Tag Archives: A Single Man

Books To Film #1

I do like seeing people’s thoughts on books that they have read and how they feel about them when they are turned into films. In fact I almost took part in the ‘Read The Book, See The Movie’ challenge that quite a lot of people seem to have participated in. I do find though that if I know one of my favourite books is going to be turned into a film I almost instantly take a certain dislike to it, I am currently building some dislike for the film version of ‘One Day’ before its even finished being made. There is occasionally the flipside when sometimes you watch a film and it’s as good as if not better than the book like for example the first book-to-film I am going to address today which is…

…‘Eclipse.’ You will probably know that I have had rather a rollercoaster ride with Stephenie Meyer’s works, I didn’t like the first but then saw the film version of ‘Twilight’ and was completely hooked, in fact I rushed to see both ‘New Moon’ and ‘Eclipse’ on the weekends they came out. I cannot explain this compulsion and I am not sure how I feel about it, ha. I think because I found the book so slow and the fact the movie really started from about page 350 in the book (where all the action begins) I enjoyed it more. The humour in the third film is at the forefront which I really liked and there are some great comic scenes between Edward and Jake, but there is also the endless longing and Bella (Kristen Stewart looks exactly like mt Aunty Caroline did at her age – spooky) wandering about in trees almost looking for danger or driving around advertising in a Volvo through mountains. Having said that its good escapist fun, though why did they change Victoria? 7/10

I think possibly the most beautiful and cinematic film I have watched in some time is ‘A Single Man’ which is Tom Ford’s directorial debut and his take on Christopher Isherwood’s marvellous book. I thought the imagery and the way it set that period of time was just wonderful. Colin Firth was absolutely superb as George a man dealing with the loss of his lover Jim in a world where being gay is not the most acceptable of lifestyles. Julianne Moore as Charley (a drunken fellow Brit) absolutely stole the show for me though, every scene with her in it seemed to have certain energy, but that’s also down to characters as Firth had to play a more restrained role in George. I thought both of them deserved Oscars and Ford certainly did. I saw ‘The Hurt Locker’ and was soooo disappointed, this cinematically is just beautiful. 9/10

I will admit that I expected to utterly loathe the film version of ‘The Road’. In part because I thought Cormac McCarthy’s book was so devastating and so haunting I didn’t think anything could touch it and secondly because I didn’t rate the leads and don’t like films with precocious little boys in them (Sixth Sense anyone?) especially when they have a rather pivotal part. Yet I thought this was a great version, it was atmospheric, the road they walked was very like the one I envisaged and it both scared and moved me which I really didn’t expect the film version to do. The young boy was a superb actor too and I didn’t even get too irritated by Charlie Theron in the role, that was none existent and only hinted at in the book, as the mother either. 8/10

I think Tim Burton is an utter genius when it comes to films; in fact I was always a little surprised he never got his mitts on the Harry Potter movies. Sadly I just didn’t get on with his remake of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ based of course on the famous Lewis Carroll story. It was crazy and psychedelic enough, whilst of course being nothing like either of the stories more a mesh with all the popular characters. Johnny Depp didn’t shine for me like I expected him to as ‘The Mad Hatter’ and Helena Bonham Carter (or as the Savidge family call her Helena Bonkable Carter – think Bongy, Granny Savidge Reads husband, made that up years ago and still lives on now) was good but not amazing as ‘The Red Queen’ maybe he should stop giving his wife and friend jobs instantly and shake it up a bit as Anne Hathaway was ace as ‘The White Queen’. 6/10

Finally, and get read for me to be scathing, comes ‘The Lovely Bones’ which I thought Peter Jackson (who is normally so good) turned into a mediocre saccharine family drama when it should have been far darker. I am sure it made Alice Sebold a lot of money for adapting the book but it’s tarnished the memory of it for me and I just thought ‘sell out’, strange as I wouldn’t normally feel that way to an author. Rachel Weisz (again normally not bad) seemed unsure what she was meant to do with the role, Mark Wahlberg kept forgetting it wasn’t an action movie and Saoirse Rohan as Salmon was just to breathy and sunshiny even in death, a million miles away from her superb performance in ‘Atonement’. There were two great actors and those were Stanley Tucci who was perfectly despicable and Susan Sarandon as a wonderful drinking, forthright, sex talking grandmother who stole every scene she was in. I wonder if they only have her parts on youtube, if so just watch those. 3/10

And there you have it my first foray into books-to-film thoughts. Hope you enjoyed it? There will be more next week when I also look at film to TV adaptations (and not the new series of ‘Sherlock’ we have here in the UK). In the meantime let’s hear what you have to say about books to film? Have there been any that have done it marvellously, any that have appalled you, or any that shock, horror was actually better than the book?

