DIRK’S FILM SCHOOL: PRE-SOLD SOURCES

  • Cinema has always had a dependence on other media for its content. This is driven by it’s need to find a ready made audience, as much as for creative purposes.
  • As an art-form it has suffered from a crisis of confidence as it is sometimes compared negatively with other Art. Louis Dellac referred to film as the 7th Art, after Music, Dance, Painting, Literature, Architecture and sculpture.
  • Literature has the closest relationship with film. Critics have always poured scorn on film’s compression of novels. A recent adaptation of The Great Gatsby (2013) by Baz Luhrmann was criticised for its embellishments to the plot of the novel, yet many praised its authentic depiction of the spirit of the source material. The better directors such as Bresson, Kurosawa and Viscounti excelled at capturing the essence of the novel they are adopting: DEATH IN VENICE (1971) being a great example.
  • In the 1980s there were a number of soulless adaptations by the production partnership of Merchant Ivory that illustrated rather than illuminated the novels upon which they were based. In the case of some films (such as the Harry Potter films) this is seen as a virtue.
  • Pulp fiction such as Westerns proved more successful in the hey-day of the movies and there has been a recent run of films that are based on popular narratives.
  • Comic books are now the cornerstone of the blockbuster source material. Now, modern adaptations are more likely to come from franchises and computer games than from literature.

MAIN FEATURE: Superman: The Movie (Donner, US, UK, 1978)

Christopher-Reeve-Superman-A-classic-photo-recently-restored-superman-the-movie-35485219-1020-1232

  • “You’ll believe a man can fly,” boasted the tagline for this seminal movie of the mid-seventies that was riding on the coat-tails of STAR WARS (1977) success. Superman appeared as a character in serials during the Golden Age of the Dream Palaces, but the franchise conceived by producers Salkind and Spengler was something different, they sold the idea of prolonged spectacle to Warners, who in turn sunk a huge investment to the idea.
  • The project received joint funding from the UK. Marlon Brando commanded a significant proportion of the budget for his relatively brief appearance as Jor-El who propels his son, Kal-El,  from Krypton to Earth before it explodes.
  • A significant proportion of the early section of the film is set in Smallville in scenes that seem like a homage to Terrence Mallick, with its Norman Rockwell white-timber buildings and long grasses. It’s not really until 40 minutes into the film that Christopher Reeve begins to engage with his super powers.
  • The second act is concerned with his assimilation into society as the thinly disguised Clark Kent, who falls for his duck-faced co-worker while at the same time saving Air Force One and rescuing cats from trees. Margot Kidder’s Lois Lane is an interesting counterpoint to Reeve’s injured innocence.
  • The evil genius of Lex Luthor, played with a certain panache by Gene Hackman, doesn’t really make his presence felt until the final third with an unlikely plot to blow up the San Andreas fault to improve his real estate portfolio.
  • There’s still a certain awe about the effects, which were clearly done with miniatures, but there is a sense of jeopardy at a human level. As the Hoover Damn breaks, it’s about the single character who is at risk as well as the spectacle of the dam bursting.
  • The film succeeds as it convincingly deals with an alien coming to terms with the idea of human failings. He is forced to compromise the pledge that he gave to his father. He intervenes in the changing of history so that he rescue Lois Lane. In an unlikely scene, he circumnavigates the globe to rewind events like an early adopter of Sky plus.
  • SUPERMAN RETURNS (2006) and MAN OF STEEL (2013) have been relatively unsuccessful attempts to revive the franchise, they’ve failed as they miss the performance of Christopher Reeve who brought great pathos to the role.
  • I agree with the view that SUPERMAN II (1980) is a better film. It was shot concurrently with the first film, but thanks to a falling out with the producers, Donner was replaced with Richard Lester (of all people).

The Film School is BACK! Real-life has been getting in the way, but the next class will be on METHOD ACTING and the feature film will be ON THE WATERFRONT (1954).

3 responses to “DIRK’S FILM SCHOOL: PRE-SOLD SOURCES

    • Good point. I have a dogmatic view that (generally) the second in any series is the best. Terrence Stamp is a more compelling villain too.

      Thanks for commenting.

  1. This post has been doomed. Dom pointed out in a text that it is fitting that this was posted in a week FIFTY SHADES OF GREY has been released, a fine example of pre-sold content. He also spotted an auto-correct error. Brando had become Brandon. I tried to change it on my phone, but managed to delete it instead!

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