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Versions of Vanya

Introduction

This was one of my favorite papers in college. In it I had to compare and contrast three stage productions of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya, and then I discussed my adaptation ideas. Naturally, I wrote of attempting a cinematic portrayal. Enjoy!

Visions of Vanya

When a director takes on the job of reviving a play he or she has the unenviable task of breathing new life into the piece. It would be quite easy to go on staging the same play in an identical manner as it was first performed. This practice is not unheard of but it is both boring and lacking in artistic vision.
When dealing with a play like Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya, which has many timeless and universal qualities, an adaptation of some kind is almost a necessity. This is so as Chekhov’s work has different meanings to various different cultures.
The first interpretation of Uncle Vanya that caught my attention was a 1997 version of the play performed at Stanford Summer Theatre. Jarek Truszcynski, who formerly worked at the Polish National Theatre, did any unusual thing in that he got both local and foreign actors with varying backgrounds in both theatre and film. This blending of styles and backgrounds, while no doubt unique, must’ve lead to some inconsistency from one performance to another. The most interesting thing about this adaptation is what was done with the stage.

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Jarek Truszcynski

Drawing on Chekhov’s poignant humor and tragicomic vision, director Truszcynski designed an intriguing set based on a series of doors and windows to highlight the failed connections that inform the life of Chekhov’s wonderful, if troubled characters. In a similar vein, live piano (Schubert’s Fantasia in F minor, 4 hands) was woven into the action, underscoring the erotic desires and mismatches that fuel the play.

While I have no photographs of this set, one who looks upon it will undoubtedly know that the set was designed that way to say something about the play itself. This would be further underlined if the actors used these doors and windows to their advantage. The use of music is something that I have considered when reading this play and it is an effective way to communicate to the audience something that may be, in fact, contrary to the words spoken or, as a last resort, to emphasize the emotional impact of the scene.
The next version of Chekov’s play that I found interesting was directed by Libby Appel at the 1998 Oregon Shakespeare Festival. What Shakespeare and Chekhov have in common I’ll never know. The way the set was constructed in this play reflects the most negative possible interpretation of the text.

“The stifling set has a black backdrop, with four bare walls on both side [sic] and a maze of doors. There are plain chairs, a table, and a piano which emanates original music reminiscent of some of the more gloomy music of Rachmaninoff.”

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Libby Appel

We see some similar elements between this and Truszcynski’s version of the play. Here have a dark backdrop and every possible place where color could be added it’s plain. We find a similarity in the amount of doors. The doors on the set may not mean as much in this version. This is a play with quite a few sets and instead of having the actors constantly exit the director may want to have the actors simply move to a different part of the stage. Yet the doors here do seem to imply that all these characters are connected in that they’re unhappy with the life they’ve had to lead. The amount of black coupled with that fact make this the darkest version of this play possible. Any comedic element the play may contain has been removed.
The last and probably most intriguing version is that of the Steppenwolf Theatre Company. This is a company founded by Gary Sinise, best known for his portrayal of Lieutenant Dan in Forrest Gump, and some of his friends formed just after he got out of high school. It is now a big company and many other renowned actors have performed plays with them.
It’s Steppenwolf it seems that comes closest to striking the delicate balance between tragedy and comedy in this play.

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“Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya can be played with bitterness and despair, or it can be played with a reminder of hope. Steppenwolf’s production chooses the latter. In the end, a certain equilibrium is restored – moody, perhaps, but with the smallest promise of realization and real change. What we come away with is hope not so much for Vanya and company, but for ourselves.”

Staging and the way the actors interpret their roles has a lot to do with its tone. Music may be helpful but it is only a necessity if the actors are not doing their jobs properly.

“Austin Pendleton (Vanya) and Jeff Perry (Astrov) play well against one another as the dogged, summer-love-sick estate-manager and the active environmentally-minded doctor; they are fittingly matched as complementary forces, friends as well as rivals, different yet reciprocal natures. Pendleton brings to Vanya a contemporary, Woody Allen angst and some rather appealing lickerish looks, as well as the capacity for desperation that moves us as he comes face to face with the falseness of his idols and the sterility of his life, a long road of untaken opportunities. Jeff Perry as Astrov moves with facility between comic and compelling, presenting a magnetic , engaging, human portrayal of the doctor, equally vulnerable to the beauty of saplings and Yelena’s charms.”

If this is the kind of response actors are eliciting then they are most definitely doing an amazing job. In reading the text one can easily see how it can be taken to either extreme. It is better to try and achieve some sort of balance between comedy and tragedy and lean more towards one side.

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Anton Chekhov

Ultimately a play as well-written as Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya is one where the director has a lot of flexibility. Every decision that is made from lighting to set designate casting will influence the way the play is perceived and it is very interesting to see the ways in which, each of these directors have attempted to express their views of what this work is trying to say.

My Own Interpretation

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An 1899 production of Uncle Vanya in Moscow.

Uncle Vanya is a hard play to adapt regardless of the medium one plans on performing it in. The play is a chameleon because if you read it while you’re in a bad mood you’ll see it as another play that proclaims life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Yet in that same vein the ending packs a wallop and is an incredible surprise proclaiming that this play is one about hope. Someone who is content with their life may read this as sort of a screwball comedy with tragically flawed and depressed characters.
I admit I’ve had both views of this material. However, I think that to play these roles in an overly dramatic way would demean Chekhov’s intent and his dialogue. The director should seek to strike a balance. And here’s where I see there can be a compromise, when a character is discussing about what they believe about someone else such as the discussions of Professor Sereoryakov at the beginning, the actors should go for the most comedic impact he or she can find without turning the play into a farce. When they discuss their own problems, they should be serious and seek out honest and emotional interpretation without being hammy. Both things are asking a lot of the actors, but this is demanding material.
Before even considering adapting it into a screenplay, I believe the lighting scheme should be considered. When one is dealing with the medium of film they have an advantage over people in theatre because natural light can be used to light the scenes and would be considerably more effective than any means of artificial lighting. While the use of both candlelight and sunlight would be very difficult, it would lend a great amount of atmosphere that couldn’t be accomplished on stage. I believe candlelight would be most beneficial during the scene where Elena and Sonya make amends and discuss their desires.
If I were adapting this as a film, more sets would be required than are in the original play. Basically, what we have here, while well written, are characters who talk too much to make for interesting cinema. As a matter of fact, when Chekhov first premiered the play theater-goers of the day were surprised at how much the characters spoke. Talking heads syndrome is something that is avoided at all costs in film.

