We’ve been super swamped this week, if you haven’t noticed from the paucity of posts (we’re also gearing up to go into alliteration rehab â€” a terrible habit of late). We hope to have time to look over the critics on "Dark Water" and "Saraband," but until then, Caryn James’ overview of novels lost in the shadow of the classic films adapted from them in the New York Times today caught our eye. James points out that few people (ourselves included) knew that "Jules et Jim" and "The Leopard" were novels first, and then briefly touches on something far more weekend, barstool conversation-worthy: films that are better than the books they’re adapted from. She picks "Jaws" for this rare distinction:
The film can still make us jump. The book, with its dated 70’s aura, shows how right the filmmakers were to strip away all the extra plot stuff, including an affair between the shark expert and the police chief’s wife; we know them as the Richard Dreyfuss character and the Roy Scheider character’s wife. But it’s amusing to read Mr. Benchley’s brief new introduction, in which he practically apologizes to sharks everywhere for misunderstanding them. "I could never write ‘Jaws’ today," he says. "I could never demonize an animal."
To revisit a long-ago Greencine conversation we had on this topic, our choices here would be "Blade Runner" (Philip K. Dick always was better at ideas than at writing), "The Silence of the Lambs" (a forgettable airport paperback becomes something genuinely dark and sublime), "The Last of the Mohicans" (James Fenimore Cooper purpled adventure would have been a silly airport book, had there been airports back in the 1800s â€” on film it’s still very purple, but far more satisfying, and the part where she jumps off the cliff gets us every time), "Fight Club" (the central conceit works infinitely better visually), and the "Lord of the Rings" film (oh, stop, in your heart of hearts you know it’s true).
So, um…what are we missing?
+ When the Film Outshines the Novel (NY Times)