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On Paradise Lost, Through a Screen Darkly, M. Leary On McQueen’s “Hunger,” Pitchfork calls Dylan lazy, Conor Oberst on NPR

1.

Many thanks to Jeffrey Overstreet for posting an interesting blog about the possibility that we may see two film adaptations of John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost competing against one another in the near future.

On the one hand: a so-called indie version produced by veteran (an long time supporter of the project) Martin Poll. On the other hand: a likely more ambitious version helmed by Scott Derrickson (director of The Exorcism of Emily Rose) and released through Warner Brothers and Legendary Pictures, the backers of the recent, famous and oh-so-successful Batman films.

Overstreet writes:

It’s interesting to imagine two directors exploring the challenge of telling a story in which two of the lead characters are naked for a good section of the story. (Reuters reports that Poll’s project already has actors attached to the roles of Adam and Eve.) It’s also poses screenwriters one of the most interesting challenges of literary adaptation ever attempted. Have you read Milton’s epic poem lately? Did it scream “Screenplay!” to you? I’m curious to see if the screenwriters follow the thoughts of literary critics like Stanley Fish who interpret Milton’s poem as making Satan the hero. I’ve never been persuaded by such theories. Satan is supposed to be seductive and impressive, and I think readers who fall for him in the poem are being seduced. But that’s a debate for another time and place…

Whatever happens, moviegoers and literature lovers across the world will likely be divided about the merits of making such an ambitious project. Imagine the challenge of recreating the Garden of Eden! If people had a hard time accepting Peter Jackson’s colorful version of Middle Earth then what will they say to an imaginative recreation of the world’s most famous Secret Garden? And, yes, indeed how should a filmmaker approach the nakedness? And what will the financial backers have to say about that? Surely, any really revelatory nudity, as is clearly indicated in the poem itself, would garner at least an R rating, thus likely reducing ticket sales and revenue. Of course, Derrickson or whoever could strategically hide the nudity of his characters, but then isn’t their nakedness among the key themes of the story? I can’t help but wonder if a more “indie” version, not prodded and twisted by the strong arms of mammoth financial backers would have a better chance at truly capturing the weighty nature of the poem. Regardless, I for one hope the project happens.

2.

Speaking of Mr. Overstreet, be sure to check out the newest version of his column, Through a Screen Darkly, at Christianity Today movies where he considers the highly acclaimed 2008 films, Still Life and Up the Yangtze.

3.

It’s a few weeks old by now, but I highly recommend you head over to Filmwell and take a gander at Mike Leary’s examination of Steve McQueen’s challenging film, Hunger, a look at the Irish Republican Army and a 1981 hunger strike. Leary writes, in the lovely prose typical of his best work, the following:

In this way Hunger is as experimental as his video work, this time with increased dedication to the lens as a means of extended reflection. Scattered throughout the latter half are stretches of pure cinema. Birds taking flight. Long-distance running along rich soil. Even though the context invites us to think of these in terms of imagined freedom, they seem to actually be symbols of flesh and memory dissolving in a consciousness robbed of nutrition. Bobby Sands is breaking up. The lavish flashbacks towards the end are aesthetic counterpoints to his vanishing flesh, part of a quiet rhythm that winds down refusing to tell us whether Sands was a fool or not. He simply moulders in these synecdoches of mortality.

4.

Pitchfork, controversial as ever, gave Dylan’s Together Through Life the low, low grade of 5.4, referring to it as “minor” and as “a pastiche of records about which he’s enthusiastic, and sometimes a blatant imitation of the kind of stuff they don’t make any more.” Okay. So? What’s so wrong with that? I say we need more looking back, more examination of context and influence and maybe a little bit of low brow, a bit-too-close-to-plagiarism-for-comfort imitation. After all, we are, all of us – our art, our language, our ways of life – products of generations come and gone and living only in the “pastiche” collections of enthusiasts. Call him “lazy” if you want, I call him grateful.

5.

NPR has an exclusive first listen to Conor Oberst and The Mystic Valley Band’s new record, Outer South. The Mystic Valley Band are the troupe of musicians who accompanied Oberst in support of his recent, underrated solo project. The album, which is comprised of 16 new tracks, drops on May 5th. Of the record, NPR says:

Oberst has grown up a lot since he first started making music as the warbling frontman for the Nebraska-based band Bright Eyes. His own music, first on his 2008 solo album and again on Outer South, continues to be heavily influenced by country, folk and Americana. But Oberst’s once-quavery voice and innocently boyish persona is gone. He sings with a stronger, more confident voice these days, his songs sound more seasoned and his narratives seem more reflective.

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One thought on “On Paradise Lost, Through a Screen Darkly, M. Leary On McQueen’s “Hunger,” Pitchfork calls Dylan lazy, Conor Oberst on NPR

  1. t clair says:

    I love the new Connor and the new Dylan and I can’t wait for the new Wilco.

    I hope I’m not the only one who has zero respect for pitchfork.

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