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Barry Lyndon where Kubrick created new lenses to shoot by candlelight.

While it would take many readings to decide where to actually cut dialogue, merely looking over the text after one reading we can see places where images from outside the Serebryakov estate would be helpful in making this play more cinematic.
First, I believe the use of flashbacks accompanied by voice over narration would assist many scenes in this piece. It would also be helpful in breaking up the long periods of dialogue. This tactic would be most effective in the following scenes:

  • When Dr. Astrov discusses the patient he lost.
  • Marina talking about the professor’s daily activities.
  • Sonya pontificating about people in foreign climates.
  • Vanya reminiscing about a girl he knew.
  • At the very end when Sonya is consoling Vanya some sort of imagery would be necessary.

While the closing speech is riveting it would be easy for an actor to go overboard with these lines.

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The lens that would be needed to shoot the candlelit scenes.

I also feel that the strategic insertion of cutaways during breaks in dialogue or just after something is said would be beneficial and break up a play with a lot of talking. I believe this technique can be most helpful following the following pieces of dialogue:

  • Astrov’s comment about his mustache.
  • When Vanya says he’s haunted at night.
  • Vanya’s comments on an autumn rose
  • What might be going through Astrov’s mind while he’s making a pass at Elena
  • Serebryakov’s comments about the house being a labyrinth.
  • Vanya waking after comments about a waking life.

All of the prior images would almost mirror what was said in dialogue previously but some images would also be needed to demonstrate meaning such as:

  • When Vanya discusses the work of the professor not living.
  • A single page burning.
  • When Astrov complains about provincial life we move outside the estate momentarily.
  • When Elena makes the cynical comments about her real behavior she may look out the window and see fictitious characters demonstrating the very qualities she finds unrealistic yet longs to see.
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Vanya on 42nd Street (1994)

In film the camera can also be used to heighten emotion and through the creative use of angles we may add some insight into the character’s emotions. On page 177 Vanya goes on a rant about the professor and I feel a gradual procession of tightening shots as his fury increases would definitely help drive home that the professor’s lifestyle is resented by these people. When Elena says there are demons in all of them I believe the best approach would be a medium shot in which Elena is in the center of the image with the back of the protagonists in the foreground. This is so the comment does not come off as judgmental or like preaching to the viewers. At the top of page 195 when Vanya speaks of illusions I feel it would best to see Vanya speaking from the lower right-hand corner of the screen. This show reflects the cinematic Russian tradition that states placing a character in the lower right-hand portion makes them appear weak. I also feel that alternating between single and wide angle shots during the shootout would be beneficial. It would be helpful to show both the entire room and how others are reacting to the situation and also to demonstrate Serebryakov’s fear and Vanya’s anger.
In the review of the Steppenwolf Theater Company production it states that their performance of the play was two-and-a-half hours long. This would be quite a long film and not many people would be willing to go for a film of this type that’s that long anymore. However, I feel that if one were to continue in this melange of styles and techniques both old and new it would become a more visually involving piece than many would expect.

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The Shining (1980, Warner Bros.))

Once Upon a Time in the 80s: Conclusion (Part 17 of 17)

This is the brief concluding chapter to a much longer series. If you would like to read the other posts in the series you can find links to all of them here.

Films from almost any period in time give off a certain feeling, a vibe. And if you weren’t there or at least don’t know of an eras circumstances you might not get that feeling. At least one can appreciate that the ’80s were a time of aesthetic experimentation and the images of the decade did have a certain warmth. There was no such thing as political correctness so characters were more honest and the scale wasn’t as big moneywise so a small film with big ideas had a chance, although the scale was growing. The ’80s will leave us with a lasting legacy good and bad as I have shown. There were great films I didn’t discuss in detail like E.T. or The Shining but they are movies that are ultimately timeless and aren’t marked but their era, notice I didn’t say dated.

While in the ’90s we were overwhelmed and barraged by violence and the mundane existence of suburbia and apathy. If there’s one thing that we learned from the 80s is that film is the only medium that can capture our dreams.

Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984, Paramount)

Once Upon a Time In The 80s: Sequels (Part 4 of 17)

“Leaves the door wide open for a sequel,” is a phrase that was not part of the cinematic vernacular even in the 1950s. It really does sound like something you’d say after watching a slasher movie. These films, of course, were very popular in the 1980s, but just because you didn’t see a horror movie didn’t mean you were safe from someday hearing of a sequel.
 

In the 1970s the ‘pre-sold’ product became a big thing with studios there were many literary adaptations so logically sequels would soon follow. In 1981 there were 42 sequels produced worldwide; in 1989 there were 124. By the end of the 80s there were six Police Academys, five Halloweens, Howlings, Star Treks and Nightmare on Elm Streets; if you wanted to kill someone you could strap them to a chair and make them watch these in succession. There’s probably more but it would get redundant. As opposed to the positive legacy of special effect, the 80s left us with a trend that has only gotten worse. While there are no new series that are growing ridiculously, although Friday the 13th has reached 10 [now 11 with a 12th in development], it is much easier for a film to get a sequel now such as Legally Blond which didn’t even hit 100 million, but was made on no budget so the profitability was easier to hit. Another new trend is immediately announcing a sequel: when Spider-man opened with $115 million dollars in its first weekend the studio announced plans for a sequel. Opening weekend sequel plans have become commonplace and they can be directly blamed on the 80s who exacerbated sequel-mania in a need for guaranteed money.

While the contrived sequel can be called a spawn of the 80s on the good side there is also the series. The difference is that a series is a story that is not supposed to be in one film or book as the case may be. While there was only Indiana Jones and Star Wars these films helped develop the business concept of ‘the franchise,’ more so to me than the other films than those sequelized ad neauseum. The franchise by my estimation is a designed series of films that will also be a cash cow. To me these two series planned by Lucas and Spielberg are what set the stage for some of the better films of our times.

The studios relied on the sequel for easy money because the horror films that made them all their money were pick-ups. The Slasher Trinity of Halloween, Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street were all independent productions which cost their respective distributors practically nothing. Thus, when they each took off like rockets they didn’t want to see the profits stop. And like at anytime in film history, you never know what’s going to be a hit and what isn’t, no matter how much test research you do. So they figure they’d just repeat what worked. And people went, and will go, if only out of curiosity.

