Saturday, May 24, 2008

CBC's Horseman: I Like My Protagonists Ugly

Yesterday, while reading Mr Sammler's Planet, I started thinking about shoes. I don't know why. Big, red shoes. Patent leather, with huge brass buckles. I like Saul Bellow, but he can't hold my attention. Henderson was almost as bad as The Order of Things. They're books you should get the gist of. They're the kind of stories/analyses that, if a friend tried to corner you and explain their significance, you'd break his toe with heel.

Then, for some reason, I started thinking about Mordecai Richler. How bad The Acrobats was; how bad A Choice of Enemies was. And how much better is his later work.

This was supposed to be a break from thesis writing. It was supposed to be relaxing.

I changed subjects.

How disappointing was the CBC's adaptation of Richler's St Urbain's Horseman? I didn't even have a problem with their script. I liked the focus on the the trial, and it was certainly long enough to include the better parts of the story. But the actors were all too good-looking. They were incredibly attractive. David Julian Hirsh, who plays Jake, looks like an American Idol finalist. And Michael Riley's too urbane to be Harry. He looks like Guy Pearce's British uncle.

And Liane Balaban as Jenny? Wow. I guess that's the kind of girl David Hirsh'd get. Richler? Not so much.

And, of course, I'm wading into the biographical fallacy. But I'm not sure the book/movie works with attractive characters. Jake's supposed to be a gritty kid from Jewish Montreal. He looks like he took the first yacht out from All My Children. I couldn't shake the feeling that I was watching a Soap. Everything was so clean, crisp, and digital.

Harry was supposed to be a rat-like pervert, chewing his 'nails and washing his face with a dish towel. Instead he was Edward Norton.

But maybe that's just the reaction of someone who has read the novel a few times. It just couldn't mesh with psychical image I'd created.

But I really think Hollywood/CBC (a likely pair) adaptations of novels do too much to re-cast the text. Unless it's a Sophie Kinsella novel, all the characters should be ugly. Period. Or, if not ugly, at least average. Normal. Character actors should take all the title roles; the facemen should be on the fringes. Otherwise you get Keira Kinghtley and Matthew Macfadyen in Pride and Prejudice. With those two leads it should've been a porno flick. It'd take about five pages for them to get together, and another 300 to get their clothes back on.

As an aside, Jane Austen was not an attractive woman. Neither was George Eliot. But Susan Sontag wasn't bad. I wonder whom they'd cast for Trip to Hanoi.

Back to the thesis.

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