[Milton-L] Milton movies

Jeremy Downes downejm at auburn.edu
Thu Nov 29 17:21:44 EST 2007


The best known novel is probably Robert Graves's 1944 Wife to Mr.
Milton.

Cheers,



Jeremy M. Downes
Associate Professor
Department of English
Auburn University

downejm at auburn.edu

>>> "Michele Walfred" <walfred at udel.edu> 11/29/07 3:46 PM >>>
It makes one shudder what filmakers can do (or will do) to Paradise
Lost.
The thought of the Son with computer generated pecs??  The only director
I
think could do PL justice would be LOTR's Peter King. Which leads me to
another question.I just read Hill's Milton and the English Revolution
and he
spends more time and conjecture on Milton's marriage to Mary than most I
have read so far,  but has anyone ever attempted a novel of Milton's
life
(allowing some creative license based on sound scholarship)?  It would
seem
to me, given the dramatic times in which he lived in, both politically
and
personally, that a decent screenplay might be born from such a work. His
chaos gave birth to such masterful thought and expression and a film
about
the process of his art would be just as fascinating as the work itself -
a
la Amadeus though less giggly for certain. 

 

~Michele Walfred

University of Delaware  

 

  _____  

From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu
[mailto:milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] On Behalf Of Jackie Murdock
Sent: Thursday, November 29, 2007 2:24 PM
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] 17th Century contexts

 

A similar discussion went on a couple of weeks ago on a Chaucer
listserv.
This posting, by Daniel Kline, is one that I found particularly
interesting
and may offer you all some food for thought. (Back to lurking now) 

 

--Jackie Murdock

 

 

 

I really enjoy these kinds of discussions where medieval culture
intersects
pop-culture topics because, I guess, I'm of the mind that my individual
situatedness in my own culture (with all its attendant complexities)
inevitably conditions my understand of "the medieval." 

To whit, a snippet of Stephanie Zacharek's review of "Beowulf" from
 <http://salon.com/> Salon.com:

<begin quotation>

"Beowulf" is Zemeckis' latest foray into soul sucking -- I mean,
performance
capture -- and if you're thinking that the so-called filmmaker has
hunkered
down to make a nice, faithful adaptation of the 2000 Seamus Heaney
translation of that weird, melancholy epic poem (you optimistic thing,
you),
you should know that this "Beowulf" has been adapted, reimagined and
souped
up by writers Neil Gaiman and Roger Avary. After the hero of the title,
"played" by Ray Winstone, severs the arm of Grendel (Crispin Glover),
the
scary, anguished creature that has been terrorizing a community of
mead-swilling Danes, a comely cutie wonders aloud if all of Beowulf's
strength is in his arms -- or if he's got it in his legs as well,
especially
the "third" one. 

You see, the "real" Beowulf is not a particularly sexy story, and
Zemeckis
knows it. "Frankly, nothing about the original poem appealed to me,"
he's
quoted as saying in the movie's press notes, recalling that he'd been
made
to read the damn thing in junior high school. "But when I read the
screenplay that Neil Gaiman and Roger Avary did, I was immediately
captivated." He asked Gaiman and Avary why their script was so exciting
when
the poem was so boring. They explained that the poem was written
somewhere
between the seventh and the 12th centuries, although its story had been
passed along verbally for hundreds of years. Since the only people who
knew
how to write in those days were monks, Avary and Gaiman figured these
reputable men of the cloth would have edited out all the juicy bits, so
they
added some back in. If you see "Beowulf," you'll have plenty of
opportunities to stare down computer-generated cleavage, and one rowdy,
bearded, tattooed warrior crows to one of his conquests about how much
noise
he makes when he comes. Personally, I file that under "TMI," especially
coming from a cartoon character, but you have to admit it would knock
any
monk off his sandals. 

<end quotation>

I think Gaiman and Avary have created an important new form of textual
criticism -- 'paleopornology' or perhaps 'pornocodicology' -- in which
one
simply adds the 'juicy bits' to lacunae in the text to create a salable
screenplay. I also think it's interesting to see the textual
assumptions
that shaped the screenwriters' approach to the text.

I guess I prefer to try to make sense out of what these adaptations
achieve
discursively and culturally rather than decry their 'authenticity' or
'inauthenticity' (as I try to do with any movie adaptation of a written
text. They're two different forms of media with their own sets of
conventions.)

As to Brian's question as to what makes something good or bad? On the
one
hand, I absolutely love good bad movies ('A Knight's Tale') but get
cranky
around badly done movies that could've been good ('Joliewulf') because,
like
'Polar Express' (Zemeckis's other 'motion capture' crapfest) it turns
actors
into animations and robs them of their most important assets: their
bodies.
I don't mind stiff and plasticated 3D rendering in a game character
that I'm
controlling, but I think it just deadens the characters in a movie. 

