I’ve been to see Winter’s Tale, the adaption of the book of the same title by Mark Helprin.  It’s a book I’m fond of.  I think I first read it in a copy I borrowed from the Southland Polytechnic Library.  I later found a copy at the University Book Shop in Dunedin.  I rescued it from its irresistable drift into the sale books.  It’s a magical realist fairy tale, probably before that genre became popular, a homage to the city of New York, which in this age is the city most likely to be the capital of the world.  I have read it through a couple of times over the years and take it from the shelves every so often to read a few pages again.  It’s a dense fantastic book, just under eight hundred pages exactly that defies readers to consume its prose in large bites.

I have never felt drawn to investigate other titles by this author.  Some recent reviews I have read refer to his other career as a political writer.  By the sounds of things I would not find his politics attractive.  I’m best not to investigate.  I might find his day job was comparable to some of his villains.

I was interested to see the movie that came out in time for Saint Valentine’s Day 2014, good promotion there.  The casting made good choices.  Colin Farrell was obvious as Peter Lake.  The script makes explicit that Pearly Soames is a fallen creature and an agent of darkness, played by Russell Crowe.  Will Smith’s cameos as the dark lord beneath New York City were unexpected and an addition to the story.  I was less familiar with Jessica Brown Findley.  She  played Beverley Penn as more fragile than the magnetic dying consumptive from the book.  Yet I liked the detail that in a frozen mid-winter she wears beautiful summer dresses.

At the beginning I was enjoying spotting details and motifs from the book: Peter Lake’s origin story, his affinity for machines, Pearly Soames’ love of colour and light, the fin de siecle period pieces, Athansor the White Horse.  It works!  This is based on a book that is a love-song to a great city that borders on the edge of faery.

Which means I am disappointed with the last third of the movie which translocates the story to 2014.  In the book version it’s 1999, there’s a milennial fire-storm and an attempt to storm heaven.  Come on! How many times have we seen New York as the scene of this apocalypse!  Yet this time it’s written out!  Instead of being untimely ripped and lost in a modern age, Peter Lake is an amnesiac street artist.  The conventions of Hollywood romance require that good triumphs, the monsters are defeated, and lovers are reunited.  Literature is less certain of these conventions, which allows it greater freedoms.

Thank you for the afternoon’s entertainment.  It’s prompted me to get the book off the shelf again.

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