While I can justify all these sequels that seemingly have no point I in no way excuse them. Because what started as just a rash has become a plague and now any film which shows and inkling of profit potential is a candidate to be butchered and repackaged in a sequel. For the most part I very much enjoy these films of the 80s, but a tendency towards needless repetition is something I can live without.
 

Work Cited:  http://us.imdb.com/List?year=1989&&tv=on&&keywords=sequel&&nav=/Sections/Years/1989/include-commongenres&&heading=8;sequel;1989

Note:  This is a recapitulation of a paper I wrote in film school. It will be published here in installments. This is part four you can read part one, two and three here.

Young Sherlock Holmes (1985, Paramount)

Once Upon a Time in the 80s- Special Effects (Part 3 of 17)

Note: This is a recapitulation of a paper I wrote in film school. It will be published here in installments. This is part three you can read part one here and part two here.

The 1980s were marked by the emergence of the computer into mainstream American culture. The increasing accessibility and availability of this tool made its impact on the entertainment industry in a very powerful way. In 1984 one of the most famous commercials of the year was Apple Computer’s ‘Big Brother’ a play on Orwell’s 1984. While unlike the 90s where computers would soon come to reside in well over half of America’s households, and the science fiction aspect and the improbability of the device was demolished; they were becoming a much more practical tool.

The key in revolutionizing computerized effect lay with one man. In 1977 George Lucas formed Industrial Light and Magic to create the effects for Star Wars. Working out of Marina County California his company soon started to work on effects for many films. Their first heavy volume of releases was in 1985 with Back to the Future, Cocoon, Explorers, The Goonies and Young Sherlock Holmes which with ‘The Stained Glass Man’ had the first fully computer generated character. The rest was history in 1986 comes Aliens which took the computer generated character to the next level and it’s been an ongoing game of “Can You Top This?” ever since.

The fact that the special effects craze came about in the late 70s and grew exponentially in the 80s is like kismet. This was a decade that was jam-packed with action films but also had an abundance of fantasy films still around. This new technology opened up possibilities for narrative never before seen and they were used, for example, a journey inside a human body in Innerspace. The kind of film that was in demand with the American public was also the kind of film that was well-suited to the new special effects technology.

Before the apathetic generation-x-ridden 90s when films of social dementia disguised as poetry like American Beauty would run amuck, the 80s was a decade riddled with myth and fantasy, here’s a sample: The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, The Neverending Story, Legend, Dark Crystal, Back to the Future, Flight of the Navigator and so on. Escapism being a large part of the cinematic formula coupled with the youthful audience allowed for these advances and this type of storytelling which is only recently beginning to creep back into being.

The shift away from fantastical storytelling that occurred in the mid-90s and lasted until about 1999 in a way has impeded the progress of CGI. While in some films it blends in perfectly and is breathtaking in others it sticks out like a sore thumb. Sure, there are films and studios that will be cheap, but had there been more constant works the floor of marginally acceptable CGI would’ve risen. The man who is always breaking the glass ceiling of CGI excellence is George Lucas, and he says he tries to push other directors with every film he does, hopefully people will follow suit.

The computer generated image is one of the few things from the 80s which was expanded upon in the 90s. The technology has some very practical uses such as digital stunts and extras. With this technology the director’s vision can more easily be realized where as if something doesn’t exist the way he sees it can be created. This is one of the 80s lasting legacies. When we’re looking back upon this decade we, of course, can’t forget some of the films that came out of the decade, but we must also remember that filmmaking was forever changed in this decade because ‘Special Effects’ became a term that we could apply to almost every film. A new cinematic tool was beginning to be fully realized and is still being perfected to this very day.

 Footnote and Work Cited:

1. The Empire Strikes Back won an Academy Award for Special Achievement in Special Effects. The following year it was a category at the awards, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Drangonslayer were nominated.


2. Star Wars: Episode II- Attack of the Clones Dir. George Lucas. Feat. Hayden Christiansen, Ewan Macgregor, Natalie Portman, Christopher Lee. 2002, 20th Century Fox. DVD extra features.

E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

Once Upon a Time in the 80s- Introduction (Part 1 of 17)

In his Biographia Literaria Samuel Taylor Coleridge* postulates how a critic’s faculties and tastes are influenced by his life experiences and exposure to art. I open with this statement because in writing about the 1980s a decade in which I was a child, I realize there can be a certain amount of filtering due to nostalgia or longing for ‘the good old days,’ thus, with each film I discuss in the 1980s I think it important to note when I first saw the film. Some have stood the test of time. Others are recent discoveries. I’m also trying to examine all of these films in a new light to ensure subjectivity.

I also think it’s important to note the genesis of this concept in my own reasoning as it has most definitely shifted. A little more than a year ago [as of this writing] I saw a film called Amazing Grace and Chuck for the first time and I thought to myself “This film could’ve only been made in the 80s.” I thought this both because of its aesthetics, the grain and milieu common to the 1980s. I started postulating upon that on my cornerstone on defining the 1980s noting that the 50s, 60s, and 70s had each had their own unique looks. I noted there was overlap such that early 80s films still looked like they were shot in the 70s. Yet this would be too technical and pedantic an approach. What really struck me about Amazing Grace and Chuck was the subject matter. And while you can’t pin down a decade as sporadic and variegated as the 80s (As opposed to the heavy focus on Sci-Fi in the 50s) you can see there were ideas buried even in these heavily Hollywoodized films. Yet I come to realize as I’ve viewed nearly 30 films for analysis that saying this is what the 80s were all about is folly. However, within the context of each individual film I can display a reflection of cinematic or social thinking at the time.

This is an overview of a decade of innovation. A decade where the blockbuster was ever more predominant than in the 1970s yet there seemed to be a last gasp of artistry. There were great films released amongst the garbage. Also, we would see the trends that would lead to the decline in quality in the 1990s. It was a decade with artists who still had a spark of idealism and still had something to say albeit through indirect channels.

While many of the films make connections to my youthful sensitivities, it is important to note that these films for the most part do not condescend or talk down to its intended audience which is a problem that has become more and more apparent as time has moved on. These are also films that for me have stood the test of time. Some of what was good in the eighties was adopted in the 90s and turned sour and what’s worse some of what was terrible also stayed and became worse. In this paper I will look at the motion picture in all its forms film, television, animation and the newly-invented, at the time, music video. No matter how you look at it the 80s did matter and I want to examine the decade here. It was a decade I grew up in it is true but now I can look back subjectively and examine a decade I’ve come to love.

