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My Brilliant Friend: My take on the book by Elena Ferrante (now on HBO)



My Brilliant Friend. Elena Ferrante's brilliant novel of friendship.

Ferrante shares her deeply personal view of close friendship between females at that especially vulnerable period of time—as the girls approach puberty and reach the ripe old age of sixteen. So much happens during that tumultuous time, whether you live in the suburbs of the San Fernando Valley or, as these girls do, the impoverished streets of Naples, 1958.

Told from Elena Grecco's viewpoint—Lenú (Elena's alter ego)— yearns to be Raffaella Cerullo—Lila—her seemingly always smarter, always braver, more adventurous friend who pushes Lenú to move beyond the bounds of her own limitations. Lila, the leader. Lila, the daughter of a shoemaker, the one who wins all the school competitions, Lila the one all the boys fall in love with. But Lila too, we see has her own measure of jealousy and while Lenú is like an open book, Lila is manipulative, a spy, digging around—as Lenú sees it—to see what's coming next, in order to best her friend at it. 


I decided I had to model myself on that girl, never let her out of my sight, even if she got annoyed and chased me away.

I suppose that was my way of reacting to envy, and hatred and of suffocating them. Or maybe I disguised in that manner the sense of subordination, the fascination I felt. Certainly I trained myself to accept Lila's superiority in everything, and even her oppression.


Set in Naples of the late 1950's, the first of four called The Neapolitan novels, the book is an extraordinarily honest look at the complex relationship we have with each other. We think of boys as being competitive, trying to top each other with their lists and their games and their horseplay. But it's girls, desperate to define ourselves, to determine where we stand, that are truly competitive. Are we the leader or the disciple? We fight with claws—sometimes in puberty, we descend into a real catfight, sometimes it's just catty behavior to each other. Sometimes it boils down to the world being a man's world with very little room for women. And only the 'best' women gain entry. We have to be best at classroom competitions or best at being beautiful. Later, we can win entry by being best at cooking, best at keeping house. Being best is difficult, being oneself, harder still. 

One of the most enjoyable aspects of the book is that it takes us to another time and place, the impoverished neighborhoods of Naples, Italy in the late 1950's. While I've been to Italy twice, I've skirted Naples twice due to a perceived crime problem. I'm not sure if that is in reality the case—although a quick check on google talks about the city being run by the local Mafia called the Camorra and that there are a wealth of pickpockets with the Piazza del Gesu being very dangerous at night. 

So while I've visited Sorrento, Capri and Vesuvius, I may never visit Naples in real life, I can't wait to see Lenú and Lila's Naples on the upcoming HBO series. According to press reports, if this initial adaptation, presented in Italian with subtitles, does well, the remaining three adaptations are ready to air here in the US as well. 

I can't wait. Can you? My Brilliant Friend debuts the first of the eight-episode series on Sunday, November 18th. 
UPDATE: I've seen the first episode and while the acting is tremendous, I'm not sure what I think. In the novel, so much of what we think and feel about the girl's friendship comes filtered through Lenú's lens. The opener felt a little flat, a little lacking but I'm in for the long haul. Highly recommend you read the book first!


RIP William Goldman: WRITER


There are all kinds of writers. Novelists. Screenwriters. Memoirists. Playwrights. Children's Book Authors. Short Story Writers. William Goldman was all of the above. Goldman died November 15th, 2018 in Manhattan from pneumonia, a complication of colon cancer. He was 87 years old. 


"Life isn't fair. It's just fairer than death, that's all."

~William Goldman



He's the author of 16 novels and 34 screenplays counting scripts for Marathon Man, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Misery,  Harper and All the Presidents Men among them. 

And the lovely Princess Bride, based on his own novel. 

With thanks and remembrance for a massive contribution to the world of film and literature. And for all of us wannabe writers out there, it's important to note he wrote eighteen screenplays that were never produced. 

As You Wish!



Chapter1-Take1: Bonjour Tristesse starring Deborah Kerr, Jean Sebe...

Chapter1-Take1: Bonjour Tristesse starring Deborah Kerr, Jean Sebe...: Jean Seberg, born on November 13, 1938 Previously I shared a few photos of Deborah Kerr from some of her classic films: From Here ...

Bonjour Tristesse starring Deborah Kerr, Jean Seberg & David Niven: Hello Sadness, my old friend #book2movies


Jean Seberg, born on November 13, 1938


Previously I shared a few photos of Deborah Kerr from some of her classic films: From Here to Eternity, The King and I and my favorite An Affair to Remember. The star would have been 96 had she not died in 2007, at that cliche ripe old age of 86. Not a bad run. 





