Sunday, June 29, 2008

Page --> Place --> Picture

This past month, I had a unique film experience like I've never had before. First, I read John Berendt's "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" - a big deal seeing as I don't read books nearly as often as I should. Like Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood" (which I - surprise, surprise - have never read), the book begins as a travelogue but features enough colorful characters and events to warrant a great novel. It's highly engrossing nonfiction, depicting Savannah, Georgia and its lively inhabitants in a great ensemble drama. The book was the author's first, and spent 216 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list following its release.

Not long after finishing the book, I visited Savannah itself, and got to see first hand the setting of the story and the home and streets within and upon which the characters walked. It's one of the most beautiful towns I've ever seen, and having the connection to the story made it all the more splendid. Never before had I read a famous work, then visited the land in which it took place in such back-to-back fashion.

While I was in Savannah, I bought a copy of director Clint Eastwood's film version of Berendt's book. I'm always looking for an excuse to expand my DVD library, and it seemed like the logical next step. It was a change of pace for me - usually I'm visiting the places I've seen in the movies, not vice-versa. Whether it was the afterglow of Savannah's beauty, the affection for Berendt's words, or just a case of poor adaptation, I was underwhelmed by Eastwood's film. Too easy, too Hollywood, and not nearly as graceful as I would have expected from Mr. Eastwood or for the screen treatment of this work. People have long been telling me that the movie is never as good as the book. This is one time when I can wholeheartedly agree with them, and say also that the setting of both media trumps all.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (book): A
Savannah, Georgia: A+
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
(movie): C

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