* While primarily a poet and philosopher Coleridge wrote an abundance of dramatic criticism, introduced the term ‘suspension of disbelief’ to the artistic world, and is one of the most important concepts in cinema.

 Note: This is a recapitulation of a paper I wrote in film school. It will be published here in installments.

Le Grand Chemin (1987, Miramax)

Americanization: How Le Grand Chemin Became Paradise- Le Grand Chemin (Part 3 of 3)

Le Grand chemin

Written and Directed by Jean-Loup Hubert
    

Unlike Paradise, Le Grand chemin takes place in June of 1958. The back drop of the Algerian War will play a role in this film and is a cultural detail that just doesn’t translate to an American version. We open on the much cozier confines of a bus that runs between Nantes and St. Brevin. Louis (Antoine Hubert) is to be left by his mother with her friend Marcelle (Anémone) for three weeks while she waits for her baby to be born. Being that it’s 1958 and post-maternal hospital stays were longer and that anticipated birthdates were a thing of the future this is a much more plausible scenario with which to begin the story. 
    

Unfortunately, auteurship isn’t what makes the original better. Both films have auteurs at the helm, Hubert and Donoghue respectively. In the remake’s case the difficulty was in that she was writing an adaptation and transplanting the story from one culture to another. The true auteur of this film is Jean-Loup Hubert who originally wrote this film, spawned from his own imagination. At best Donoghue saw the film and thought it was underappreciated in the States and wanted to bring it to a wider audience. In all likelihood a studio executive bought the rights and hired her to adapt and direct.
    

The title of this film has been loosely translated as “The Grand Highway.” While Grand may be kept the same it can also be ‘large’ or ‘great’ but chemin was definitely mistranslated it’s either ‘path’ or ‘track.’ I had learned that chemin was a path but it was clear to me visually that the translation was wrong even if I had no knowledge of French. Hubert frames the street passing under the bus after the driver yells out ‘Le Grand chemin’ obviously making it a metaphor. This is the path that is leading Louis into this couple’s life, a convergence, and it’s also life passing us by. Pello, who was Ben in Paradise, is introduced in much the same way talking bad of the couple and then surprising Louis by being at the house.
 
I take issue with the Billie character in Paradise. In Le Grand chemin she is Martine (Vanessa Guedj) and her character is a lot more rounded and intelligent. She is the grounded realist for having grown up in the country. Martine never doubts that her father walked out on her mother for a younger woman and towards the end of the film her bluntness causes Louis to run away being that he’s a dreamer from the city. While we may even dislike her for some of her actions, like when she shoves civelles down Louis’s shorts as a joke, she is strong and independent and not weak like Billie.
    

In this film, we see Marcelle knocking a rabbit out cold and skinning it. I’ve already discussed the animal rights concerns this was likely to cause if attempted in the U.S. and the studio was probably unwilling to shoot in another country to do something that may offend the audience. However, there is a purpose to this scene. Louis witnesses it all. This serves to reinforce his bad feeling about the trip which is prevalent at the beginning of this film. While Pello did deceive him, he is the first to earn his trust when Pello winks at him so he’ll pretend it’s their first meeting. In Paradise, Willard was merely afraid to say otherwise and a bond forms later in the film amongst less natural circumstances. 
    

The involvement of the Catholic Church also occurs earlier and more frequently in this film than it does in the American version. Actually, in the classic American tradition of watering everything down the Reeds attend a Protestant church of unknown denomination. In France, there is a greater acceptance of criticism of the Church. In the revolution the Church was under attack and to be abolished, later France was the nexus of the existentialist school of thought in the 20th Century. These interpretations of the Clergy are not necessarily as negative as we may interpret them, but rather an attempt to help humanity cope when they feel religion has failed them. In Le Grand chemin, Hubert frames the priest in a high pulpit above the parishioners. He is speaking of God and the saints and of lofty things and boring everyone to death. Later, when Louis is walking around on the roof and Martine is seeking help he makes jokes about them. All this is saying is that the Church and its clergy have begun to lose touch with the reality of worshippers’ lives. It’s not done in poor taste and it does in the end serve the story. The challenge Martine placed to Louis is that he couldn’t urinate down the gutter which leads out of a gargoyle statue’s mouth. When Louis is missing at the end he is found when a nun gets a “shower.” Now a nun is a human being just like you and me, thus, imperfect and not a religious icon and it escapes the dangerous realm of blasphemy. In Paradise, the preacher is merely a talkative dolt and the challenge is merely a high wire act because I guess Americans don’t urinate until they’re of age. 
 

Another aspect in which the French film excels is in the score. The French score is evocative of childhood whimsy and wonderment as need be. It is touching and extremely moving towards the end and put a great emphasis on the ending. And it highlights the moments of high drama perfectly without overshadowing the action.

In contrasting the actors ‘The Bedroom Scene’ is where we can most easily draw comparison between how each version of the story was handled. Jean-Loup Hubert frames his actors together with minimal cutting and the tension is so thick it hits home. You hear it almost as if you’re there. Richard Bohringer’s performance as Pello in this scene is absolutely raw, you can see there’s no stopping him, there’s nothing contrived here, no acting – that we can see. Hubert also excels here at writing putting this in a more emotionally vulnerable point in the film.


 
In Le Grand chemin, we see the following scene unfold: Pello and Louis have just spent a day together. In a very warm and touching shot Louis reaches out and takes Pello’s hand. Shortly after Marcelle arrives worried about whether or not he has eaten. Later she has to go pick Pello up because he’s drunk. Here we see them really butt heads. Because Pello has made a connection with Louis and he’s always been the more forward looking of the two he pushes the issue of Jean-Pierre, their dead child. He misses her as a wife and feels she’s playing the martyr and tries to take her physically. “God won’t help you, let’s do it in the wheelbarrow,” he says. He then chases her into the house and she locks him out of their room. Upon falling to the ground drunk he finds the key to Jean-Pierre’s room. He goes in and starts demolishing it, as he expected Marcelle comes out to stop him and again he attempts to rape her. This is high drama and great conflict. Pello is living in the moment and Marcelle in the past; we see the metaphorical struggle enacted physically. 
    

Even if the American film had reached the same amount of drama that the French film was able to they still undercut the tension. In the French film we discovered the room in that scene. In the American we had a sentimental and non-essential wandering into the room by Lily. The woman’s role in this scene is the same in both films; she must be resistant, in fear, fighting back and in hysterical shock at her husband’s actions. Melanie Griffith holds her own but is unable to live up to Anémone’s example. Don Johnson, on the other hand, fails miserably in this scene giving her nothing to work off of. His diction is poor, his tonality is all off and he is scarcely believable. He comes off as a man who may be a jerk but would never be thought of as being that passionate.
 