Not as well known perhaps, the role Kerr played in Bonjour Tristesse the Otto Preminger adaptation of the French author, François Sagan’s first book about a wild, young woman living with her playboy father, struggling to find herself. As was sometimes the fashion at the time, the French father Raymond is played by the very British David Niven, while the 17 year old American actress Jean Seberg—who loved France so much, she would come to spend half her life in France—played the daughter Cecile. The eternally classy Kerr plays an English clothing designer and friend of Raymond’s deceased wife. She sees herself as a sort of mother figure to Cecile and as a potential mate to Raymond.



I loved the movie, in part because of the glimpses we’re given of France, in part because of the yearning sadness of Cecile, the disappointment of Anne and the ultimate tragedy of the story which is one that stays with you. 



The book was such a success that it was adapted for the screen by the great Otto Preminger. Fifties leading man David Niven stars as Cecile's father, a handsome wealthy bachelor playboy who treats her more like a pal than a daughter. Jean Seberg was young Cecile, the teenage girl who idolizes her dad and loves sharing his rather dissolute lifestyle, traipsing along on a series of dates to Parisian nightclubs.  Classy Deborah Kerr plays Anne, an old family friend who comes to visit at the same time papa has a woman staying at their Mediterranean beach cottage. She stirs up the pot with her more conventional outlook and expectations.


It’s all very glamorous, gorgeous but ultimately tragic. I loved the black and white shots of Paris while the full on color shots of the south of France were blindingly beautiful.

Update, 11/13/2018 I recently learned that Jean Seberg, born on this day, died in 1979 in what the French police ruled a probable suicide. Her then-husband Romain Gary blamed her deteriorating mental health on being the target of an FBI campaign against her for her support of the Black Panthers. Against All Enemies, due out in 2019 is based on the true story with Kristen Stewart playing the iconic Jean Seberg.

Bonjour Dreaming of France friends ... Let’s watch this black and white look at Paris from Bonjour Tristesse circa 1958.

Available to stream on Amazon, YouTube, Vudu and GooglePlay.

Connect with other lovers of all things french at An Accidental Blog where Paulita Kincer is always Dreaming of France.

You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz will be Nicole Kidman's Undoing

Nicole Kidman to star in the adaptation of 

You Should Have Known


I’ve said it here before I think Nicole Kidman is fast becoming the new Meryl Streep. Everything she does has us watching, mesmerized. Just announced, Kidman is teaming with Big Little Lies adaptation writer, David Kelly and director Suzanne Bier (The Night Manager) to bring Jean Hanff Korelitz' You Should Have Known to HBO as The Undoing in a six-episode limited series format. 

About the book

Kidman will play Grace Reinhart Sachs in The Undoing

Grace Reinhart Sachs is living the only life she ever wanted for herself. Devoted to her husband, a pediatric oncologist at a major cancer hospital, their young son Henry, and the patients she sees in her therapy practice, her days are full of familiar things: she lives in the very New York apartment in which she was raised, and sends Henry to the school she herself once attended. Dismayed by the ways in which women delude themselves, Grace is also the author of a book You Should Have Known, in which she cautions women to really hear what men are trying to tell them. But weeks before the book is published a chasm opens in her own life: a violent death, a missing husband, and, in the place of a man Grace thought she knew, only an ongoing chain of terrible revelations. Left behind in the wake of a spreading and very public disaster, and horrified by the ways in which she has failed to heed her own advice, Grace must dismantle one life and create another for her child and herself.

While the book hit the shelves back in 2014 I haven’t read it. But I'll be putting it on my TBR pile. How about you? 

Happy Birthday Vivien Leigh: Watching Gone with the Wind

Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind (1939)

Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable in Gone With The Wind


The screen adaptation of Gone with the Wind,  Margaret Mitchell's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel and one of the top 100 books on PBS Great American Reads, won eight Oscars including the Best Actress trophy for Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara in 1940. Today marks the 105th anniversary of the actresses' birth, she was born on November 5th, 1913 in Darjeeling, India, what was then British India. She died in London in 1967. The British actress also won Best Actress for her portrayal of Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire. Two of America's most iconic women, played by a Brit. Because acting! Really, it's a thing. 


Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind (1939)

Gone with the Wind, Based on the classic novel by Margaret Mitchell


Both the novel Gone with the Wind and the film also starring Clark Gable as Rhett (Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn) Butler remain classics. 

