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Ron Reed

WISE BLOOD / Bloody PASSION

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Viewed WISE BLOOD yesterday, noticed that the screenplay is written by Benedict Fitzgerald. Which caught my interest: turns out he's the son of Robert and Sally Fitzgerald: Dad was Flannery O'Connor's literary executor, Mom the editor of the collected letters. (His brother Michael produced the film, along with another Fitzgerald, Kathy. A family affair.)

I was further intrigued to notice that Benny's next project is Mel Gibson's PASSION. (Blood, blood, and more blood - he also did a 1996 TV adaptation of IN COLD BLOOD.)

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Ron, I'm so glad someone's actually seen Wise Blood. We were wondering if anybody had watched it over on the O'Connor thread in the literature forum. Well, what did you think of it? I've never seen the film, but I'm a huge fan of the novel.

That's interesting about the screenplay and the Fitzgerald/O'Connor connection. FWIW, here's an article discussing the differences between the film and novel. The author believes the movie fails to convey O'Connor's spiritual convictions and humorous style.

SPOILERS

The film seems to have been made by...a disbelieving reader: subtle changes in narrative order, characterization, and imagery make Huston

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Ron, I'm so glad someone's actually seen Wise Blood. We were wondering if anybody had watched it over on the O'Connor thread in the literature forum.

Sheesh, the stuff a guy misses when he only hangs out in the one neighbourhood. I need to get around more!

That's interesting about the screenplay and the Fitzgerald/O'Connor connection. FWIW, here's an article discussing the differences between the film and novel. The author believes the movie fails to convey O'Connor's spiritual convictions and humorous style.

Yes, that's a great article! I found it very interesting, and think that she may be right about the conclusion;

SPOILERS

The film seems to have been made by...a disbelieving reader... O

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"Art never responds to the wish to make it democratic; it is not for everybody; it is only for those who are willing to undergo the effort needed to understand it."

Mega cool points to Ron for bringing up my favorite O'Connor quote.

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Nice review, Ron. I'm glad that Brad Dourif managed to pull off Hazel Motes. I should check out the movie....

How was Enoch Emery? The article I mentioned hinted that his character had been cleaned-up, so to speak, so he would be much more sympathetic. In the book, he is often repulsive, sometimes pitiable, idiotic, needy, and absolutely hysterical.

there are times when the wacky soundtrack is more suited to Green Acres or Hee Haw than a film where the comic turns need a certain ironic, sometimes tragic bite. She's playing for keeps, but too often this music is playing for laughs: imagine the sequence where Hazel's car drives down the hill in silence instead of to the accompaniment of "ain't this cute" banjoes for a sense of the impact such scenes could have had.

:roll: Oh boy, from the way you describe it, they really blew the mood for that car scene.

Diane

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Flannery O'Connor wrote:

: Art never responds to the wish to make it democratic; it is not for

: everybody; it is only for those who are willing to undergo the effort

: needed to understand it.

Interesting, in light of the fact that film, by virtue of being so expensive to produce, pretty much HAS to be a democratic artform, unless of course the film in question is a multi-millionaire's vanity project (see Ted Turner's Gods and Generals or Mel Gibson's The Passion) or is funded by the state (which takes its money from the people whether anyone sees the films it produces or not).

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How was Enoch Emery? The article I mentioned hinted that his character had been cleaned-up, so to speak, so he would be much more sympathetic. In the book, he is often repulsive, sometimes pitiable, idiotic, needy, and absolutely hysterical.

I'd say pitiable would be perfectly applicable, and certainly needy. Eager to please, desperately lonely. Not ever repulsive or hysterical, I'd say.

The scene where he's trying to make a connection with Hazel after Hazel has bought the potato peeler and is looking for the girl to give it to is wonderful: a long, long single shot that tracks with Enoch and Hazel as they hurry through the streets. Great kinetic energy, with Enoch scrambling to keep up with the single-minded Hazel, talking a mile a minute.

:roll: Oh boy, from the way you describe it, they really blew the mood for that car scene.

Yes, I think so. Especially following what it follows, and preceding what it precedes. Though a nice touch is the fac that Huston has the car end up, not on its back, but sinking into a lake - imagery of both death/drowning and baptism, which are very right.

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Flannery O'Connor wrote:

: Art never responds to the wish to make it democratic; it is not for

: everybody; it is only for those who are willing to undergo the effort

: needed to understand it.

Interesting, in light of the fact that film, by virtue of being so expensive to produce, pretty much HAS to be a democratic artform, unless of course the film in question is a multi-millionaire's vanity project (see Ted Turner's Gods and Generals or Mel Gibson's The Passion) or is funded by the state (which takes its money from the people whether anyone sees the films it produces or not).

Well yes, and the lack of financial success of the film version of WISE BLOOD may demonstrate something of the truth of that observation. But then again, the film festivals seem to manage to find hundreds of movies each year that to one degree or another would stand as "art" in O'Connor's definition: they require a certain amount of effort toward understanding to be worth viewing. And somehow they keep getting made, broadly commercial "democratic" appeal or no.

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Ron wrote:

: But then again, the film festivals seem to manage to find hundreds of

: movies each year that to one degree or another would stand as "art" in

: O'Connor's definition: they require a certain amount of effort toward

: understanding to be worth viewing. And somehow they keep getting

: made, broadly commercial "democratic" appeal or no.