The French film also makes the connection between Pello and Louis and it’s made in not a more subtle but a better way. In Paradise, all the bonding occurs during a fishing trip both the forming of the friendship and the big question about the dead child. In Le Grand chemin, first Pello shows Louis how to sand by letting him watch how it’s done. Here we also see Pello give Louis a makeshift wagon where he carries around the scrap pieces of wood. This allows a visual representation of the bond they had. When he gets upset near the end we see Louis leave the wagon behind in the shed. Later, we have the fishing trip where they are already friendly and he asks about the baby after a long talk. 
    

What really works well in Le Grand chemin is the story arc. He may not be the most involved character but Louis is the catalyst of this film. In one scene Pello refuses Marcelle’s idea of a bedpan and takes Louis outside to urinate against the wall. He says to him “If you can hit the wall you’re ready for girls,” and in a very humorous turn Louis leans forward trying to hit the wall. The scene begins with Pello arguing with Martine and ends with his getting closer to Louis. He sharpens the conflict between the couple and then ultimately brings them closer together at the end. In the closing scenes, he climbs into bed with them because he had a bad dream and ultimately for the context of the film he sees them as his parents. He also affects Martine while they are quite different as Louis is timid and Martine is outgoing to the point of being brash she is very saddened by his leaving. When Louis is saying his goodbyes she is squeezing grapes and mixing them with rum to drink away her depression. This is another scene American audiences would have trouble with. We’d be willing to accept underage drinking in a movie, but only at a certain age even though much the same thing must happen here. The ultimate visual representation of how he affected everyone was when he was standing atop the church and the whole town is watching him.
    

In what is a very affective sequence, Louis’s character is pushed too harshly to the truth and lashes out. First, he is listening to a letter his father wrote him, a father he always believed was a head waiter in Nice. He asks Marcelle to see the postcard he sent and sees it’s blank. Marcelle was instructed to make up a message for him to hear. He recognizes the postcard from the year before. Marcelle tries to play it cool but Louis isn’t going to believe the story anymore, he calls her a liar and then he gets slapped. He runs off and consequently meets Martine who speculates that he must have met a younger woman. While Louis is ready to accept his father is gone he doesn’t want to hear anything negative either. He calls her a liar as well and then disappears to the church. What I like about this film is that it’s one without a ‘hyperplot’ but it does move and it is very well told. The characters come together bit by bit, and you get to slowly find out what they’re all about. If this film where made in the US it would be independently produced and most likely fall through the cracks, but in France it won many awards.

Of course, the way in which this film handles both sensuality and sexuality, while also dealing with death is very adept. Love and death are dramatic foils that writers have been toying with since time out of mind. In Le Grand chemin, the theme of death is more readily handled. Pello is not only a carpenter but he makes all the caskets in the town and he is best friends with the gravedigger, Hippolyte. Combine this with the fact that they had lost a child some years ago you get quite an odd little circle. It’s psychologically subtle. When you think about it Pello in all likelihood fitted his own son for a casket, he literally buried his own son. While his best friend, who may have been the godfather for all we know, buried him in the ground. So the impact on them must have been twice as hard in this film. As for Marcelle, no one can say how hard it is for a mother to lose a child unless they’ve ever been in that situation. So the film opens with characters that are deeply bruised. The connection between life and death is blood. In Pello’s shop we see Marcelle’s ‘monthly rag’ here blood is signifying the inability to create life. And it also ties in with sex. When dealing with a scene of attempted rape it’s hard to keep sympathy for a character but Pello never really loses our respect because once we realize he’s drunk and not his usual self (not that his usual self has been that nice) we almost understand his actions. We also know that all he wants of his wife is some affection. He feels that she died with their child and he hates it. Between the children the scenes of discovery are obviously better handled than in the American version. The scene where they discuss the clap in the French film isn’t as shy or prudish as the American. Martine is a tomboy and Billie is not. She doesn’t sit like a girl or talk like a girl. She offers Louis a look up her skirt which is something which is only clumsily suggested in the American version; Martine says it with bravado and pride. Billie only wears a dress when looking for her derelict father while Martine flashes a priest. The scene when they spy on Martine’s older sister is also quite differently handled in the American version.
 
   
While the American version starts off imitating the French version with identical framing of the kids on the upper level of the barn how the coital relationship is filmed is quite different. Why it is so I have no idea? In both cases, there are shots where the children would have to be there, unless there was some sort of processing. In the French film, the boyfriend moves up from performing cunnilingus and we see him on top of his girlfriend. In the American version, they are already engaged in intercourse and we see the couple sideways. Even when depicting sexuality we must be the example of prudery and puritanical ethics.
    

Simon, Solange’s (Martine’s sister) boyfriend, is about to go off to Algeria. This was a war that was a backdrop to many French films. It was a war that eventually ended French colonialism in the nation. Many films, including Godard’s Le Petit soldat, have used this war as central themes yet in this film it’s more a background issue but I don’t believe it represents any larger symbol here but is merely a plot element. If the American version had some kind of backdrop it may have been better but it doesn’t; it’s flat and it’s all surface.
 

   

Le Grand chemin is triumphant filmmaking in which all the elements work together smoothly. Jean-Loup Hubert gets a wonderful performance out of his son that ranks amongst the great performances by child actors alongside Christian Bale in Empire of the Sun and Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense to name a few. For the adult roles, Hubert had actors who were confident enough to be able to take a scene of such intensity and absolutely live it, the chemistry was there and it was shot to perfection. The story is well-written and simply done. The music and cinematography in Le Grand chemin are far superior. If we learn anything in comparing these two films is that the original work, especially if foreign, loses a lot of it’s spirit in switching countries its culture and in many cases its talent.
 
Le Grand chemin is a beautiful film that should’ve been left alone. Some stories are only meant to be told once. And many must stay where they are born and are never meant to be imitated overseas.  

Works Cited


Chemin Grand, Le. Dir. Jean-Loup Hubert, 1987. Perf. Anemone, Richard Bohringer, Antoine Hubert

Éloge de l’amour Dir. Jean-Luc Godard, 2001. 
Atkins, Beverly T, Alain Duval, Rosemary C. Milne et al.,

Le Robert & Collins Poche Dictionnaire Français-Anglais Anglais-Français. 2nd ed. Dictionnaries Le Robert: Paris, 1996.

