I went to a lecture at the American Library in Paris last night and all I can say is Meh.
The series is “A Night at the Movies”, but ‘series’ isn’t the right word. Last year (Sept-June) it met monthly ; this year just Sept and May. It is led by Judith Merians. The focus is supposed to be : “How does story telling in words differ creatively from story telling in films? A Night at the Movies will compare excerpts from books and plays with scenes from the film versions of the literary works. Once a month scenes from a different and popular book/play and its film version will be featured and each selection will exemplify a different aspect of filmic story telling. Discover why films require their own creative conventions and how filmmakers employ visual and aural techniques to enhance and deepen the tale with as few words as possible. And to add to the enjoyment get the scoop on some of the behind-the-scenes history of the evening's film.”
Back in June, the movie was One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and the subject was “How do you make an unlikable character likable: the art of casting & the right actors.” This month’s focus was To Kill a Mockingbird and the lecture on “what makes a movie a classic, a universal theme embodied in the perfect cast with the deft director's touch”.
Sounds great, eh? Well, to be Megative (as usual) ....
Things I found off-putting about the lecture:
--she started off by asking “what makes a book/movie/story a ‘classic’.” That question just bugs me – in one way it’s so subjective, but in other ways it’s obvious that the answer is because the story resonates through the ages, it has a moral lesson, it’s a good story, and some of it is just due to marketing. (Or, as my friend Howard recently posted, it’s a movie that has at least two women, who talk to each other, not about men.)
--much of the information Ms. Merians presented is easily found on IMDB.
--Ms. Merians, and others in the audience, were commenting like the movie was the good story, and that the movie was the classic, and on-and-on about the movie ... but it is Harper Lee’s story. Her novel was first. Her novel won the Pulitzer and is required reading for most all school children.
--I was hoping for more of a discussion / lecture on the differences between the book and the movie, about how one turns a book into a movie and what might be sacrificed but what could also be improved. This was more a lecture of the movie itself with Ms. Merians reading the “IMDB fun facts” and basically having the movie fast-forwarding next to her and giving a synopsis of the plot, with a few points thrown in about lighting or facial expressions.
Things I liked about the lecture :
--pointing out that the movie doesn’t have big action scenes, no love scenes, no close-ups of “faces in anguish” but that it has so much inherent action, angst, relationships, etc.
--Boo Radley only appears at the end, and he doesn’t even speak (Robert Duvall in his first movie appearance)
--seeing bits of the movie again, and being reminded of the story – it truly is a classic, and one I must reread!
The library itself :
Con : very, very, extremely, unassuming facade
Pro : but HUGE inside! Two floors even. I didn’t explore the whole thing
Con : you have to join (100€/year for an individual, non discounted)
Pro : events such as the one I attended are free, no membership required
Pro : has several book groups that each have amazing reading lists
Con : all book groups meet during the day
Con : you have to be a member of the library to be in one of the book groups
Pro : website is very well done, with lots of information, including a history with inspiring vignettes and a who’s who of Americans-in-Paris literary geniuses
The library has many great events. I’ll try to get to a few more this season. Will keep you posted.
There are so many great, interesting, tidbits about To Kill a Mockingbird on IMDB, but it was this quotation from Brock Peters (who played Tom Robinson, the man accused of rape in the movie) that has stuck with me all day. (Mr. Peters said this while giving the eulogy at Gregory Peck’s funeral (most of the cast members stayed friends for life)) :
"In art there is compassion," said Peters, "in compassion there is humanity, with humanity there is generosity and love. Gregory Peck gave us these attributes in full measure."