A Movie Is A Movie | Letters | Chicago Reader

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A Movie Is A Movie

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Perhaps I've been living in Los Angeles too long, but the notion that movie adaptations of books should retain complete fidelity to the written word is an anachronism [November 19]. It doesn't matter what the germ of the idea is. Once it is in the director's hands, the subject becomes the director's. So it seems futile to review a movie as though it were a book you can watch. The book already exists, and to get an experience of complete fidelity to the book it is easy enough to just read it. A book is a book and a movie is a movie, so therefore, movie adaptations should be judged, I think, only on their cinematic merits. Tim Burton didn't (I guess) set out to copy the original; he was inspired by the setting and characters of Irving's Sleepy Hollow, and tells a different story from that starting point; one from his own imagination. Likewise, the movie Nixon is an imaginative retelling, rather than a biographical, documentary piece of journalism. All of this is OK. So I don't need to know how faithful the movie is. Just how good it is as a movie.

David Croy

Los Angeles

Jonathan Rosenbaum replies:

I agree with you that no director is under any obligation to adapt anything faithfully. The three stars I gave to Sleepy Hollow was my estimation of the movie as a movie. And the thrust of my article--I wouldn't call it a review exactly--was to complain that Burton or the studio claimed that the movie was an adaptation when it wasn't.

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