Saturday, January 26, 2008

Fred Vargas on film and a pair of questions for readers

I've just found this trailer for a movie version of Fred Vargas' Have Mercy On Us All. (The movie bears the novel's original French title, Pars vite et reviens tard.) If this short trailer is an accurate guide, the movie plays up the novel's thriller aspects and plays down its portrait of an old-fashioned village enclave within contemporary Paris.

And that leads to two of my more open-ended questions: For better or worse, what notable changes have filmmakers made to crime novels? And are movie trailers always faithful to the films they promote?

© Peter Rozovsky 2008

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Blogger pamos1949 said...

I find that trailers for comedies are usually very faithful -- one joke in the trailer, one joke in the movie. I've looked at the official site of the Vargas movie, and the 'teaser' thereon very much confirms your suspicions based on the trailer. I am very fond of Fred Vargas, and of Frederique Audouin-Rouzeau, so I very much hope she made a killing selling the rights, but I don't want to see it. I am at the moment well into This Night's Foul Work and relishing every word. I am constantly aware that a nifty plot is unfolding, but the greatest enjoyment en route to the denouement of that comes from the wonderful characterization and dialogue. If there is one crime writer I think cannot possibly be translated to the screen without sacrificing the essence of the writing, it is Vargas. It would take a very bold movie maker indeed to film This Night's Foul Work and include a character who speaks in 12-syllable Alexandrines because his grandmother was obsessed with Racine.

January 28, 2008  
Blogger Peter said...

The movie's official Web site does have a section devoted to the town crier, Joss LeGuern, but the trailer's heart-pounding thriller music could not be further from the atmosphere of the book. I'd probably see the movie if I had the opportunity, though, and steel myself for being disillusioned.

My copy of This Night's Foul Work is on its way, and I can well imagine a reader relishing every word. I have written about the pleasures of Vargas' slow buildup.

I can imagine the right actors brining something of Vargas to the screen. It would take talent to communicate the sense of communion Adamsberg feels with the drinks machine in Wash This Blood Clean From My Hand.

January 28, 2008  
Blogger pamos1949 said...

The 'movie as movie', if I may be Kantian for a moment, may be very good indeed. I've just read the French reviews and they glow, more than one saying that it is out of the common run and the sort of film that could only be made by French film makers of independent bent. Even so, I shall avoid it because, after reading all of Vargas' novels, I have my own sense of the world Adamsberg and company inhabit, right down to their offices, and I don't want it disturbed. It was a very unfortunate thing for me that I saw the television series based on Rankin's Rebus before I discovered the novels (an embarrassing omission on my part). As Rankin slyly and humorously intimated in an interview, that adaptation was way off beam, but I had trouble getting it out of my mind once I started to read the novels, though I succeeded eventually, I'm happy to say.

RE your original question, Peter, the film of Block's 'Eight Million Ways to Die' is without doubt the most staggerly and pointlessly disastrous 'adaptation' I've ever come across. On television, that honour would go to the appalling series based on Jonathan Gash's glorious Lovejoy novels.

January 29, 2008  
Blogger Peter said...

One might approach the question from a Platonic point of view as well. The trailer and the movie may be good examples of their kind even as they mislead unsuspecting viewers into thinking they are seeing the reality of Vargas' world.

I like to think my sense of that world is strong enough to survive the jolt of seeing a possible unfaithful adaptation. At the very least, an adaptation that fails to capture Vargas's slow buildups and odd characters might be the occasion for another blog post or two, and I always welcome that.

January 29, 2008  

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