In discussing films, there might be spoilers. Sorry!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Hugo and Sabatini at the Cinema By H.E. Curtis

Being the old fashioned codger I am, I grow more attached to books as I grow older, finding my life long preference for books never leaves me. Nothing is like the smell of leather books, feeling pages beneath my finger tips, or sensory overload from walking into a library seeing filled shelves of books. Wooden shelves being best, with rolling ladders, oak tables and over stuffed chairs, tiffany desk lamps and at least one large fire place with a mantle around it lorded over by an ancient portrait. It’s not I don’t like movies, on the contrary my wife will confirm I am an old classic movie hound who enjoys tracking down old obscure movies, especially ones I grew up on and were introduced to by my wonderful parents.

Immediately two books made into movies come to mind. Not surprisingly they are French authors and both take place around the French Revolution. Scaramouche, by Rafael Sabatini and Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo. Being the traditionalist I am I will never be reconciled completely with the movie industry making books into movies. It just isn’t the same and often too many liberties are taken or too much is excluded.

While our main character, Andre Moreau, reluctantly takes on the persona of Scaramouche, both movie and book portray this transformation very well. Scaramouche, the comic and tragic clown is a good fit for Andre who portrays the same qualities in more sophisticated form. In Jungian terms Scaramouche is an Archetype. The dazzling final sword fight of the movie, which is one of the longest sword fight scenes in movie history, while absent from the book, doesn’t detract from the book at all; what the book lacks in cinematic presentation, it more then makes up for in setting, intrigue, backdrops and twists and turns no cinematic endeavor could capture . However book and movie are very enjoyable indeed.

Les Miserables, however, will touch your heart strings in any form. It will not only touch them, it will pluck them and play them, it will call up the deep well of emotions and exhaust one emotionally while still yearning for more. Admittedly the movie versions struggle more to accomplish this, but the theatric and novel itself always at least once or twice force me to pause dramatically and take a few moments to catch my breath. Now, as a father with two daughters, I find I identify even more with Jean Valjean and share the same jealousies he does concerning my two young girls who will eventually turn into women, and in turn acquire suitors (selfishly I hope not soon). While Scaramouche produced laughter, absurdity and irony, even in moments of danger and outrage, Les Miserable, will always give you deep sorrow and longing mixed with constant striving to be a better person, allowing you the bitter sweet choice of doing so even in the midst of turmoil and a collapsing world around you. The one major difference between the two is one has been set to music, and that added element always procures a deeper emotional response, but as always doesn’t replace the written book itself. If anything, for me, I have a better appreciation for it and the author. Both books are historically important for writer and film maker alike. To not study these I think would add an imbalance to the skills and insight and make one remiss in embracing a history rich and powerful and living. At times in moments of free musing, I sometimes wonder what Sabatini and Hugo would think of the film versions of their books.


H.E. Curtis resides in the Sierra Nevada Foothills where he spends most of his time barefoot among the wildflowers, oaks and pines. He dreams of returning to Scotland and Ireland with his manacle-wielding wife, three invisible children (Not me, I don't Know and Nobody), three visual children and a twisted sense of humor and imagination.

He writes mostly Fantasy, Poetry and dabbles in Science Fiction, but will attempt almost anything once, twice if it isn't illegal. He has been published in Non-Fiction, Poetry, and Romantic Fantasy. Tribunal of the Rose is his latest release.


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