Remember this amazing scene when Scarlett meets Rhett? Vivien Leigh was just twenty-three at the time, while Gable was a dozen years her senior.



You can stream Gone with the Wind for three to four bucks on Amazon, Vudu, iTunes, and youtube.


Image result for vivien leigh, Gone with the wind, I'll think about that tomorrow, gif




Image result for vivien leigh, Gone with the wind, I'll think about that tomorrow, gif






Nicole Kidman Talks About Playing Real Life Mother in Boy Erased #book2movie


Boy Erased based on the memoir about a boy and his family going through gay conversion therapy—and coming out the other side—opened this weekend. I knew about gay conversion therapy before learning about the project BUT like Nicole Kidman, I had no idea it was still happening. I thought the whole pray away the gay notion was outlawed because it's such a horrendous, dehumanizing practice. BUT I was wrong. In fact, gay conversion therapy is still legal in 35 states! Author Garrard Conley's mother is part of the movement to banish gay conversion therapy in all 50 states.
Despite the cruelty of the therapy, our vice president Mike Pence very much believes in the practice. Vote Blue! 


Watch the interview where Kidman and Conley's real-life mum talk about the project. 


Boy Erased, directed by Joel Edgerton stars Lucas Hedges as Garrard with Nicole Kidman as his mother and Russell Crowe as his dad. Boy Erased is in theaters now.

Thinking about East of Eden #SaturdayMatinee #book2movies


Have you seen Marjorie Prime? Lois Smith—who celebrates her 88th birthday today, November 3, 2018— plays an elderly woman who communicates with her deceased husband via a hologram played by Jon Hamm. It’s an intriguing idea allowing the filmmakers to look at concepts of aging and memory, perception vs reality, and of course technology. I loved Her so I think I’d like to see this as well. Smith is 86 and has been working in Hollywood since the early 1950’s and has 129 credits to her name. Can you imagine? Almost seventy years as an actress. 


image credit: rebloggy

Her very first movie role was in East of Eden with the legendary James Dean in 1954. Dean died of course, forever young at 24, in a car crash on a quiet California highway in 1955. Formerly Highway 466 near Cholame, about a three hour drive north of here.

Smith and Dean’s 1954 screen test for East of Eden is sparking interest on YouTube today. No need to search, here it is.



And now in six 10 minute segments, Mark Rydell’s 2005 TV documentary James Dean: Sense Memories about the last year of Dean’s life. The documentary was posted on YouTube by F. Scott Fitzhemingway and is today’s Saturday Matinee.




We’ve watched East of Eden before of course, and will watch it again and again. Stream it anytime on GooglePlay, Amazon, iTunes and Vudu. Check Netflix streaming as their catalogue changes but it’s available on Netflix DVD.

If Nazis Ruled America: Rufus Sewell stars in The Man in the High Castle

 Rufus Sewell stars as Obergruppenführer John Smith in The Man in the High Castle


Imagine an America where Germany and Japan won the second World War. That’s the premise of Philip K. Dick's dystopian novel. An America where the bad guys won and rule our country. Would we sit back and let the new order control our lives? Or would we resist? Would we fight for the rights of our fellow citizens? For our freedom? 


It's also the premise of the Amazon Prime series inspired by the book. Rufus Sewell—who celebrates his 51st birthday today, October 29th—stars as Obergruppenführer John Smith, an American who rises through the ranks after America surrenders. The paramilitary title is a real one belonging to Germany's Third Reich; in the show's context Smith, assigned to investigate the Resistance, the Americans who do fight back, is the first American to receive the title. Nazism. If you're not hearing enough about it in the news, you can find it in the dystopian series currently in its third season on Amazon with the fourth season in production.


About the book


It’s America in 1962. Slavery is legal once again. The few Jews who still survive hide under assumed names. In San Francisco, the I Ching is as common as the Yellow Pages. All because some twenty years earlier the United States lost a war—and is now occupied by Nazi Germany and Japan.
Rufus Sewell in The Man in the High Castle (2015) 

This harrowing, Hugo Award–winning novel is the work that established Philip K. Dick as an innovator in science fiction while breaking the barrier between science fiction and the serious novel of ideas. In it Dick offers a haunting vision of history as a nightmare from which it may just be possible to wake.

Have you been watching the show? I'm not sure how I'll respond to seeing Rufus Sewell in the role. Like a lot of fans of Brit telly I fell head over heels with him as Lord Melbourne in the Victoria series. And while I've never met him, my husband worked with him on Tristan and Isolde and has nothing but nice things to say about the actor as a man. I'm not sure I'm ready for the darkness, especially now as real Nazism seems to be on the rise. 



