Thursday, March 08, 2012

III

Remember: 


The King died and then the Queen died - History
The King died and then the Queen died of grief - Story
No one knew why the Queen was so ill: but it turned out that it was with grief over the death of the King -- Plot




IV


A movie on the theme "The Death of the First Mrs Kane", or "Was little Charlie Really A Victim of Child Abuse?" or "The Woman On the Ferry With the Parasol: Her Backstory" could, in fact be imagined. It is even possible to imagine a good movie on those themes. A good director could make a good movie on any theme. Of course the death of a failed politician's ex-wife in a car crash is a possible set-up for a story. (Was it just an accident? Or suicide? Or did Prince Philip dunnit?) But if the story is worth telling in it's own right, there is no need to give the main character the same name as one in Citizen Kane. And if the story is NOT worth telling, why does it become any more worth telling if the name of the main character is the same as one in Citizen Kane? "Because every time I hear the narrator of the News on the March sequence mention that Kane's first wife died in an accident, I want to know what really happened." But nothing "really happened": she's only a character in a story. One of the things she does in that story is die mysteriously. That is the point of her. Your film will not tell us what really happened. It will just be some shit you made up. Out of your head.


Will anyone claim that such films (even if well made) could ever be regarded as expansions or additions or extensions to CItizen Kane, as true, in their own way, as Orson Welles' version? And will anyone say that the original movie would be improved (or left the same) if  it became a truth universally accepted that "the story of Citizen Kane" comprised "Orson Welles epic + Andrew's home movie"? Does anyone think that it would be a good idea for some third party to bring on stage what Welles left off it, to say outright things that he chose to hint at, to provide answers where he only gave questions? Could anyone possibly be stupid enough to think that the question 'Doctor Who?' might one day be answered?



Does anyone remember the daft attempt to recut The Godfather and The Godfather II into chronological sequence, on the assumption that TV audiences are confused by non-linear story telling and freaked out by the expression "son of a bitch"? The Sicilian material from Godfather II came first, then the bulk of Godfather I, then the 70s material from part II. Will anyone say that this made no difference: that a film in which the murders of  Don Ciccio and Fredo Corleone are juxtaposed is the same as one in which they are separated by four hours of screen time? That Coppola carelessly filmed his epic out of order and the TV version corrected the mistake? That the Magicians Nephew is the first book in the Narnia Series?


Granted, I have picked examples of movies where the plot is a lot different from the story: where the order in which events unfold is a lot different from the order in which they actually happened. (But nothing actually happened. They are stories.) But the same is true to a greater or lessor extent of all fiction: what happened is never as important as the way in which we are told that it happened. A film which includes a steamy bed scene is not the same as one in which the lovers tantalizingly close the bedroom door, even if, as a matter of fact, in both versions, copulation can be assumed to have taken place. A film which depicts some hideous childhood abuse in shocking detail, and then adds a caption that the victim suffered from mental problems for the rest of their life is not the same film  as one in which it is slowly revealed that a mental patient suffered from some horrible trauma when they were a child. A detective story starts with a dead body and works backwards to the murder and the motive; a thriller may start with the motive and move forward to the murder. The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe is so the first Narnia Book. The Phantom Menace was such a bad idea. Is any of this complicated? 


(continues)

4 comments:

Andrew Ducker said...

"Will anyone claim that such films (even if well made) could ever be regarded as expansions or additions or extensions to CItizen Kane, as true, in their own way, as Orson Welles' version?"

Yes. Because Orson Welles' version is _also_ some shit he made up. Out of his head.

His story doesn't have priority over any other version. Stories don't belong to people. There is no 'right' version of it. If someone else wants to take Citizen Kane, chop off the second half, and create what they think is a better second half, then all power to them. If it's better than the original (and I doubt it, but it could be) then even better!

I like people making things up. And I like them exploring ideas and characters that I've heard before. I think it's a good thing.

Salisbury said...

This has the makings of a fine series, Andrew. I'd like to be the first to spot that its structure mirrors your assumed distinction between story and plot.* Nice.

Jallan said...

Does anyone think that it would be a good idea for some third party to bring on stage what Welles left off it, to say outright things that he chose to hint at, to provide answers where he only gave questions?

Does anyone think that it would be a good idea for Shakespeare to bring on stage in his Hamlet what Fran├žois de Belleforest left off it (and vice versa)? Does anyone think that it would be a good idea for Wagnar to bring on stage in his Ring Cycle what was not told in the Norse Eddas, the Volsunga Saga, and the Nibelungenlied?

Could anyone possibly be stupid enough to think that the question 'Doctor Who?' might one day be answered?

Yes, I think that one day some writer might answer it. For example, it might be revealed that the Doctor’s true given name was Irving, and the reason for the Doctor not previously revealing it was simply that the Doctor did not like that name. He merely preferred to be known by his title: The Doctor.

Cutting The Godfather I and The Godfather II into a single film seems to me a reasonable thing to do, to allow someone who has previously seen the films separately to see the history as the whole in the way that that viewer has already pieced together in his or her mind. Probably most viewers would come away with the perception that The Godfather II played better by itself but that it was not unworthwhile to see the matter of the tales in straightforward, chronological sequence.

The author of the article at http://www.rilstone.talktalk.net/narnia.htm very clearly indicated that there was no one right answer to the question of the correct order to read the Narnia books. The current author disagrees.

In 1495 Matteo Maria Boiardo’s incomplete Orlando Innamorato was published after Boiardo’s death. Then Ludovico Ariosto wrote a continuation Orlando Furiosowhich answered many of the questions left unanswered by Boiardo’s work. Ariosto is generally recognized as a far better poet and story teller than Boiardo and it is now only as part of Ariosto’s work that Boiardo has any fame.

In 1532 Rabelais published his fantastic romance Pantagruel as a sequel to the anonymous romance of Gargantua, Gargantua supposedly being Pantagruel’s father. After Pantagruel’s success, Rabelais then recreated the anonymous Gargantua as a new work. The original Gargantua is today seldom read.

But if the story is worth telling in it's own right, there is no need to give the main character the same name as one in Citizen Kane.

Unless one of the main points of the new story is that the character is supposed to be the same as the character in the old story. For example, see http://books.google.ca/books?id=vaTpsJ2k0gIC&pg=PA171&lpg=PA171&dq=%22James+branch+cabell%22+Falstaff&source=bl&ots=tKjJrphXMI&sig=KIswrQPUTBhP7OtGS__Uj5AqrFw&hl=en&sa=X&ei=1_dcT-7NOcjs0gG3s5SfDw&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false.

If indeed, it did become generally accepted that the Citizen Kane saga consists of “Orson Welles’ epic + Andrew’s home movie”, then nothing prevents it later being understood to consist of “Orson Welles’ epic + Andrew’s home movie + a work by a 3rd party”.

I take your point that works based on previous works that are arguably superior to those works are the exception, not the rule. But they exist. And works like Doctor Who exist which have no single author at all.

Lirazel said...

Welcome to the Publicationalist Party! Your silly hat and noisemaker are waiting for you at the bottom of the waterfall...