Friday, March 20, 2009

For St. Patrick's Day (a little late)

Forget movies like The Quiet Man and Darby O'Gill and the Little People.

In honor of St. Patrick's day, A.O. Scott reviews Alan Parker's 1991 film about a working-class Dublin soul band.

7 comments:

James R Harvey said...

"The Commitments" is perhaps the only movie I can watch multiple times. It isn't a wonder like "Momento" or "American Beauty" or even "Syriana" where you wonder how such a thing could be made, but it is something you can enjoy over and over again. First because it has by far the best sound track of any movie and, second, because it is about the universal truths of sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll. (All right, there's not much on drugs.)

One little tidbit; OK, two little tidbits:
1. They found musicians who could act, not actors who could play. This was right in so many ways as anyone can act but few have the soul to play.
2. They gave Andrew Strong the lead singer's role, despite the fact he was only 16 and, as they found out when they shot, he couldn't act. (OK, almost everyone can act.) They had to take some of his best lines and give them to other actors. Despite this he was obnoxious enough to fit the part and his voice is perfect. (The lead singer's role almost went to the manager, who is also a very accomplished musician and sings a couple of songs on the album.

By the way, get the album.

Ted said...

I agree, one of the greatest soundtracks ever. But overall I was hugely disappointed after reading the book (which is written to make you feel like you are listening to this great music). I would recommend the book and the soundtrack over and over again, and maybe just see the movie once.

James R Harvey said...

Hmm…there is a book? Reading almost any book before the movie means disappointment. I could see how the book could be very good as the characters are very good.

Ted said...

The book is by Roddy Doyle, an Irish writer (I guess that's obvious) - I think he won a Booker Prize for another one of his books. It is a short book but a good read. And yes, no matter which way I do it, read the book first, see the movie first, I end up liking the first one better. I will use another example. Take Watchmen. I really wanted to read the book, in fact Dan had a copy so I have it sitting on my bookshelf ready to read. But I also wanted to see the movie without the bias of the book - so I held off. Boy was that a mistake. The movie was definitely one of the most disappointing movies I have ever seen (maybe I expected too much). The problem is now I still want to read the graphic novel, but my view will already be colored by the movie. Anyway, this was an aside, but my point is I may have enjoyed the movie a lot more had I not read the book first, and I probably would not have enjoyed the book as much if I had seen the movie first. That's my two cents. I still think the Commitments sound track is killer though.

Big Myk said...

Actually, I read that the book is much different than the movie. It focused more on the economic hardship of the characters than the movie did. The book was supposed to be mighty good though.

My Dad (Pop) used to say that an artist always picks the medium that will best serve his/her subject. Therefore, its always hard to improve on the original in a different medium. If you have any doubt about this, try reading George Lucas' novelization of Star Wars.

But sometimes the movie IS superior to the book. The classic example is "The Godfather." The book was really this second rate bit of pulp, but the movie is an absolute classic. Other nominations for the movie being better than the original book are Brokeback Mountain, The Children of Men and The Bridges of Madison County. Some say that, as good as the book was, the Wizard of Oz movie was better. My kids will argue with me about this until my dying day, but I think that several of the Harry Potter movies are better than the books. The opening scene on the Knight Bus ("Take her away, Ern.") alone makes the Prisoner of Azkaban movie superior to the book.

(And sometimes the adapted movies are so clever in their adaptation that they can't really be compared. See The French Lieutenant's woman).

James R Harvey said...

Anthony Burgess, who wrote "A Clockwork Orange," felt so strongly that each work should be tied to its own media, that he wanted no influence in the movie version of his book and encouraged the making of a completely different work.

There is a downside to this, however, as later he said, "The film made it easy for readers of the book to misunderstand what it was about, and the misunderstanding will pursue me till I die."

Peter H of Lebo said...

As an aside to Ted's comment about watching the Watchmen. Read the first half of the graphic novel to get to know the characters and their backgrounds (there is quite a few of them) and then watch the movie, finish the novel. The movie ending is better than the novel's though the novel has a far richer environment (there is only so much that can be shown in 3 hours).

The ideas explored in the Watchmen is by far the best in comic book lore. Even the reimagined Dark Knight with the Joker was a step below. I enjoyed movie immensely. Ebert's review is pretty spot on.