Yes, and a lot of those films are either commercial successful in their homelands or they are produced with state money -- or, of course, they are so inexpensive that there is nowhere near as much of a need for them to find an audience in order to be profitable. In other words, the less expensive a film is, the less of a need it has to be democratic.

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Just a random thought I had the other day: I think that the Coen brother's could do an awesome adaption of Wise Blood. They have such a great feel for dark humor as well as the thick, sticky, sweatiness that is the South.

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Wise Blood is showing today on TMC-W from 5:45-7:35 (EST), for your viewing pleasure.

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I think Huston's WISE BLOOD is a weak adaptation of the book. The hammy hillbilly score that sets the in-your-face tone for the film feels like a desperate attempt to bolster what is otherwise a film with a tone that's totally adrift. There are some good performances in it for sure, but watching it, I kept thinking it felt more like a failed John Waters film than a John Huston film -- the comedic elements - so well-played in the novel - were over-the-top and fell flat in the film, and the more severe elements of the book felt lost. Flannery didn't think her work was adaptable to film and/or television, and WISE BLOOD backs up her argument.

Edited by Scott Derrickson

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I think WISE BLOOD is a weak adaptation. The hammy hillbilly score that sets the in-your-face tone for the film feels like a desperate attempt to bolster what is otherwise a film with a tone that's totally adrift. There are some good performances in it for sure, but watching it, I kept thinking it felt more like a John Waters film than a John Huston film -- the comedic elements of the novel were over-the-top and fell flat, while the more severe elements felt lost. Flannery didn't think her work was adaptable to film and/or television, and WISE BLOOD backs up her argument.

One of the commentaries I read about the film said that Huston was really uncomfortable with the religious elements in Wise Blood, and the only way he would do the movie is if they tried to make it into a comedy.

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Yeah, apparently Huston originally saw the film purely as a mockery of the loony religiosity of the American south.

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the comedic elements - so well-played in the novel - were over-the-top and fell flat in the film

Yeah. I felt the same way. They weren't really funny, just kind of weird and creepy, in a way that didn't really work for the film. They moved the film from being bizarre in a unique and compelling way, to being just kind of odd at times.

Edited by Attica

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I agree Huston probably wasn't the wisest choice to direct, but at least the Fitzgeralds' screenplay successfully harvests O'Connor's lip-smacking dialogue.

Scott, when are you going do a 30-minute rendition of "A Good Man Is Hard to Find?"

Edited by Nathaniel

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I agree Huston probably wasn't the wisest choice to direct, but at least the Fitzgeralds' screenplay successfully harvests O'Connor's lip-smacking dialogue.

Scott, when are you going do a 30-minute rendition of "A Good Man Is Hard to Find?"

Unfortunately, the rights to that story are unavailable. I am, however, attached to direct The Violent Bear it Away.

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I am, however, attached to direct The Violent Bear it Away.

Congratulations! I sincerely hope this project comes to pass. The book is a masterwork.

I wager I'll be following this story as it develops. What a scoop!

Edited by Nathaniel

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I am, however, attached to direct The Violent Bear it Away.

That could a difficult adaptation, since so much of it takes place in Francis's head, but I think it could work really well. Having Mason as a presence onscreen could be an effective way to interpret it.

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I agree Huston probably wasn't the wisest choice to direct, but at least the Fitzgeralds' screenplay successfully harvests O'Connor's lip-smacking dialogue.

Scott, when are you going do a 30-minute rendition of "A Good Man Is Hard to Find?"

Unfortunately, the rights to that story are unavailable. I am, however, attached to direct The Violent Bear it Away.

Really?!?

Who's responsible for the screenplay?

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I agree Huston probably wasn't the wisest choice to direct, but at least the Fitzgeralds' screenplay successfully harvests O'Connor's lip-smacking dialogue.

Scott, when are you going do a 30-minute rendition of "A Good Man Is Hard to Find?"

Unfortunately, the rights to that story are unavailable. I am, however, attached to direct The Violent Bear it Away.

Really?!?

Who's responsible for the screenplay?

Not really supposed to talk about (lame, I know), but please don't repeat outside of this forum.

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Oh dear... It is Michael Bay, right??? ;)

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Ron Reed alludes above to Jonathan Rosenbaum's review of this film, but we don't seem to have an actual link to it here. Luckily, Rosenbaum has just re-posted his review:

Along with
The Man Who Would Be King
and
The Dead
, this is arguably John Huston’s best literary adaptation, and conceivably his very best film — a very close rendering of Flannery O’Connor’s remarkable first novel about a crazed southern cracker (a perfectly cast Brad Dourif) who sets out to preach a church without Christ, and winds up suffering a true Christian martyrdom in spite of himself. The period, local ambience, and O’Connor’s deadly gallows humor are all perfectly caught, and apart from the subtle if highly pertinent fact that this is an unbeliever’s version of a believer’s novel, it’s about as faithful a version of O’Connor’s grotesque world as one could ever hope to get on film, hilarious and frightening in equal measure. O’Connor conceived her novel as a parody of existentialism, and Huston’s own links with existentialism — as the director of the first U.S. stage production of
No Exit
, as well as Sartre’s Freud script — make him an able interpreter. . . .

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