The newest Criterion Collection Blu-Ray, Sidney Lumet’s 12 Angry Men, hits the shelves in the UK on 15th May. Fiona Pleasance joins the jury.
The premise of 12 Angry Men could hardly be simpler. Almost all of the film takes place in a single room in a New York City courthouse in the mid-1950s, where the members of a jury deliberate on the trial of a young man accused of murdering his father.
‘Oh, the film is never as good as the book’ – how many times have you heard that? How many times have you said that? Well, we at MostlyFilm have taken that bull by the horns; contemplating the films we’d really like to see, matching directors to novels and novels to directors to get the perfect mix and, just maybe, make a film to beat the book…
Niall Anderson looks at the history of actors writing fiction
You can’t imagine Popeye Doyle writing a novel. Buck Barrow barely lived long enough to read one. Royal Tenenbaum wouldn’t write a novel, but he might pass off someone else’s as his own. Harry Caul, on the other hand, looks to have the necessary focus, but he’d need to put down that saxophone and stop going insane for a while.
Gene Hackman, the man who played all these parts, hasn’t made a movie in almost a decade, but he has used his relative leisure to write four novels. Gaunt, sparely told and resolutely unmodern, the first three are blown off-course every few chapters by excitable procedural interludes – long disquisitions on how to cast an anchor in a storm, for example, or dredge up a sunken chest from the bottom of the ocean. It doesn’t seem unreasonable to lay these passages at the door of Hackman’s co-author, Dan Lenihan, a retired marine archaeologist once charged with salvaging the debris from Pearl Harbor.
For his fourth novel, a western called Payback at Morning Creek, Hackman has done what all great gunslingers and novelists must do: he’s struck out alone. Gaunt, sparely told and unmodern like never before, Payback at Morning Creek does away with Lenihan’s antic boyishness and substitutes for it an epic manliness that is all Hackman’s own. Thus remasculated, Hackman turns his attention to the real business: that of rewriting Shane from memory. Continue reading Actor! Actor!→
It’s now almost twenty years since Sebastian Faulks’s novel Birdsong was first published and it comes as something of a surprise to realise that it has never yet been brought to the screen. It seems like a tale that’s ripe for adaptation, with its potent combination of passionate sex, the horror of the trenches, and book sales in the millions. Several versions have been proposed but none had come to fruition until so-hot-right-now writer Abi Morgan (who has two films, The Iron Lady and Shame, out this month in addition to Birdsong) and director Philip Martin adapted the book into two ninety-minute television episodes, beginning this Sunday, filling what is already described as the ‘Sherlock’ spot.
Stephen (played by Eddie Redmayne) is a young man visiting factory owner René Azaire to advise him on his textile mills in Amiens, northern France. He falls in love with Azaire’s wife Isabelle (a luminous Clémence Poésy) and they have an affair. Six years later, Stephen is a lieutenant in the trenches of the Western front in charge of a company of tunnelers responsible for mining underneath German trenches. The film flips back and forth between 1910 and 1916, contrasting the beauty and serenity of bourgeois Amiens with life in the trenches.
Snow falls into the black river beneath him. George knows how cold the water would be – he still has nightmares about going under to rescue his brother. As he remembers, the ear that the cold killed starts to tingle, and at first George thinks it’s because of the memories. But then he realises there’s a voice there. Intimately cradled among the useless workings of his dead left-ear, it speaks to him, and says: