets I have seen it seems the story was absolutely gutted.

So far so good with The Painted Veil.

Anyone else read and seen it? Or have any other pet hates/loves?


Louise said...

Hi Lis,
Your blog reminded me how much I loved Maugham as well, especially his short stories. Will send me off to the bookshelves instead of writing!
I tend to avoid movies from books, but I remember talking to a friend's 15 yr old daughter when Great Expectations, with I think Gwyneth Paltrow, came out several years ago. I didn't like it at all, and was telling her about the original B&W version (which I love). I told her it was more faithful to the book, to which she replied, "Oh, was it a book?" How times (and education) change.

Kirsty C said...

Hi Lis,

I really like the Painted Veil, but haven't read the book. I vaguely remember liking Rebecca, the movie, when I was younger. And I have just read the book, which I thought was wonderful.

Stephen King is a favourite author of mine, but the conversion of his books to film don't usually go so well. I thought Carrie was just a blood fest and didnt capture alot of the more subtle themes of the book. I recently saw 1408, based on one of his short stories, and it was woeful. You could see how they'd had to pad it out to make it the required length. I thought Pet Semetary was pretty good though, and of course Shawshank Redemption and the Green Mile were great.

I find I can easily watch the movie and then read the book, but not vice versa. I already have characters and setting firmly pictured in my mind after reading, and don't like to see them represented any other way!

Louise - that's also like when you listen to a cover of a song and hear some youngun' nearby astounded that it's been recorded before...

Elisabeth said...

Hi Louise and Kirsty,
It's sad isn't it when some young thing doesn't know about the classic books! I remember turning my kids onto Marvin Gaye when Robert Palmer did a total copycat version of two of his songs. They had no idea at the time.

Rebecca is the last book/film we're discussing in my book group. I thought we had a copy but didn't so today I picked one up secondhand. My husband pounced on it and is well into it already. Good thing TPV is first on my list LOL
I'm surprised no-one's got around to refilming Rebecca but I guess Hitchcock is a hard act to follow. It was done as a BBC series though.

I haven't read any Stephen King except his book 'On Writing' which is terrific. We saw The Secret Window with Johnny Depp being a psycho writer and I've seen Christine, Shawshank R and The Green Mile.

Horror isn't my reading bag really.

Anna Campbell said...

Lis, terrific blog! Thanks for letting us know it was up. I too was a huge Maugham fan although in my late teens rather than my 20s. I remember absolutely adoring The Moon and Sixpence - there is a rather obscure and very good film of that starring George Sanders of all people. And I loved Cakes and Ale. And as you say, the short stories are fantastic. And very cinematic - no wonder so many of them have been adapted. Very clear issues and conflict generally and strong characters.

Must say I'm of the "If I've enjoyed the book, I don't see the film" camp. Had too many disappointments.

Elisabeth said...

Hi Anna,
I haven't finished The Painted Veil yet but so far I would tentatively say they've done very well with the movie. Maybe you could break your rule for it. LOL

I thought The Horse Whisperer was a better film than book --especially the ending. I was so annoyed when the hero was stomped on by a horse. Very unlikely.
So it was the other way round for me with that one--saw the film was disappointed by the book.