Paradise Dir. Mary Agnes Donoghue, 1991. Perf. Melanie Griffith, Don Johnson, Elijah Wood and Thora Birch.

Paradise (1991, Touchstone Pictures)

Americanization: How Le Grand Chemin Became Paradise- Paradise (Part 2 of 3)

Paradise

Directed by Mary Agnes Donoghue 
Touchstone Pictures   Jean Francois Lepetit

Paradise begins at a private school where Willard (Elijah Wood) meets Clay and they talk about where they’re going for the summer. Clay is going to his summer home in Colorado. Willard lies and says he’s going to Africa. We then follow Willard home and see a very conventional scene establishing him as unpopular and lonely when he passes a pick up baseball game and is harassed by bullies. This scene is so common in American cinema (i.e. sports as a proving ground of childhood acceptance) that it fails to achieve its goal: creating sympathy for the protagonist. 
    


We are introduced to Willard’s mother and instantly pass judgment on her. Willard comes home and she is on the phone. She closes the door in his face because she is talking about a private matter. Later, we find Willard is being sent off to the country to stay with her friends as she gives birth to a new baby and can’t take care of him. As we will find later, the American version of the film will become overly-obsessed with justifying why a mother would send her only child to stay with her friends for a few weeks. Ironically, this justification is needed because this version of the film takes place in the present where childbirth is less difficult, thus making it more implausible than in Le Grand chemin.
   


Willard pleads with his mother that his friend’s mother gave birth and he didn’t have to leave but to no avail. The absolute lack of subtlety, which is another problem many American films face because commercial appeal is so crucial, creates some of the worst lines in this film. When the bus arrives at their destination Willard’s mother says ‘We’re here?’ Willard says ‘Where?’ and the response is ‘Paradise.’ This is the reason so many people joke ‘That’s where they got the title from!’ with mock-enthusiasm. Le Grand chemin is not as heavy handed in revealing its title as it’s the bus driver who yells out the stop their making. 
 

Upon leaving the bus Elijah Wood uses quite a good facial expression to show his disappointment with his surroundings. Wood was one of the most talented child actors to ever grace the silver screen, he and Melanie Griffith’s talents were utterly wasted in this poorly directed adaptation, whether or not Wood’s adult career will be as spectacular is yet to be seen. He will be in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy and I found the first film overrated, which means in my opinion, his last great film was Black and White, an ensemble piece in 1999. [Clearly all of this is accurate as of this writing. Since the completion of the trilogy he has done little to live up the promise he showed as a youth, Maniac may change that.] 
   


Willard then meets Ben, played by Don Johnson, who pretty much only knows two emotions (straight and angry) and can’t act in either of them. And we get the same game of deception as we did in the French version. Remaking a film is truly a catch-22. When scenes were simply translated from the French I wanted new material and where there were new wrinkles added I thought they were covering the wrong ground. A perfect example is when we are introduced to Sally Pike (Sheila McCarthy) who is a waitress in a local dinner who is talking to Lily (Melanie Griffith) about how she has decided to get married. Sally’s marriage proposition will be one of two flimsy, underdeveloped and unnecessary subplots that Donoghue thrusts upon this once simple and beautiful film.
 

At the Reed home, we see Lily chop the head off a dead chicken. This scene is a microcosm of the difficulty in remaking a film that was originally the product of another culture. In Le Grand chemin Marcelle (Anémone) skins a rabbit which shocks the young Louis. Here it’s a chicken getting its head chopped off, while animal rights activists might not allow for an animal to be skinned French audiences wouldn’t be as queasy as to disallow even a simulation of the event. The context in which the action occurs justifies it whether you agree with it or not. They live in the country, thus, don’t buy clean pre-prepared chicken. However, just that little change when having the original niggling at the back of your head makes it an annoying occurrence. It makes you realize this movie is French. It was told from a French perspective yet something about that experience made it universal, by transplanting and Americanizing it we are ruining what made it wonderful. While certain cinematic experiences are ‘indigenous,’ meaning they have a greater significance to the culture that created it (i.e. Central do Brasil [Central Station]) there is still something about the film that made it renowned worldwide. The formulizing and studiofication of Le Grand chemin is sadly not the worst English translation but the fact that it was made at all is bad enough. Why couldn’t the general public just go to see the original? It makes Americans seem not only elitist but ignorant that we can’t go en masse to hear a new language and read while at the theatre. Read in the movies? God forbid!
   

The lack of subtlety strikes again when Willard meets Billie Pike (Thora Birch). Her first line is ‘Have you ever seen a dead body?’ This is a blunt insertion of the theme of death that runs throughout this and the original, again Jean-Loup Hubert handled the subject with much more delicacy than did Donoghue. We also then get the introduction of love and sex as themes in an equally amateur way when Billie asks if Willard would like to see her sister with ‘her clothes… off’ (Emphasis from film). This line shows the director’s fault in so many ways. First, this is terrible acting on Birch’s part (She would go on to be decent in her later films such as Now and Then and American Beauty). Second, this is obviously in the director’s opinion the best take of the line which I don’t find in the least bit amusing. Thus, Donoghue is also at fault for having emphasis added in the script. It might have worked on paper but when she realized what she was dealing with the line should’ve been re-written. 

And lastly, this also tends to point out the glaring yet unexplainable phenomena that many American directors have such a difficult time getting quality performances out of child actors whereas we see many fine performances by youths from all around the world. I believe part of the problem is that we as Americans coddle the child actor and view them as inferior giving them stupid and/or annoying roles and the directors seldom have enough understanding of these performers to guide them when a role does require more out of them.
   

Rosemary (Eve Gordon) is talking to Lily on the stairs about how her husband has left her and she doesn’t know how to tell Willard. This is implied in the original and its insertion here further divides our attention away from what the two main storylines really are and they are the relationship between Lily and Ben and between Billie and Willard. We do then switch to them and hear another gem (For some reason most of the poor dialogue in the film, if not all, is reserved for Billie). They are up in the tree and she says ‘I come here when I’m mad which, is most of the time.’ This is such lazy writing we get two major pieces of information which can be conveyed, and is conveyed, through the action of the film at various points. We understand this very quickly in Le Grand chemin mostly because Vanessa Guedj’s performance is much better than Thora Birch’s; the casting director of the French version also deserves kudos for a wise decision.    
 

