Sunday, February 13, 2011

Scaramouche Movie Review

starring: mel ferrer, stewart granger, janet leigh, and eleanor parker

watched for: page to screen challenge

*may contain spoilers*

I am usually a strong advocate for film versions of books. I think people sometimes can be extremely harsh in judging the transition from one medium to another and can be overly critical of every minute detail change. For this movie, however, I think I have to join the ranks of the overly critical. Now, there were certain changes I could understand and get on board with, such as condensing the story so that Andre's time in the theater troupe and his time learning to fence happened simultaneously. I understand changing the age of the Marquis to make it more believable to have him and Andre both vying for the affections of Aline. And I even understand changing Climene's name to the much less French Lenore (for a 1952 audience). But that's about as far as the understanding could go.

There was no point in making Lenore Andre's girlfriend from the get-go and Aline a girl he'd never met before. Aline went from being a strong-willed, spunky, and even sometimes arrogant young woman in the book to a demur child-like innocent in the film, just as Andre went from being a thoughtful and intelligent man to being basically a boor and a man-whore. I really couldn't understand the appeal of making Andre fall in love with Aline only to make him "discover" her to be his sister (he finds out later she's not). Who needs a gross incest subplot? Andre's whole family plot unfolds so interestingly in the book, and yet the way it was changed for the film honestly left me confused. I'm all for changes that make sense and/or enhance viewing pleasure, but these changes were pointless.

The thing I found the most ridiculous? In the book, Andre plays a pretty big role in the beginning of the French Revolution. French politics are the backbone of the story. The movie, however, reduced Andre's whole motivation to that of mere revenge, almost no politics in sight. The only reason the viewer would know this takes place during the French Revolution is the randomly added character of Marie Antoinette (not in the book) and Philippe's pamphlet blatantly subtly titled "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity." In the movie, Andre makes no political speeches and his role as Scaramouche in the Commedia is reduced to nothing more than a slapstick clown. Scaramouche is not just a clown. He's supposed to be a satirist. Also, if we're really going to get picky, he's supposed to be Spanish and dressed all in black (hence Freddy Mercury referring to him as a silhouette and asking him to fandango). If I wanted to continue in this vein, I could also complain about Lenore being called Columbine (Columbine was a soubrette, a flirtatious and mischievous servant, whereas Climene was supposed to be an innamorati, one of the lovers), but I'll let it lie.

To be totally fair, had I not read the book I think I could have enjoyed it a lot. In fact, I did manage to enjoy the second half once I'd gotten over my initial abhorrence to all the seemingly ridiculous changes. And I will note that it does have some historical value in having (one of?) the longest continuous swashbuckling sword-fights ever filmed (clocking in at over six minutes), which was a great scene. But it wasn't quite enough for me.


Read my review of the original book here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

lighten up a bit. It's a good film. the actor's emotions/reactions were perfect.