Trinny in Jozi

Archive for February 2009

Q&A and Slumdog Millionaire

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During my first year of varsity I took a wonderful course called Film and Literature. Or perhaps it was Literature and Film. Whatever the title, I have a suspicion it doesn´t exist anymore, which is a pity. As a confirmed bibliophile, I´m always* likely to choose the book over the film. And to be unreasonably upset when the film, in my opinion, is a travesty. But the course did prompt me to think about the nature of translation. For a film to capture the spirit of a novel, it doesn´t have to adhere slavishly to details or structure. Quite the opposite: a rendering that is too literal can be clumsy.

And that´s why I´m going to try, probably unsuccessfully,  not to  make any judgment calls about whether Q&A is better (or worse) than Slumdog Millionaire

I read the novel long enough ago to have forgotten all but the basic plot by the time I saw the film. I vaguely recalled that the love story was played up in the film, and that was about it. I loved the story, and its execution, in both media, and couldn´t understand when friends insisted the book was better.

But then I went back to the novel, and realised just how much the film deviates from the original plot, if not the structure. I´m not going to list all the differences, but you can click here if you´re interested.

Initially, I felt the film had perfectly captured the feel of the book. But on my second reading, I had, um, second thoughts.

Most of the stories that “explain” how Jamal Malik (Ram Mohammed Thomas in the book) knew the answers to the questions on the quiz show have been changed. As in they´re completely different stories. And I don´t understand why. The way the stories build on each other in the novel actually leads to a much deeper characterisation and character motivation. And although both the film and the book have something magical about them, in that you´re asked to suspend your disbelief, the novel is just that little bit more plausible, and real. 

The film has a lot going for it. The cinematography, the editing, and the soundtrack, to name just three facets. It´s a brilliant story, in its own right. But, what I can´t help feeling is, given the novel it was based on,
couldn´t it have been *even better*? 

Hey, I´m an editor. I like tinkering with people´s words and ideas. But it´s not about putting your own imprint on a story (or a film script for that matter) just for the sake of it. I know film and print are different media. But I can´t help feeling the changes should only be made to aid the translation between them. Slumdog Millionaire, I´m afraid, changed for the sake of it or rather, for the sake of the Hollywood dollar.

Q&A´s tranmogrification into Slumdog Millionaire also reminds me of another course I took at varsity: The Philosophy of Art and Literature, which for the record, does still exist. One of the texts we studied was Jorge Luis Borges´ Pierre Menard, Author of Don Quixote. I couldn´t summarise this philosophical premise adequately (or perhaps it´s just that laziness strikes again), so you can read the full text here.

But at the end of the fable, which essentially has Borges positing a certain Pierre Menard writing (not copying, not rewriting, but writing) his own Don Quixote, which is the same, at least in terms of the actual words (if not their meaning) as Cervantes´ Don Quixote, Borges leaves us with these thoughts:

“Menard (perhaps without wanting to) has enriched, by means of a new technique, the halting and rudimentary art of reading: this new technique is that of the deliberate anachronism and the erroneous attribution. This technique, whose applications are infinite, prompts us to go through the Odyssey as if it were posterior to the Aeneid and the book Le jardin du Centaure of Madame Henri Bachelier as if it were by Madame Henri Bachelier. This technique fills the most placid works with adventure. To attribute the Imitatio Christi to Louis Ferdinand Céline or to James Joyce, is this not a sufficient renovation of its tenuous spiritual indications?”

So what I´m asking is, after seeing Slumdog Millionaire, is it possible to read Q&A (or rather, to read Slumdog Millionaire, as the novel is titled in its latest imprint) without acknowledging the film as its predecessor? The post-film reading certainly enriched the novel for me. Ram Mohammed Thomas falling in love with a prostitute was a cliche, originally. But Ram Mohammed Thomas appearing on a gameshow with the aim of winning the cash to free his lover from her pimp had a lot more resonance than Jamal Malik appearing on a gameshow just hoping that his long-lost love would see him on television.

