13 July 2013

Rumble in Brighton

The most interesting part of the latest movie version of Brighton Rock is early in the film where one bloke who had played Ian Curtis (Control) was trying to kill another bloke who had played Ian Curtis (Twenty-Four Hour Party People). The goading of Pinkie by Hale, could have easily been by Sean Harris to Sam Riley for their respective representations of a Post-Punk icon.

I’d recorded it and had it nestling on the digi-box for a while. Youngest daughter, who had read the book but had not seen the original movie starring Richard Attenborough, had seen this version and was scathing, too much of the original text and been changed and in particular she didn’t like the ending. I knew that they had re-used the ending from the 1940s film rather than the book, but I liked that ending, then again I like that film, so I was looking forward to watching it, even moving the action to the sixties appeared to be a good idea.

But it was a bit ‘oh-hum’ leaving me indifferent, moving the action forward from the 30s could have been a good idea, however, the Mods and Rockers were just a misty backdrop, it’s pointless to have that as a possible plotline and not use it. And Sam Riley is no Pinkie.

What it did, was to get me to pick up Grahame Greene’s novel and for the next week, as I was working across the other side of London and was back on the Tube, I relinquished the Kindle for an old-fashioned paperback and re-read it.

I’m not going to start a debate about the merits of the printed word against film, but the book is better, in fact re-reading the book after I watched the digital playback just emphasised the impossibility of trying to visualise a well-known book. This new version also had the additional problem of following a much loved movie version. Which got me thinking; why do they bother?

As soon as any book becomes popular and starts to go up the bestseller lists, somebody somewhere buys the movie rights and a couple of years later, out comes a cinema version. All very good for the publisher’s and the writer’s bank balance, but does everything need to be filmed? Why not create a movie franchise from scratch without asset stripping a publishers’ back catalogue.

The problem with Brighton Rock (2010) is that it’s effectively a remake of Brighton Rock (1947), which is an adaption of Brighton Rock (1938). Any knowledge of either previous incarnation is going to colour the viewers’ perception, so why not make an original movie using Brighton Rock as a template, set it in the sixties or the nineties or the future, acknowledge your debt to Greene by some clever device and let your vision stand and fall on its own merits. The hard and fast rule is that the book is better that the movie, we are allowed to use our imagination, we create the characters and we know what is going to happen when Rose goes back to pick up her record, we don’t need a scratchy recording to fill in the blanks.

As an aside, every politician, every tabloid journalist including every columnist from The Daily 1952 should be required to read it. When they talk or write about the past with their rose-tinted keyboards, remind them of Pinkie’s Brighton.

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