iPlayer Radio What's New?

Writing Lesson

Friday 25 February 2011, 16:52

Mark Kermode Mark Kermode

Tagged with:

How do you write for film? Not how do you write scripts, but how do you make someone look good when they are writing on film? In a new movie about the trial surrounding the first performance and publication of Allen Ginsberg's epic beat culture poem Howl, James Franco shows us one version. In Terry Gilliam's take on Hunter S Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Johnny Depp offers up another. The question is, can anyone write well on screen ever?

In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash installed. Visit BBC Webwise for full instructionsIf you're reading via RSS, you'll need to visit Mark's blog to view the video.

Tagged with:

Comments

Jump to comments pagination
 
  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1.

    Adaptation. 'nuff said

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 2.

    Naked Lunch

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 3.

    #1: Seconded! Although that's more about filming writer's block surely? In the same breath what about "Barton Fink"?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 4.

    The Shining

    also vaguely remember a Holden/Hepburn film I saw many a year ago called Paris When It Sizzles

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 5.

    'Paul Sheldon used to write for a living, now he's writing to stay alive'.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 6.

    I've seen Howl.... it's a good film, great great performance from James Franco, some of the animation works very well, some doesn't.

    Films about writing.... Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas does it very well, Cronenberg's vastly underrated Naked Lunch, Barton Fink (obviously...) but one that nobody will mention is Barfly... which is Barbet Schroeder's greatest film which stars Mickey Rourke as Charles Bukowski's alter ego Henry Chinaski, it's one of the greatest "biopics" ever cause it just makes a small part of Charles Bukoski's life and it's just about this short period, it shows the frustrations of a writer very well and alcoholic, it's much much better film than Factotum which is sadly the only one of the Bukowski adaptation available on dvd in the UK, I have a VHS of Barfly.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 7.

    The most obvious answer to me is the 1996 adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut's "Mother Night" starring Nick Nolte and Alan Arkin. For literally the entire story, Nolte's character sits in front of a typewriter telling his story as he waits for his execution. These scenes are shown in black and white, and the scenes he writes are shown in color, and only cut to the black and white scenes while he isn't typing, such as taking a break or changing the paper. Key passages from the novel are told in voiceover.

    If you want a story that involves characters typing, here is a movie where typing is the only thing that really happens.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 8.

    I think a similar problem afflicts films about music production I guess the problem is that, with some notable exceptions, making art can be a slow, deliberate and often tedious endeavour.

    This is also why we must endure the "Chubby, Hmmm?" moments Mark often comments about; how can they embody the whole significance of a subject without a pithy throwaway placeholder to do the work for them? At least music biopics have the option of a raucous live performance (where, inevitably, the band only play one song per gig!).

    No wonder that most biopics about an artist focus on the human element (drink/narcotic abuse, spousal/family strife, disillusionment with fame) rather than on the art itself, namely the thing they are famous for in the first place.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 9.

    I think the greatest example a film about writing is actually in the dictation sequences in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, where Jean-do Bauby struggles to dictate a word to his scribe let alone construct entire passages.

    Each sequence is done with immense care and sympathy. You feel so on edge and moved as he spells out each word he wants to put down on paper. However, I seem to remember the film moving away from those sequences when he is recounting memories and then moving themselves in a live action sequence of the events Jean-do describes.

    Even though I think the best parts of that film were the sequences where he is trying to construct words, I think the makers did a very good job in illustrating the events he was describing.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 10.

    The Shining, great example since Torrence doesn't do much of it. He simply is distracted and gets aggresive with his wife. However its the results that turn out to be memorable.

    Another example is Schindler's List. Stern (played by Ben Kingsley) is writing a list of 1100 names and the scene is intercutted with a scenes involving Schindler (played by Liam Neeson) setting the wheels in motion of buying and transporting the 1100 Jews he wants for his factory.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 11.

    I don't like the sudden wave of anti-snobbery concerning animation among critics. Not everyone is unjustly prejudiced against animation.

    I think it's presumptuous to say that Hunter S Thompson "thought animation would undermine his work" - I would say what is more likely is that he didn't want one of his most famous METAPHORS expressed LITERALLY (in whatever medium). I happen to agree with him that seeing him surf along a wave of new culture would look crap. However the film we end up with, also looks a bit crap too.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 12.

    @TheFunMachine Excellent chouce with Diving Bell, I was just coming on here to mention that one,really nicely handled. Perhaps it works so well simply because the makers could not resort to the old typewriter trick as Bauby was completely paralyzed, Schnabel was forced to be imaginative.

    How about being controlled by something or someone else entirely?!! I'm thinking of Romero's The Dark Half based on Stephen King's novel. Which Kind of links in with @thelesseroftwoweevils Shining suggestion above!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 13.

    Having a Mugwump's head as a type writer will never be a cinematic bore.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 14.

    Actaully The Dark Half The Shining and Secret Window all have a similar theme and are all based on Stephen King stories/novels!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 15.

    FINDING FORRESTER showed the writing, but also the criticism of that writing, the part of the process that comes before the page, showcased characters who loved the process and put it all to a minimalist Miles Davis score. Well done, I think.

    Since you've seen HOWL, is there a reason that Franco's beard looks so fake? It looks like he speckled it on with paint.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 16.

    @ MargeGunderson

    You forgot the all time classic movie, Misery.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 17.

    p.s.

    From IMDB.

    "Clash of the Titans director Jonathan Liebesman has disclosed that Christopher Nolan has agreed to convert Inception into 3D."

    What say you Mr. Kermode?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 18.

    Adaptation. No other film about writing comes close.

    Misery, Barton Fink, The Shining and Starting Out In The Evening are all great films, also. Frank Langella is outstanding in that last one.

    One that I loved that was panned by both critics and audiences: Funny Farm with Chevy Chase as the sports writer that moves to a quiet country community (along with his wife) to become a novelist. I wonder how Mark felt about that one.





  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 19.

    @Stuart Yates Ah Yes. Well remembered. Can't believe I forgot that one!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 20.

    How about Memento? Instead of writing a diary of events he tattooes himself. Or more left field how about Never Ending Story?

 

Page 1 of 4

This entry is now closed for comments

Share this page

More Posts

Previous
Those Upcoming Oscar Winners in Full

Tuesday 22 February 2011, 15:41

Next
5 live review: Confessions

Monday 28 February 2011, 09:23

About this Blog

Outspoken, opinionated and never lost for words, Mark is the UK's leading film critic.

This twice-weekly video blog is the place where he airs his personal views on the things that most fire him up about cinema - and invites you to give your own opinions.

Blog Updates

Stay updated with the latest posts from the blog.

Subscribe using:

What are feeds?