Season 1 Trailer 


Season 2 Trailer


Season 3 Trailer

The Bell Jar: An interview with Sylvia Plath pre-publication #book2movies #SaturdayMatinee

Sylvia Plath from her Mademoiselle Photo Shoot


Updated 10/27/2018 on the occasion of Sylvia Plath's birthday

I finished Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar the other day and find I’m newly fascinated by everything about the short life of the acclaimed poet and writer. The novel, famously inspired by Plath’s summer as an intern at Mademoiselle magazine in NYC and her own institutionalization is getting its second adaptation at the hands of Kirsten Dunst in the director’s chair with Dakota Fanning as Esther Greenwood. The material was first adapted in 1979 with a very 70’s cast that included Marilyn Hassett as Esther, Jameson Parker as Buddy with Julie Harris as her mother.

Plath, with husband Ted Hughes

Poor Sylvia Plath. She was just 31 when she committed suicide at the London home she shared with Ted Hughes and their two children. Putting those two babies in their bedroom with the windows wide open, Plath taped up the gaps around their bedroom door before turning the gas on, putting her head in the oven and taking her own life. It’s hard to reconcile those deliberate actions with what feels like such an act of desperation. But as we know, she had been hearing the call to kill herself from her teen years. 



As I said, I’m newly obsessed with Plath which led me to this 1962 radio interview with Plath and an unidentified British interviewer. While she talks about wanting to write a novel—and was likely working on the novel at the time—she was there to talk about her poetry, the work for which she’d been getting prizes all her life. Her novel would be published under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas in January 1963 to lackluster reviews. Plath, her marriage to Ted Hughes in tatters, killed herself a month later.



Mad Girls Love Song was included at the back of my copy of The Bell Jar.

Mad Girl's Love Song
"I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead;
I lift my lids and all is born again.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

The stars go waltzing out in blue and red,
And arbitrary blackness gallops in:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I dreamed that you bewitched me into bed
And sung me moon-struck, kissed me quite insane.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

God topples from the sky, hell's fires fade:
Exit seraphim and Satan's men:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I fancied you'd return the way you said,
But I grow old and I forget your name.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

I should have loved a thunderbird instead;
At least when spring comes they roar back again.
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)"

Book: The Collected Poems by Sylvia Plath

What did you think of the interview? I was struck by the tone of her voice, the depth and maturity of a woman who sounds much older than thirty, that accent from another time that almost reads as British. And of course, the clear point of view of an accomplished and recognized poet with no signs of what was to come, except perhaps, for her own interest in the subject of mental illness.

We are still waiting for the promised debut film from Kirsten Dunst based on Plath's book, with Dakota Fanning in the lead role.

In the meantime, you can catch Gwyneth Paltrow as Sylvia with Daniel Craig as husband Ted Hughes. The film is available to screen on HBO Now and HBO Go.


The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer: My take on the book

The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer


I wanted to read Meg Wolitzer's The Female Persuasion almost before I knew Nicole Kidman was going to star in the adaptation of the book. Especially as I loved Wolitzer's novel The Wife which also deals with a feminist theme, although less obviously. The Female Persuasion has to be the ultimate book for your average feminist—heck it's practically in the title—and the storyline about a young contemporary woman who comes to work for an inspiring 2nd wave feminist sounded empowering. 

Here's how the publisher describes the book—which has received rave reviews:

