1) I enjoyed reading this, “Robert Altman: the genius who’d ‘reinvented the language of cinema
,'” though I think that claim is a bit overdone. I don’t think he did, nor was he trying to, reinvent the language of cinema.
It was nice to read the review, because it’s always nice to see people appreciate Altman, but I don’t think I’m going to rush out to see the movie.
It is a cliche to refer to Altman as a “maverick,” but I disagree with it and I always have. He was a Hollywood insider who figured out how to make the movies he wanted to make within the system. That’s what the best Hollywood directors have always done — that doesn’t make you a maverick.
(Orson Welles was a better candidate for the “maverick” label, for example — after his initial success, he mostly didn’t get to to make the movies he wanted to make, and the ones he did made were mostly made in Europe, often financed by his own money.)
Also, some of the people interviewed in the film seem to be odd choices. Bruce Willis? Chosen because of a long association with the director (he was, very briefly, and hilariously, in The Player — but I think that was about it), or just because he’s a big star?
It’s interesting that Inherent Vice is mentioned as an Altmanesque movie. Well, I’m sure P.T. Anderson would like it to be, and it certainly does have a lot of characters, as many Altman films do, but there’s not a moment in the picture that seems spontaneous.
2) On the Wikipedia page for the novel The Burning Court, it’s mentioned that there was an adaptation done for the radio show Suspense in 1942. I decided to listen to it, though I couldn’t understand how you could cram a whole novel into thirty minutes (minus time for commercials).
The answer is, really well. You can hear it here. Most of the characters are trimmed away, the plot is streamlined, and some events have different, and simpler, explanations, but the spine is there. And the ending is not a letdown (I was worried about that).
Similar to the movie of Under the Skin, it was adapted by first throwing out most of the book, and then figuring out how to make the essential parts of the story work best in the new medium. And the radio adaptation found a way to convey the spirit of the ending through sound — in the book its all visual description.
This is not a popular way to adapt a novel these days — mostly adaptations of popular books try to cram in as much detail as possible, even if they miss the point.
And I’m not just talking about Harry Potter and so on. It’s equally true of Inherent Vice and every Henry James adaptation I’ve ever seen.
But it’s much more fun when they get the point and work out from there.