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A Single Man – Christopher Isherwood

You probably all know by now that I am someone who actually has to read a book before I see the film (unless I don’t know it’s a book or I was young and had no idea it was a book) and so naturally I wanted to read ‘A Single Man’ by Christopher Isherwood before I see it, for me its one of this years must watch movies. I was told by someone over dinner on Saturday night ‘to skip the book and simply watch the film… the book is well… just watch the film.’ This of course only made me want to read the book even more, that and the fact since reading ‘Goodbye to Berlin’ Christopher Isherwood is an author I have wanted to try many more books of.

‘A Single Man’ is the tale of a day in the life of George. A British man teaching English and living in California who’s life has changed through the complex emotions grief bestows upon someone since loosing his partner Jim. Though you are never quite told when the book is meant to be set I got a feel of the late 1950’s, the book was written in the early 1960’s a time when homosexuality really wasn’t still accepted though there was a slight change in the air. We follow George through his day and in doing so learn how a man copes with the loss of a loved one, for he is technically a widower, when he cannot discuss it.

“George is ashamed of his roarings because they aren’t play-acting. He does genuinely lose his temper and feels humiliated and sick to his stomach later. At the same time, he is quite aware that the children want him to behave this way. They are actually willing him to do it. If he should refuse to play the monster, and they could no longer provoke him, they would have to look out for another substitute. The question is – is this play acting or does he really hate us? – never occurs to them. They are utterly indifferent to him, except as a character in their myths. It is only George who cares.”

For such a small book it is brimming with ideas, emotions, and people and actually took me a while to read at there is so much to take in. It’s utterly remarkable. Through George’s ordinary day as he gets up, gets ready, drives to work, works, visits a hospital, has a dinner with a friend and gets very drunk Isherwood crams different emotions behind all his actions. Sometimes bitter, inept, nostalgic, angry, sad, aroused, giddy – basically the whole gambit that grief with put you through and so far in my ready experience I have never read it better and though its not written in first person you can feel it all. We also get his back story, Jim’s too and then we have the wonderful character of Charlotte a fairly close neighbour.

“In any case, she absolutely refuses to learn to drive. If she needs to go someplace and no one offers to give her a ride, well then, that’s too bad, she can’t go. But the neighbours nearly always do help her; she has them utterly intimidated and bewitched by this Britishness which George himself knows so well how to employ, though with a different approach.”

Charlotte is another lost person and the two cling together despite that fact that when they are apart she repulses George slightly, but she knew about Jim and is one of the few people to which he can talk about him, relive those times. I was fascinated by her though only in the book for 30 pages her character is just as complex and destroyed as George only she turns to alcohol and lets every emotion be seen. She also adds a dark comedy towards the end of the book which adds a different perspective. Speaking of the ending, I will say no more than I wasn’t expecting it and don’t read it just before you go to sleep, I lay awake for about twenty minutes after.  

I could go on and on about this book but really what I should simply do is urge you to read it. It’s a small book filled with subtlety and a such a deep and clever internal dialogue which says so much you feel you want to read it again and see what you missed. People have said this is Isherwood’s masterpiece and he himself said that it was his favourite of his own works. Having only read one other of his books myself so far I don’t feel qualified to comment on that, I can say I will be reading much more of him and comparing in the future.

Have you read this? What did you think? I have Mrs Norris Changes Trains on the TBR but as my birthday is looming what other Isherwood have you read and would recommend I throw myself in the direction of, or throw people wanting to buy presents in the way of?

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Filed under Books of 2010, Books To Film, Christopher Isherwood, Review, Vintage Books, Vintage Classics