Nonetheless, I'll definitely go see the movie and I'll likely enjoy a
lot of
it, but certainly not with the expectation that it's 'Beowulf' in any
sense
that I understand that Anglo-Saxon text or that it's anything other
than an
elaborate computer generated cartoon--that's not nearly as good as
'Knight-Night Bugs.'




Roy Flannagan <roy at gwm.sc.edu> wrote:

I just reviewed the Beowulf movie for the local media here in Beaufort.
I
certainly hope that no English majors here say "I'm not reading the book
because I saw the movie!"

Roy Flannagan

Beowulf, the Computer-Enhanced Movie

The god of Wrothgar in the Beowulf movie seems to be Epicurus, not Odin,
even if Anthony Hopkins, in character, often says, drunkenly, "Thank
you,
Odin." Poor old Sir Anthony has to show off enhanced muscular arms and
lots
of blubber as he appears as inelegantly nude from the rear as did Jack
Nicholson in As Good as it Gets. Angelina Jolie, now called Angewulf in
various blogs*well, she is another thing naked in gold paint. I guess
all
those old Geats, Angles, and Saxons used to party naked in the seedy
meadhalls that in the movie look like road houses on a Fifties rural
dirt
road in the South.

The movie is special-effected, rather than acted, even though the
director,
Tribeca or Duckmuckus, whatever his name is, has bought very expensive
stars
in Hopkins, Jolie, and John Malkovitch; and the actor who plays Beowulf
in
the buff, Ray Winstone, is undoubtedly an experienced actor underneath
his
enhanced, synthetic facial expressions and his all-too-perfect abs. For
some
reason, Winstone uses a Welsh accent to play a Geat. But, for his
character,
computer-generated imagery rules.

Don't go to see the movie right after having read Beowulf the epic poem,
because then you will wonder why Wealtheow, wife of Hrothgar, played by
Robin Wright Penn, starts flirting with Beowulf as if she were Isolde
married to King Mark and flirting with Tristan*or as if she were
Lancelot's
girly-girl Guinevere, off on her fling from King Arthur. All those
medieval
romances look alike, according to Zemeckis and his writers. And Grendel
in
the cartoonish movie is a rotting corpsy thing, something like the
Gollum in
Ring movies but able to fling Jutes or Geats or Danes from one end of
the
hall to another with a one-handed toss (until Beowulf rips his arm off,
of
course). He is not, as in the epic, spawn of Satan and descendant of
Cain,
and Christianity is sadly mocked in the movie and made to seem
second-fiddle
to the worship of Odin. In the epic, Grendel and his mother are both
emissaries of Satan, sent to punish humankind for evil human deeds. In
the
movie, they are eit!
her slimy or beautiful in gold leaf, and they have little or no
theological
significance.

Grendel's mother is not younger than Grendel in the epic, or golden, or
naked: she is a certified evil, strong old hag. She is fought with under
water: she doesn't rise out of it slowly like the sword in some "wartery
tart's" arm coming out of a puddle. You can tell that I like Monty
Python
and the Holy Grail better than I do this movie, which takes itself too
seriously, for the sake of all the teenaged boys who are drawn to its
violence, its teasing nudity, and its noise.

I guess it is good for the continuity in the movie's plot to have the
dragon
that Beowulf fights in his declining years occasionally look like
another of
the shapes shifted into by Angiewulf, and for
Angie-the-demon-bitch-goddess
to be making out with the body of Beowulf as it burns in his ship
burial, as
he seems to be returning to the really sexy love of his youth, the
beautiful
Jolie hag.

As an English professor, I don't know what exactly could be done with
Beowulf in the movies, since it is a Christianized heroic wolfy folk
tale
written down by monks in about 1000 AD. In today's idiom, the plot
certainly
appears to have cartoon elements, though I don't think computerized
graphic
images are the way to make a cartoon based on primitive fears of swamp
monsters facing totemistic super-strong, battle-hardened heroes. If I
were
making the movie on a human scale, a character-based movie, I might use
a
giant like the guy in the early Bond movies or an NFL tight end in the
role
of the monster, and, I guess, a pumped-up Brad Pitt type as Beowulf*the
type
Brad Pitt played in Troy. Hrothgar, Wealtheow, Unferth, and Wiglaf could
all
be played by fairly ordinary actors who could act kingly or queenly or
snidely or loyally. And the mead hall should be a fairly substantial
standalone structure, not a kind of outhouse adjacent to some sort of
fairy
tale futuristic medie!
val town as it is in the movie. Things going on in the mead hall could
be
drunken, yes, but not as if we were attending a Roman Saturnalia with a
paunchy Trimalchio figure leading the chuggers. And, I'm sorry, but
really
pretty modern women like Angelina Jolie and Robin Wright Penn don't
belong
in an era of crooked teeth and dred-locks not just for battle-worn men
but
for the hags they married.


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