An Australian TOP reader, Paul Byrnes, wrote a brief and somewhat belated comment to Sunday's "Open Mike" post about truthfulness in movies, mentioning an article he wrote not long ago for The Sydney Morning Herald on the same topic. Since his article is much better than mine, I thought it deserved a link of its own. Paul finds the right tone, breezy and somewhere between bemused and cynical, with less hand-wringing about a misinformed public and greater understanding of the insection between art and truth in movies.
It is too early to know whether Lincoln will be accused of accuracy, but there are encouraging signs. [Screenwriter] Kushner, quoted in Smithsonian magazine, said: ''The rule was that we wouldn't alter anything in a meaningful way from what happened.'' Most films never even attempt that. Australian audiences will soon see The Impossible (opening January 24) with Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor playing an English family separated from each other by the Asian tsunami. It is based on a true story, but the original family was Spanish, which illustrates one of the key points about the relationship between the film business and any true story: anything factual that gets in the way of a film's marketability is no longer true. Making the couple Spanish would have severely reduced the film's reach.
As you can see, there are several nice turns just in that short paragraph, especially "Anything factual that gets in the way of a film's marketability is no longer true." Heh!
Paul's opening lines are wonderful: "Hollywood loves a true story. A cynic might say it gives them something to lie about...."
He gets a lot right, I think. Anyway, I admire good writing, and seek it out, and prize it where I find it. If the issues interest you, Paul's short article is worthy of your time.
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A book of interest today:
(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Clay Olmstead: "I heard this story one time; I don't remember the details, but it went something like this: When Michelangelo carved the statue of Giuliano de' Medici for his tomb, someone pointed out that the deceased's neck was not as long as Michelangelo had carved it; to which Michelangelo replied, 'It is now.'"
Rod S.: "Paul, I enjoyed your article both times—in the printed SMH and again here. Thanks, and keep up the good work. I also thought your review of Lincoln was spot-on.
"Mike, I like accuracy—or at least realism—in films, too. What's so wrong with the truth? Does it reveal that filmmakers and audiences have difficulty telling and accepting the truth? As in 'Don't let the truth get in the way of a good story.' Does science get a bad rap for the same reason? I enjoyed Lincoln last weekend because it highlighted Lincoln's urge to end slavery despite the immediate difficulties and personal costs, and the political conundrum created by the Civil War coming to an end. Perhaps it wasn't the entire truth. But it certainly seems a part of the whole that is worth holding up and celebrating. And the film also gave me a taste of the events surrounding a famous period of U.S. history, which, as a busy working Australian, I am unlikely to spend a lot of time delving into through books. Hopefully I wasn't deceived."