Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Norwegian Wood (2010)

Knitwear notwithstanding, Ahn Hung Tran's interpretation of Norwegian Wood was a big disappointment. I remember that during our viewing of his last flick, I Come With the Rain, we kept thinking Hey that's a nice shirt...oh, how cool is that wallpaper...my God this film stinks..

And although this production is perhaps a whole magnitude less stinky, it would not be too much of an exaggeration to write it off as one big cinematographic toss-off; and that's coming from someone who swoons at the mere mention of Wong Kar-Wai's masterpieces, In the Mood For Love and (even more so) 2046.

I'm also a total sucker for romantic suffering on celluloid; I even welled up a bit during The Time Traveler's Wife. But here I really struggled to connect with the character's story and ended up feeling as cold and dry as Naoko's ladybits, frankly.

In truth, this has probably been my least favourite of Murakami's novels. Yet I do recall enjoying it and that it featured one or two of his standard tropes, which have been excised from this adaptation. (A deep, dark well for instance.)

Most Guatemalan girls of a certain age remember the much-loved 70s Japanese anime series Candy, which ran and ran on local TV for several decades. In it, the eponymous heroine is beset by a choice of blokes, some fey some a bit earthier, who in effect represent not just different masculine archetypes, but also alternative life choices. Ahn Hung Tran has turned this story into a boy's-own version of Candy, with the central male protagonist Watanabe struggling — rather passively it must be said — with his female options, the two principal ones distinguished by the fact that one looks about fourteen while the other speaks as if she were fourteen.

When a novelist writes in the first person I really do think they are latently communicating to all potential screen-scribblers something along the lines of "hands off my text!" Murakami's narrators are generally rather becalmed and socially-disconnected characters, and while their yielding, apathetic perspectives work well enough dramatically from within, once you step outside them with your HD camera, you end up with a subject whose moping inertia becomes less comprehensible and an active source of lifelessness.

As with I Come With the Rain some scenes really do work, but surely I can't be alone in suspecting that Ahn Hung Tran, unlike the author of the source book, has markedly finite talents as a story-teller.

Grade: B

1 comment:

scott said...

I loved his first few films, though...but I agree the later work disappoints.