Friday, September 27, 2013

Stoppard's End

Still living on Netflix time, Chez Buce took in a screening the other night of the first two episodes of Ford Madox Ford's Parade's End as rendered by BBC. 

No, wait, that's not right: this is Tom Stoppard's rendition, drawing on the novels by Ford Madox Ford. The distinction is not just some Hollywood agent earning his percentage. No: unlike so many film renditions of classic novels, the one thing this is not is a mere visual accompaniment to a novel you've probably been meaning to read since you left the English Department—an accompaniment which, truth to tell, just won't be a lot of fun if you never kept that promise. Stoppard's presentation is in short, nothing if not free-standing.

But at the same time it is not just a flight of fancy, highjacking the author's name and fame for the purpose of better marketing (right—and just how much marketing pull does Ford Madox Ford enjoy?--ed.). No, Stoppard clearly draws on the novels: in many ways, he's quite faithful. As a playwright he works hard to do justice to one of the lonely monuments of 20th Century fiction. And while you can perfectly well enjoy the video without the novel, the two do make fruitful companions. It happens that we—Mr. And Mrs. Buce--did do Parade's End—together, as a readaloud-- and just a couple of years back so it is still fairly fresh in our minds. And it's fun to watch Stoppard as he draws it out and gives it his own spin. And in a lot of cases, I think you'd agree that Stoppard actually improves the original by putting an extra spin on something that Ford was too shy or reticent to set out n its original form.

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