There appears to be three basic ways to approach adapting a book into a film. As with most things in life, the easiest way to illustrate this is through Stephen King film adaptations… The first, and most obvious method, is that of Frank Darabont with Rita Hayworth And The Shawshank Redemption (The Shawshank Redemption) or Rob Reiner with The Body (Stand By Me), which is to take a book and simply try to be as faithful as possible to the source material, leaving the dialogue and set pieces essentially in tact, making only minor changes for cinematic purposes. The second, and probably most sensible when tackling an 700+ page Stephen King novel, is that used by John Carpenter with Christine or David Cronenberg with The Dead Zone, which is to deliver a faithful, but condensed version of the book by building the screenplay around key scenes and concepts of the novel, removing repetitive and non-narrative scenes and sometimes combining characters. The final, and most interesting method, is to pick a few key scenes and ideas from a story and then build something completely new out of this handful of ideas, Stanley Kubrick did this to great success with The Shining (much to the ire of Stephen King who later readapted his novel into a considerably less interesting TV series), Brett Leonard did this to extraordinary WTF-ness with The Lawnmower Man and Stephen King himself did this and vast quantities of cocaine with Trucks (Maximum Overdrive).
Looking back over 2015, it was quite an extraordinary year for home video releases. Companies such as Arrow Video, The Criterion Collection, Masters of Cinema and Twilight Time not only released a wealth of fascinating and brilliant films on blu-ray for the first time, but raised the bar in relation to restoration, packaging and supplements. Subsequently, narrowing this list down to only ten releases was a difficult process, but for me, these are the ten most essential new releases that I watched this year.
The stated aim of The Criterion Collection’s Eclipse Series is to curate a “selection of lost, forgotten, or overshadowed classics in simple, affordable editions”, with each volume “a brief cinemateque retrospective for the adventurous home viewer”. Due to the relative obscurity of the majority of titles in this series, the films are DVD only and with prints of variable quality, however the real goal is to simply make these films available to a wider audience. The previous releases in the Eclipse Series have been divided between collections of lesser known films by important directors (Early Bergman, Silent Ozu, Late Ray, The First Films Of Akira Kurosawa) and collections of films from overlooked directors or movements (Travels With Hiroshi Shimizu, Three Popular Films By Jean-Pierre Gorin, Pearls Of The Czech New Wave, Nikkatsu Noir).
The Criterion Collection’s stated aim is that they are “dedicated to gathering the greatest films from around the world and publishing them in editions of the highest technical quality, with supplemental features that enhance the appreciation of the art of film”. Their success in this endeavour is reflected not only in oft-used phrases like “Criterion worthy” and “Criterion like” as a description of the quality of films and home video releases, but also by the very presence of the Criterion Blogathon of which this is part.
Back around the year 2000, Beastie Boys Video Anthology was the first Criterion Collection title that I bought. New to the DVD format at the time, I remember spending a night transfixed watching seemingly endless permutations of “Intergalactic” and “Shake Your Rump”, the first two songs on the first disc. When selecting a title for the Criterion Blogathon, Beastie Boys Video Anthology seemed the obvious choice. Not only does it shows the great variety of the “contemporary” side of The Criterion Collection, but it’s also an excellent example of their history of pushing the envelope of what could be achieved both technically and artistically in home video releasing.
Anyone with more than a passing interest in The Criterion Collection would be aware of the general commotion that occurs every couple of years when Criterion release their special edition of the Wes Anderson film before last. The whole process is always quite fascinating to follow on social media. The Criterion Collection is justifiably the most esteemed home video company in the world, renowned for not only the exceptional scope and quality of their releases, but also the time and effort that they put into packaging and supplements. As a result of the excellence of their work, the company has quite rightly built up their own rather zealous group of followers.
The recent Criterion Collection blu-ray release of The Killers serves as an illuminating study of how different artists and circumstances can influence the adaptation of the same source material. This package collects three films from 1946, 1956 and 1964 all based on Ernest Hemingway’s 1927 (very) short story The Killers. Continue reading “The Killers”