Saturday, July 11, 2009

An utter travesty

I saw something in Target the other day which pulled me up short

That's right. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World in the bargain bucket for $4.75.

This film is based on the twenty-volume "Master and Commander" series by Patrick O'Brian (1914-2000). I've read the whole series several times, and I enjoy it more each time. The prose is the most beautiful I've ever read; the underlying research would provide material for a dozen PHd theses; I'm sure I will never read anything better in my lifetime; indeeed, the fervour of many devotees approaches religious levels of intensity.

Peter Weir and John Collee therefore had their hands full creating a 2 hour movie based on the canon. I would have said the books were not filmable. I would have expected Hollywood would have added a few sword-wielding pirate queens, for example. But they created a most excellent adaptation, preserving much of the feel of the books, with state of the art special effects, and a wonderful cast. There were very few false notes struck and overall I think the movie was a staggering achievement.

The movie also made me think Russell Crowe is probably the best actor working right now. I could not imagine anybody playing Jack Aubrey convincingly, but Crowe pulled it off.

So I was very sad to see it available at a knock-down price.

I despaired when I saw this on an adjacent shelf.

$4.75 for a cinematic masterpiece where the best acting talent in the world interprets the best work of one of the finest novelists in history;

or $13 to see a piece of furniture with legs spouting dreck written by a Hollywood hack likely off his head on drugs.

A difficult choice.

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