In this version of the film we also get Billie being somewhat more ignorant than Willard on matters of sex. This coming from the use of a modern setting combined with the switch in what kids from the country and city know depending on country and on time period. We then go to a somewhat of a bonding moment between Willard and Lily in which they are picking string beans and preparing them for dinner. When Ben comes home he utters dialogue that is transplanted and meaningless given the context and Johnson’s lack of talent. His being cast makes me start to wonder if the casting was a marketing gimmick pairing real life spouses at the time (Johnson & Griffith). Ironically, on screen they were as mismatched as in real life.

What we then get is perhaps the biggest fumble of this film which is the exposition of the Reed’s dead child. One of the problems that haunt this version is that in the American version we find this information out too early in the film. This comes from our cultural imperative that films must be about ‘something’ right away. While there’s nothing wrong with that in theory, in this instance we ruin the simplicity of the film and also create a paltry melodrama by making Lily go into the baby’s room to hold things and cry. This makes all the emotions we feel in this film absolutely manipulated and contrived. Whereas in the French version all we see is Pello going into the room after a fight to destroy it. This is our first exposure to the room and we instantly see that is a museum of sorts for their dead child. The emotions elicited by his actions are real because as soon as we see it: 1) We know why Marcelle kept it unchanged. 2) we see Pello trying to destroy it to hurt her. This is the fault of the American studio because they underestimated the audience’s intelligence, which is always a sinful act by a filmmaker which sadly is committed all too often.
 

Billie at one point insists on finding her father who it turns out works at a roller skating rink. She goes there and is rejected. Paradise also on a few occasions tries to make Billie’s mother, the waitress, a central character. These are two inventions of the American version of this film which water down and show weakness in their filmmaking. Not only are the makers of Paradise unwilling to tell a simple story but they cannot even be subtle and they throw in unnecessary scenes of expositions amongst newly created adult characters who have never existed in the framework of this story. Even when a child actor is given a large role in an American film here we still find reticence to let the weight of the film rest on his/her shoulders. Something the French are extremely adept at doing. 
   

Paradise is not a bad film. Considering it is a remake of a French film I saw prior, it’s decent. It is, however, nothing to write home about. It misses the elusive magic and perhaps indigenous uniqueness that Le Grand chemin had. And it was doomed to be inferior from the start taking that into account which makes me wonder why a remake was allowed to happen in the first place.

Jean-Luc Godard

Americanization: How Le Grand Chemin Became Paradise- Introduction (Part 1 of 3)

In Godard’s latest film [as of this writing], Éloge de l’amour, there is a scene where an old couple is selling their life story, as it pertains to the French Resistance. A lawyer representing Steven Spielberg is stopped by their granddaughter while reading the contract. A debate ensues because he uses the word ‘America.’ The granddaughter asks “Which America?” to which the lawyer responds ‘The United States.’ Still combative, the granddaughter counters saying Brazil’s official name is ‘The United States of Brazil’ and the same goes for Mexico. Then the girl stops playing her game and says “Oh the States then, that America, the one that has no name or history such that they buy their stories from other countries.” This is a very telling scene of the culture that created one of the largest and most culturally significant film industries in the world. There are ‘histories’ in the United States for certain groups but fewer moments when there is a collective history. The narrative traditions of our country’s cinema have been decided by executives and not by a common culture.

When a foreign film is a big hit one of two things happens. One, it comes to the United States to play in some theatres or, two, in some cases the film will be remade, Americanized and jazzed up. This is just one of many issues that makes it difficult to transplant a film across cultures. I will be examining in this paper France’s Le Grand chemin and the United States’s version Paradise.
 
It wouldn’t surprise me at all if studio executives sit around debating the question “How do we make this American?” when they’ve acquired the rights to a foreign remake. It’s the asking of this question which usually leads most remakes awry. A French film is French, a Russian film is Russian and a Brazilian film is Brazilian. The films are a product of their society and are successful if they can strike some universal cord that reverberates around they world. “How do we make this American?” that’s like asking “How do we make a dog a cat?” You can’t do it. This is the hurdle the makers of Paradise faced in remaking Le Grand chemin.

Maximum Overdrive (1986, DEG)

Horror Films and Stephen King (Part Seven)

De Laurentiis was the sole production company involved in the making of this film. They gave this movie a budget of $10 million dollars, which may have been risky considering their spotty past varying from Conan the Destroyer to Blue Velvet. Of their 22 productions four were released in 1986. The fact that they spread themselves so thin may have lead to the variance in the quality of the films and their financial success.
    

The distribution of this film is what really sunk it, as in almost no one saw this film. DEG didn’t have the distribution power even of a New World Pictures thus not many theatres ran the film. Even if they did get a decent amount of screens there was still the problem of bad timing. 
 

Maximum Overdrive got slammed financially and here’s why: it began slowly in June, (AIP would have called it I Was an ‘86 Blockbuster) and they rolled in: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Back to School, The Karate Kid Part II and Ruthless People. Then on July 2nd and 4th Disney attacked with The Great Mouse Detective and Flight of the Navigator. OK, so there are a lot of comedies and family films what’s to worry … (gulp) … Aliens, the follow-up to the original blockbuster comes out and becomes the dominant film of the next few weeks beginning on July 18th. With the horror market cornered a small unassuming film directed by a writer involving trucks comes out, what do you expect to happen? Well, as that dude Murphy would say, if he had lived in the 80s, “Yo, it gets worse!” 
 

A fortnight after the truck expedition Rob Reiner released one of the finest King adaptations to ever hit the screen, Stand by Me. It was a film that caught everyone by surprise, including Stephen King, who later remarked, “It seemed to me that Stand by Me was the first really completely successful adaptation of my work.” (Stand by Me). I believe part of that comes from a true filmmaker who wasn’t afraid to involve himself in the text in handling the film. It wasn’t just a studio picking up his latest offering, or struggling writer maxing his credits cards to get a shot or a no-name director getting his one chance. 
    

Ironically, the marketing of Stephen King is only an issue when it’s a horror film. When The Green Mile came out he was the author of The Shawshank Redemption, with Hearts in Atlantis  he was the author of The Green Mile. Dolores Claiborne was probably also thrown in the mix at one point. It’s as if they think he’s only good when he writes something other than horror.

