In honor of the release of George Roy Hill‘s 1972 adaptation of "Slaughterhouse Five" on DVD in the UK, John Patterson at the Guardian writes about movies based on unfilmable books: "novels that once fell into this category have since become the kind of property that self-proclaimed ‘edgy’ directors will stab one another to death in order to film." He breaks this category up into two groups; the unfilmably obscene ("Last Exit to Brooklyn" and "The Story of O" come up) and the narratively unfilmable (for him, "Fight Club" and "Slaughterhouse Five" managed some transcendence here, though Mary Ellen Bute’s attempt at capturing "Finnegan’s Wake" in celluloid gets full points for ambition). We hate to see this topic slip by without a nod to Spike Jonze’s "Adaptation," which seems to capture the essence of the dilemma of adapting the unfilmable novel into film: how the hell do you do it, and is it really worth bothering?
Serendipitously, Filmbrain over at Like Anna Karina’s Sweater just put up a lengthy post revisiting the joys of "Slaughterhouse":
The time-tripping structure of the novel lends itself perfectly to the medium — the jump cut (one of cinema’s great achievements) allows for the continuous leaps across time and space in a way that is even more striking than the novel itself.
We have fond memories of going to see a double-feature of "Slaughterhouse Five" and "Catch-22" (another almost unfilmable) at the now-closed UC Theater in Berkeley when we were in high school, a great old cinema, massive, always at most half-full, with fantastically uncomfortable, often broken seats and scattered sleeping homeless men. We miss it terribly.