From the New York Times-bestselling author of The Interestings, an electric novel not just about who we want to be with, but who we want to be.
To be admired by someone we admire - we all yearn for this: the private, electrifying pleasure of being singled out by someone of esteem. But sometimes it can also mean entry to a new kind of life, a bigger world. 
Greer Kadetsky is a shy college freshman when she meets the woman she hopes will change her life. Faith Frank, dazzlingly persuasive and elegant at sixty-three, has been a central pillar of the women's movement for decades, a figure who inspires others to influence the world. Upon hearing Faith speak for the first time, Greer- madly in love with her boyfriend, Cory, but still full of longing for an ambition that she can't quite place- feels her inner world light up. And then, astonishingly, Faith invites Greer to make something out of that sense of purpose, leading Greer down the most exciting path of her life as it winds toward and away from her meant-to-be love story with Cory and the future she'd always imagined. 
Charming and wise, knowing and witty, Meg Wolitzer delivers a novel about power and influence, ego and loyalty, womanhood and ambition. At its heart, The Female Persuasion is about the flame we all believe is flickering inside of us, waiting to be seen and fanned by the right person at the right time. It's a story about the people who guide and the people who follow (and how those roles evolve over time), and the desire within all of us to be pulled into the light.
Those rave reviews might be part of my lackluster response to the book. It was good, without being great. By that I mean it didn't transport me, it didn't take me to any new places. If anything it affirmed what I already know without giving me any great delight or insight as it did so. It's that obvious feminist theme that feels less than compelling in this fictional setting. While I was initially captivated with Greer's story, she disappointed me with her responses throughout the novel. And what the overview doesn't tell you is that fabulous Faith Frank also has a tiny problem with integrity. Not to mention that holding Frank up as a leader in the women's movement with a huge career without giving her the power to have a long, satisfying relationship with a man—or woman—was disappointing, to say the least. Does a woman have to lead a solitary life to be successful in it? 

I found the novel just a tad too stuffed in its feminist themes —which are very much in the news right now, themes of women's empowerment and equality I adhere to and have believed in ever since I marched for the ERA back in 1972!—and a tad shy of the elements of fiction that keep us reading. Characters we're emotionally invested in and whose lives we want to know more of. The novel worked best when we followed the secondary character's stories, that of Zee, her best friend who happens to be a lesbian, and especially Cory, Greer's boyfriend,  whose arc I followed with happy anticipation. 

I found myself wondering if Greer had big dreams for herself or does she simply want to coattail onto Faith's foundation, a foundation that makes a business out of feminism. 

Feminism, as the quote below from Greer's mother would seem to indicate in the quote below, isn't just about marching and carrying signs. 
"It seems to me," said her mother, "and this is really outside my sphere of knowledge, since I'm not the one who's been working at a feminist foundation. But here's this person who gave up his plans when his family fell apart. He moves back in with his mother and takes care of her. Oh, and he cleans his own house, and the ones she used to clean. I don't know. But I feel like Cory is kind of a big feminist, right?"
Sounds like equality to me.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: Based on the book by #JohnLeCarre #book2movie




Updated 10/19/2018
On the occasion of John LeCarreé's 87th birthday

Originally published 2016
I’m quite busy with John LeCarré right now, currently finishing up Our Kind of Traitor. The film version starring Ewan McGregor, Naomie Harris, Damian Lewis & Stellan Skarsgård hits the UK on May 13, no word on a release date here in the US yet. That being the case I’m going to revisit Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.  The film, fabulous from its’ period-perfect clothing to the Oscar-nominated screenplay is currently available to stream on Amazon, YouTube, iTunes, Vudu, GooglePlay, and Netflix. 

Here’s my piece, originally posted November 30, 2011:

Late yesterday afternoon, my husband and I took a beautiful drive from our Los Angeles suburb up the coast to Santa Barbara. He had an invite from Focus Features for an industry screening to see Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Having recently read the book, I couldn't wait to see it and I'd asked him to watch for the screening announcement in the mail. 

MY TAKE ON THE BOOK, TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY

At this time of year, our mail is full of envelopes from the studios who screen their award season contenders at multiple locations and times through the end of the year. Sometimes they are held in small private screening rooms at a studio, other times they're at public theatres. Mark's DGA card entitles him to entry with a guest. By the time he actually plowed through the stack of envelopes and called the RSVP line, all the Los Angeles screenings had been booked up. Hence the lovely drive up the Pacific Coast Highway at sunset, the sea glimmering to the west, Ventura, Carpenteria, Summerland, Montecito and Santa Barbara to the east, green and lush, the small mountain range hovering in the background. I always love this drive; had the film turned out to be a bomb, the hour each way in the car would have been enough. It wasn't a bomb, but it may be box office wise.

The screening was held in a small theatre, the Plaza de Oro; The Descendants and The Way were Now Playing. Pedro Almodovar's The Skin I Live In was Coming Soon. There were less than twenty of us in the audience; Santa Barbara being a satellite location, they hadn't expected a throng. Mark and I were the youngest people in the theatre, it was clear the rest of the group were insiders with at least a nodding acquaintance with each other, driving over from tiled roof Spanish style homes in the tony town of Montecito, weekend getaway of the quietly rich and sometimes famous.