I’d seen Stand by Me as a child and had always liked it. It was one of those things I came to later rediscover in adolescence/early adulthood and when I found that King had written that tale it confirmed his genius in my mind. King and Reiner seemed to have come from similar upbringings and it lead to probably one of his most fruitful collaborations. King commented in 1990 that “Rob Reiner, who made Stand by Me, is one of the bravest, smartest filmmakers I have ever met. I am also amused to note that the company Mr. Reiner formed following the success of Stand by Me is Castle Rock Productions … a name with which many of my long time readers will be familiar.”  (Midnight, xiii). 
 

   

Often the relationship has not been as chummy. King is said to have had many a feud with Kubrick and has publicly aired his sentiments about The Shining over the years. Yet, he is quite an admirer of DePalma’s Carrie, as am I, while he finds no real amusement in his own book which he once threw out, I agree with that instinct but am so very glad his wife saved it from the wreckage. While I know it’s true that it’s usually the studio/distributor that makes the decision to plaster a movie poster with “Stephen King’s” or “From the producers of Independence Day” I sometimes hope that he stipulated that it be removed if he was unhappy with something, like Christine.
    

John Carpenter’s Christine is a galumphing piece of crap about an unsympathetic nerd that never should have been made. The book, however, is a fascinating, ominous, well-developed masterpiece told from three separate points of view and you can sympathize with all the characters. And like the master he is, you believe this scenario somehow because he makes you. 
 
   
To successfully adapt a book one must realize what makes each medium unique in order to capture the book’s essence on film without ruining it like millions of misguided dorks have done in the past. Ira Levin author of Rosemary’s Baby commented on Roman Polanski’s adaptation in a letter to King stating “There is a reason for his fidelity to the book, incidentally…His screenplay was the first adaptation he’d made of someone else’s material; his earlier films had all been originals. I think he didn’t know it was permitted – nay, almost mandatory! – to make changes.” (qtd. in King, Danse Macabre, 296). It is always wonderful when a film can be made that follows the book as faithfully as Levin feels his was followed. However, it’s not always a success like a Harry Potter or a Rosemary’s Baby the words ‘slavish,’ ‘slow,’ and ‘boring’ often come up in reviews. People who want drawn out movies that give you two to two-and-half hours to really examine the characters and the situation their in are rare, more and more studios are reverting to the 90 minute film length as opposed to the 120 and above.
  


 
The issue of time is one reason that Stephen King has found such a comfortable home on ABC writing mini-series’. In 1999 and 2002 he made two originals called Storm of the Century and Rose Red. In the latter he had the luxury of waiting 100 minutes before sending his protagonists into a haunted house whereas, in a feature film most producers would’ve already wanted the story to be over.
    

In the end, making Maximum Overdrive was a valuable experience for Stephen King. Since 1986 it seems that he’s taken a more active role in some of his productions and has ultimately learned to pick his battles. He’s since found a medium in which he can write long screenplays filled with rich, rounded characters and he has since become a producer. Thanks in part to Reiner’s success more accomplished filmmakers have since been attracted to his projects. The high-end Kingflicks are more frequent and there isn’t as much junk inbetween. He’s been involved with Frank Darabont on two occasions on The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile and Darabont has optioned the rights to a short story entitled “The Mist” [It has since been released], William Goldman has adapted three of his novels into films Misery and Hearts in Atlantis and the forthcoming Dreamcatcher. King wrote an episode for Chris Carter’s X-Files and is shopping an adaptation of Patrick McGrath’s novel Asylum to be directed by Jonathan Demme [This never came to fruition]. He’s also developing a television series based on Lars von Trier’s The Kingdom for which he will write pilot [This did happen].
    

Many readers who like to be scared by King, when they’re not going to court with Grisham or seeing the turbulence in Steel’s world, have fallen out of favor with King’s work. Stephen King is a writer who is constantly honing his craft. He is writing richer, more complex novels and has mastered other mediums along the way. A little over 36 years after his career in film began King’s legacy is only now beginning to show his true potency.

dvd_max

Horror Films and Stephen King (Part Six)

Stephen King has always been somewhat uncomfortable with the marketing of his name such that he created his alter-ego/pseudonym in large part to avoid the media’s scrutiny of his work. His name was Richard Bachman. “I’ve been asked several times if I did it because I was overpublishing the market as Stephen King. The answer is no. I didn’t think I was overpublishing the market …but my publishers did.” (Bachman, ix). 
 

Over-exposure is something that Hollywood has never been afraid of, especially when a gifted writer who people love to read comes along. In fact, the film which I examine in this paper Maximum Overdrive was recently re-made for TV and it was called Trucks. Many a time King has had little or no involvement with many of the films made from his work and in the past many people have had little or no regard for his actual text or for his input on the project, this has since changed.
 

“Sometimes I feel like Mickey Mouse in Fantasia. I knew enough to get things started, but once they started to march, things are never the same.” (Bachman, vii). Stephen King was taking the helm of Maximum Overdrive just after his pen name had been “outed.” In a way, this was a chance for King to take control of a project but even this was marketed and commercialized. King was the center of the theatrical trailer claiming that he was “Going to scare the hell out of you.” The one sheet also proclaimed the film a masterpiece before it was released. This marketing scheme was poorly thought up, while it’s hard to sell a horror film that’s not as scary as it’s supposed to be, it’s more difficult to sell a film when all the audience sees is the director saying how scary it is. One thing the trailer does seem to imply is that King was looking for someone to do his work justice up ‘til then no one had until Rob Reiner did later in Stand by Me.
 

Miscasting has been a hindrance in many King films. In reference to the protagonist in The Running Man King said “he’s about as far from the Arnold Schwarzenegger character in the movie you can get.” (Long, vii). This is a problem he faced in Maximum Overdrive was in choosing the wrong actors. Not many good actors do horror films when they’re already famous and it’s hard to make a successful horror film when the characters are so horribly miscast. When the audience knows something was a novel their critical faculties seem abnormally heightened and this makes every decision crucial.
    

His difficulties also came into play in reference to length. King is one who likes to slowly develop things and needs time. He once commented that “these days it seems everything wants to be a novel, and every novel wants to be approximately four thousand pages long.” (Nightmares, 4). With film being what it is today, and what it was starting to become in 1986, it’s no wonder that Maximum Overdrive feels like a sketch by Picasso, it lacked color. Sure, Picasso could do a lot with a pencil but to see his full genius he needed a larger surface. King likewise was confined by the need to be a 90 minute film, I sometimes get the feeling that just another half hour and it might have been a whole other film.