How do those of you who´ve read the film or seen the movie or, even better, done both, feel? Mim is going to see a screening of Slumdog Millionaire  next week where Vikas Swarup will be talking, so I´ll be interested to hear his take on the film as well. 

* Well, almost always – The Virgin Suicides being a notable exception.

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Accidental visitor I

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One of the things I love about living away from home is having visitors. When I was in Liechtenstein, I had six visitors in nine months, which I thought was good going, considering Liech isn´t exactly a throbbing  tourist destination! Thanks Mim and Pim, Rude Larry, Kate, Kate (I know a lot of Kates!), and Kim for making the effort. And apologies to the second Kate and Kim that I never blogged about your visits… You´ll just have to come to visit me in Dubai!

I realise now that my goal of having 20 people visiting me in Liechtenstein was slightly ambitious, although I might´ve had more visitors if I´d stayed a full year.

But the great thing about Dubai is, not only is it a place where people actually *want* to visit me, but it´s perfectly placed for a stopover between South Africa and Europe. Also, it´s a popular enough tourist spot that sometimes I bump into people I know who just happen to be on holiday here, without visiting me specifically. I already saw Shennie Pie and Mr Moose´s friend JS in January. He´s my accidental visitor number one. 

I´m expecting more visitors soon – of both the accidental and purposeful variety – so watch this space. And if *you* want to feature on Trinny in Dubai, I always have a spare bed for you (even if it´s actually a couch).

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February 28, 2009 at 11.55

Pub quiz at Fibber McGee´s

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Last night went to a pub quiz at Fibber McGee´s. Reminded me of when I used to live in the House of Earthly Delights. They might be Giants and Team Doris regularly used to battle it out for glory at Quiz Nite at the River Club

But back to last night: our team, called “At least we still have jobs”, only came third. I was never going to be any help in the plasticine “creative” round, but at least I answered the scrabble question correctly. All those online games must be paying off! Can any of you tell me how many letters in scrabble have a value of two points? No googling allowed!

Friendly conversation XXVII

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Mim once said that my phone voice sounds as if I´m going to burst into tears. But it seems not everyone is of that opinion.

In the lift at work yesterday…

HR person: You know, when I used to speak to you on the phone in South Africa, it sounded as if you were big and tall… Like a real South African.
T: Um, at least I have a tall voice!

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February 23, 2009 at 21.45

Friendly conversation XXVI

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TS: I´ve got an idea for a feature.
TC: What is it?
TS: I found a shop in Karama that sells curry by the kilo. We could have a curry-eating competition!
TC: You couldn´t eat a kilo of curry.
TS: But I could try.
TC: I´ve got the headline already: Keel over.

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February 20, 2009 at 20.50

Same words, different context I

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One of the strange things in which I take delight is how the same words and phrases can have completely different meanings depending on context.  I´m not really talking about obvious homonyms like “left” (opposite of right) and “left” (past tense of leave). More about finding examples in my own life, and making a connection for absurdity´s sake. 

For example: DPS.

When I was at varsity, if you got all your DPs (duly perfomed certificates) it meant you were allowed the privilege of writing exams.

When I first worked on magazines, I learnt that DPS stood for a double page spread

And when I taught in Liechtenstein, we used DPS to refer to one of the set texts: Dead Poet´s Society. (The book, not the film, although if I´d had any say in the syllabus I wouldn´t have chosen either.) Very glad that
I´m back in the world of double page spreads these days!

(Not-so)-friendly conversation XXV

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In the lift at an apartment on The Palm Jumeirah…

American 1: Check out this cigar. It´s from Cuba, so it´s illegal in America!
American 2: Well, as soon as Castro kicks it, Cuba´s gonna be the 51st state!!  
American 3: Yeah – we should take over Canada too!!!

This is why (some) Americans annoy me, to put it politely. It´s also why I want to visit Cuba as soon as possible. 

PS – Anyway, cigars are like so before the credit crunch.

Written by Trinny

February 15, 2009 at 21.08