If the sheer number of Leonard adaptations is remarkable, what is more remarkable still is how few of them are any good. No one was more aware of, or blunt about, this disappointing onscreen record than Leonard himself. His first crime novel, The Big Bounce, was twice adapted for film, in 1969 and 2004. Leonard memorably described the earlier effort as the “second-worst movie ever made”; it was not until he saw the 2004 version, he later said, that he knew what movie was the worst.
I first read "Ask the Dust" in 1971 when I was doing research for "Chinatown". I was concerned about the way people really sounded when they talked, and I was dissatisfied with everything else I had read that was written during the '30s. I wanted the real thing, as Henry James would say. When I picked up Fante's "Ask the Dust," I just knew that was the way those kids talked to each other—the rhythms, cadences, racism. Robert Towne on adapting John Fante's novel for the big screen. More inside.
Hamlet on the Ramparts is a public website designed and maintained by the MIT Shakespeare Project in collaboration with the Folger Shakespeare Library and other institutions. It aims to provide free access to an evolving collection of texts, images, and film relevant to Hamlet’s first encounter with the Ghost. More inside.
Truman Capote's Blood Work Two soon-to-be released films on Truman Capote's life, Capote and Have You Heard? begin as the novelist drops into rural Kansas to begin work on what became "In Cold Blood". More inside.
"It has always been as if I carry chaos with me the way others carry typhoid. My purpose in writing is to transcend my existence by illuminating it." Crime novelist Edward Bunker, who died last Tuesday at age 71 (LATimes obit), became at 17 the youngest inmate at San Quentin after he stabbed a prison guard at a youth detention facility. It was during his 18 years of incarceration for robbery, check forgery and other crimes that Bunker learned to write. In 1973, while still in prison, he made his literary debut with "No Beast So Fierce", a novel about a paroled thief James Ellroy called "quite simply one of the great crime novels of the past 30 years" and that was made into the movie "Straight Time" starring Dustin Hoffman. Also a screenwriter ("Runaway Train"), Bunker appeared as an actor in nearly two dozen roles, most notably as Mr. Blue in "Reservoir Dogs." (more inside)
The Cheerful Transgressive Ever since 1971, when Larry Clark published Tulsa, an austere series chronicling his meth-shooting pals in sixties Oklahoma, Clark has made it his mission to document teenagers at their most deviant, their most vulnerable, their most sexually unhinged (possibly NSFW). And now “Larry Clark” the first American retrospective of Clark’s work, currently on display at the International Center of Photography, demonstrates the richness with which he’s mined this single subject (NSFW). More inside.
"In fact the whole of Japan is a pure invention. There is no such country, there are no such people".
Discovering Japan. As a perennial outsider at loose in Japan, writer Donald Richie captures the joyous freedom of being foreign. The foreign observer is likely to be happy only if he sees his foreignness as an adventure, and recognizes that he has given up a sense of belonging for a sense of freedom, traded the luxury of being understood for that of being permanently interested. Richie, the philosopher-king of expats in Asia for the past half-century, arrived in Tokyo in 1947 as a typist with the U.S. government and never really left, writing dozens of books , on Japanese movies, temples, history and fashion, while enjoying himself as an actor, musician, filmmaker and painter. The Japan Journals: 1947-2004 is a monument to the pleasures of displacement. Richie watchers can observe, more intimately than ever, a man who is generally happiest observing. More inside.
"Whadyawant, motherf*ck?" These are the first words Charles Bukowski speaks in John Dullaghan's documentary about the poet and novelist, famous for his writing and infamous for his drinking and brawling and screwing. The audience member might respond, "To hear your story, Hank, that's what I want." The movie opens with friends (Sean Penn, Harry Dean Stanton, Bono) and colleagues and lovers and fans recounting the myth; theirs are stories of blades pulled on the maitre d' of the swanky Polo Lounge in Beverly Hills, of dangling dicks revealed in public, of a drunk who'd just as soon crack his bottle over your head than share its contents. (more inside)