Saturday, December 20, 2014

Mortdecai: Let's read the book before we see the movie starring Johnny Depp


“I put on a dashing little tropical-weight worsted, a curly-brimmed coker and a pair of buckskins created by Lobb in a moment of genius.”

One of the side effects of a screen adaptation is the light it shines on the source material. When a book is made into a movie, a whole new group of would-be readers are made aware of a book they might otherwise have left on the shelf. Sales of said book generally soar. Whether the author is living—John Green, John LeCarre, Veronica Roth, Gillian Flynn, or dead —F. Scott Fitzgerald,  Patricia Highsmith, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, those new and repeat readers contribute to the world of books and literature, they get us talking about the books we love, recommending them to our friends, spending our money, boosting the bookish economy, keeping it humming and alive and vital.


That's the case, for me at least, with Mordecai. I've been seeing trailers and commercials for Mortdecai all over the place. The movie stars Johnny Depp as Mortdecai, Gwyneth Paltrow as his wife, with Ewan MacGregor, Olivia Munn, Jeff Goldblum and Paul Bettany as Mortdecai's right hand man. Mortdecai —the mustachioed art dealer running about with cravat and cane— looks as ridiculously over-the-top a character as any Johnny Depp has tackled. The trailer had me laughing right out loud. If you haven't seen it, I've posted it below so you can have a giggle too. I had to know from whence this crazy costumed character sprung.

Some quick research showed that this particular character has been buzzing about in the world of books for decades. Mortdecai is the creation of Kyril Bonfiglioli, the now-deceased author who wrote three Mortdecai novels in the 1970's: Don't Point that Thing at Me,  After You with the Pistol, and Something Nasty in the Woodshed. The books have been out of print in the US for a couple of decades but have been published in the UK in trilogy form. This past year, the first book in the series has been available here, and from what I understand, forms the basis for the Mortdecai movie.


It sounds like such fun I'm picking up a copy for my son for Christmas. Yup, I'll be giving it a read myself before the movie opens here on January 23rd. And I've added Mortdecai to my (growing) list of 20 plus Books to Read Before You See the Movie in 2015.


Here's the rundown from the publisher—
The deliciously nasty, highly entertaining, comic masterpiece of a thriller-a cult favorite of Stephen Fry and Julian Barnes. A cult classic in the UK since its first publication there in the 1970s, Don't Point that Thing at Me is the hilarious and dark humored crime thriller featuring the Honorable Charlie Mortdecai: degenerate aristocrat, amoral art dealer, seasoned epicurean, unwilling assassin, and general knave-about-Piccadilly. With his thuggish manservant Jock, Mortdecai endures all manner of nastiness involving secret police, angry foreign governments, stolen paintings, and dead clients, all just to make a dishonest living—while decked out in the most stylish garb and drinking the most bizarre alcoholic cocktails. Don't miss the brilliant mixture of comedy, crime, and suspense.

And a snippet from a review by Leo Carey in the New York Times that clinched the deal for me
Though Bonfiglioli has a knack for cliffhangers, the plots are little more than excuses for displaying Mortdecai in all his dandyish glory. Mortdecai, the son of a peer, never tires of describing the splendors of his cellar, his table, and his tailoring. There is scarcely a meal (or a drink) that is not recounted in detail and meticulously evaluated, and he cannot leave the house without telling you, “I put on a dashing little tropical-weight worsted, a curly-brimmed coker and a pair of buckskins created by Lobb in a moment of genius.” He loves to boast about the fine establishments he frequents in his London neighborhood. “I went a-slumming through the art-dealing district, carefully keeping my face straight as I looked in the shop windows—sorry, gallery windows—at the tatty Shayers and reach-me-down Koekkoeks.” (It is a typical Bonfiglioli touch that the artists mentioned—precisely the kind of respectable nineteenth-century landscapists on which a high-end Mayfair dealer thrives—are just obscure enough to impress the reader.)

Here's the hilarious trailer. Love the music. 
And kinda wish Paul Bettany had his own mustachioed poster too. Take a peek and let me know, will you be reading the book too?

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