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Advogato post for 2000-07-18 19:53:02

Whoa, with all that brain activity about freedom, I forgot to write the diary entry I actually wanted to write.

To­day's top­ic is one that prob­a­bly has nev­er been cov­ered in ad­voga­to (and there are more of those ;-): Alexan­dre Du­mas (père).

Why? Be­cause I late­ly see him ev­ery­where. For one thing, a few weeks ago, I watched a movie. I think the eng­lish ti­tle is "the ninth gate". That movie, while ap­par­ent­ly a books and demons sort of thriller with Mr. Dep­p, is based in a book by a guy called Pérez-Re­verte.

Now, that book is way bet­ter than the movie. In fac­t, it's one of the bet­ter books I've read in the last year or so, and I read a lot.

The book is called... El Club Du­mas. Which in eng­lish means rough­ly the same thing as in span­ish.

Now, I can un­der­stand why Ro­man Polan­sky would throw away half of the book (The Du­mas half) and keep the oth­er half (the dev­il's half), and mak­ing a movie based on the book would prob­a­bly be im­pos­si­ble oth­er­wise, but hey, it still suck­s.

Why does it suck? Be­cause the Du­mas side of the book is way bet­ter. It's fun. It has a plot. Or two plot­s. It has char­ac­ter­s. It has great di­a­log. The dev­il's half is, well, about the dev­il, and about book­s. Old book­s.

And I pre­fer the Du­mas half, be­cause it has a ghost of the re­al thing. That re­al thing be­ing, of course, Du­mas' work.

I had read Du­mas when I was a kid, and I thought it was fun­ny, and that I had out­grown it, un­til one day, two years ago, I felt a ir­re­sistible urge to buy a 1300 page mam­moth called "The Count of Mon­te­cristo".

In the first 120 pages or so, it has, love, pol­i­tics (with Napoleon!), evil schem­ing, pris­on, drugs, es­capes from pris­on, sex, re­li­gion, loy­al­ty, be­tray­al, and, the most im­por­tant thing, it's so much fun you don't even care about the stranger part­s.

I re­mem­ber a ar­ti­cle in Sa­lon a while ago, like a de­fense of the plot in lit­er­a­ture, against style. And Du­mas is the great­est ex­am­ple of why that makes sense. The style is not bad, mind you, but it's func­tion­al to the plot. Char­ac­ters in a Du­mas book ex­ist to do things. They make de­ci­sion­s, they try to ad­vance to their goal­s, they push and kill and fuck each oth­er as if their lifes de­pend­ed on it, and well, as far as a char­ac­ter has a life, does­n't it de­pend on it?

And then I re­al­ized the bad luck Du­mas' books have had when turned in­to movies. And I can't un­der­stand why. Af­ter al­l, they have ev­ery­thing to make good, or at least fun, movies. They have gun­s, ex­plo­sion­s, sce­nar­ios, ac­tion, and sex! Ask Pe­ter Drag­on to make one!

But last night I saw The Man in the Iron Mask on TV. Oh, man.

Ok, I un­der­stand that noone could make a movie about the man in the iron mask with the orig­i­nal ti­tle (The Viz­coun­t(sp?) of Bragelon­ne), be­cause peo­ple would mis­take it for a Mer­chan­t-Ivory movie.

I un­der­stand that they had to make Leonar­do di­Caprio in­to Louis XIV. Hey, he's not so bad at it, even. He does look like a bland in­breed with an at­ti­tude prob­lem.

I ac­cept that they had to cast 3 ac­tors from UK and the US as mous­ke­teer­s, and that they had to fake french ac­cents (why? the au­di­ence would­n't no­tice it is set is France if they did­n't?)

I can ac­cept the way they to­tal­ly screwed the char­ac­ter of Athos' son, turn­ing him in­to a mo­ron.

What I can't ac­cept is the end­ing.

In the book, Athos dies of grief. Porthos dies sav­ing his friend­s. Aramis (who is NOT, for christ's sake, the se­cret gen­er­al of the je­suit­s) re­tires to a monastery, D'Artag­nan dies many years lat­er in the siege of Maas­tricht (to match the death of the re­al D'Artag­nan), and Louis XiV win­s.

It's a very sad end­ing. But it ac­tu­al­ly makes sense. You don't go and re­place the king of a coun­try, get caught and then get away with it, sad as it may be.

The movie? Oh, well, let's see, the man in the iron mask be­comes king, Athos, Porthos and Aramis be­come his coun­selors, Athos gets the (new) king as a (new) son, as if it was a new gold­fish to re­place the flushed one, and the on­ly one that dies is D'Artag­nan, but he dies sav­ing ev­ery­one else, so it does­n't mat­ter.

Oh, and D'Artag­nan is re­vealed to be the fa­ther (with An­na of Aus­tri­a) of Louis XIV (and the man in the iron mask). Why was that? Some­one saw "The em­pire strikes back" while draft­ing the scrip­t?

And it's not the first time. Mon­sieur Du­mas has (ok, no, he's dead) seen many movie ver­sion­s, and each one mas­sa­cred the books in sim­i­lar ways.

And here I am, hop­ing one day some­one will burn 120 mil­lion bucks in a 5 hour epic called "The viz­count of Bragelon­ne".

With peo­ple speak­ing with­out ac­cents. Or in french, or with a re­al french ac­cen­t. And where ev­ery­one dies in the end.


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