The film started, sans the usual previews, typical for a screening. While the studio screening rooms don't have a snack bar, this theatre did but we passed on the popcorn and soda. The other notable thing that happens in a screening is most of the audience actually stays to watch the credits, something that never happens on a Saturday night at your local movie house. It's not just a sign of respect; you search the names looking for old friends and colleagues or because you were so wowed by the makeup you have to know who keyed it, where was it shot, who played that small but spectacular part?




And so it began. And right off the bat, it was different from LeCarre's gentle start with Jim Prideaux arriving at the school in its bucolic setting. Instead, we are taken to the Circus right away. If I thought for a moment that the film might be leaving LeCarre's quiet suspense behind in favor of a more modern taste for fast action I was wrong. The film moves slowly but steadily along, with frequent flashbacks from this spy or that to explain what they knew, when they knew it, and who they told, thereby explaining the intricacies of the plot.

But do they? Having read the book, I had a pretty good handle on who the fairly large assortment of spies and counterspies were and what they were doing. And yes, in this somewhat tidied up version, a few of those names were lopped off; I wonder how easily the storyline is followed by someone who hasn't (heaven forbid) read the book first?






All the key players are that special brand of British actor—every movement solid and believable, no false notes. John Hurt as Control was every bit as wild and paranoid as his literary counterpart. I wonder if he will be considered for a Best Supporting nod.



I do think it wouldn't have hurt Gary Oldman to have picked up a pound or two to pad his girth so he could more readily be LeCarrés fat barefoot spy, and I admit to examining the lines on his face from one scene to another to determine their source, makeup or life. Makeup I think. Having said that, I thought he was quite wonderful in his patient, calm, quiet reserve on the exterior, George Smiley. He isn't really called upon to do much more than that though, with a couple of exceptions, one being where he sees his wife in the arms of another man. (Won't say whose arms for those who haven't read it) so I don't think it has the histrionics needed for award season.  The director has all but hidden the elusive Ann from our eyes, perhaps so we can create the perfect fantasy woman that Smiley holds her to be? There is a lovely moment when we view George from the back, as he sees Ann, his legs barely buckle at the sight. It's a very subtle and perfect touch.




Tom Hardy is sensual and gives us the touch of sex we all secretly crave but he's more than his full, almost pornographic lips. His recounting to Smiley of the Irina adventure is one of the most endearing and emotional scenes in the film.




Mark Strong isn't at all what I pictured when I read about Jim Prideaux and they've changed a bit about his role in the plot (in the book it's a little more action-oriented!) and I would have loved some more sweet moments with Bill Roach and the other boys but he won me over; his eyes tell a thousand tales. I really feel the need to IMDB him and see everything else he's been in. My husband worked with him on Tristan and Isolde starring James Franco and says Strong is just a terrific guy, classically trained, brilliant and intensely likable.



Colin Firth, the film's resident movie star, as Bill Haydon was quite as charming as LeCarré intended but isn't he always? That mix of swagger and vulnerability, the offhand smile; he's quite deadly.




Benedict Cumberbatch will no doubt fetch a ton more 'Cumberbitches' after this one, I think. He knows how to wear those 1960's clothes and he's a fantastic friend to good ol' George.

The director, Tomas Alfredson, is a Swede who has done mostly nordic television work so I can't quite fathom how he landed such a plum job. He did helm the vampire flick "Let the Right One In" which has a huge cult following. Bridget O'Connor and Peter Straughan wrote the screenplay together as they did Sixty Six,  a film I've never heard of. BUT Straughan also wrote The Debt and Men Who Stare at Goats so the writing assignment does make sense.


Grey and gloomy London, Budapest, and Istanbul, the Circus with its soundproof modules, tatty old English homes and Control's crazed hoarder's flat all read beautifully and authentically thanks to Maria Djurkovic's production design, and Hoyte Van Hoytema's cinematography. The costume design by veteran Jacqueline Durran was perfect in its imperfection, just what you would expect from someone who did the wardrobe for Atonement, Pride and Prejudice and Vera Drake. Her latest film is Anna Karenina (what? again?) with Keira Knightly and Jude Law; period pictures are clearly her element.


In the end, I thoroughly enjoyed the film while finding some of the English accents a bit muddled even for the daughter of a couple of Brits. I found its slow pace, revealing the ins and outs methodically, compelling. I'm just not sure if the film will find its audience; mature, appreciative viewers and readers who don't mind doing a bit of work following along to get to the end. No visual tricks, barely a gunshot. An ending that's a bit more telling than the book's and ultimately a bit more satisfying for those who like things tidy. I just found out from IMDB John LeCarre is uncredited as a party guest. See if you can spot him.


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