In Colombia just after the Great War, an old man falls from a ladder; dying, he professes great love for his wife. After the funeral, a man calls on the widow - she dismisses him angrily. Flash back more than 50 years to the day Florentino Ariza, a telegraph boy, falls in love with Fermina Daza, the daughter of a mule trader. Ariza is persistent, writing her constantly, serenading, speaking poetically of love. Her father tries to keep them apart, and then, one day, she sees this love as an illusion. She's soon married to Urbino, a cultured physician, and for years, Ariza carries a torch, finding solace in the arms of women, loving none. After Urbino's fall, are Ariza's hopes delusional? Written by
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I am not a rich man. I am a poor man with money. There is a difference.
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I think it is possible to make a film that has this book's richnesses, story, metaphors and style. But it would have to depart as much from ordinary Masterpiece TeeVee as this cleaves to it.
The book, if you do not know it, relies on an already deep tradition of Spanish-speaking writers that brings metaphor to life by mixing illusion and reality. This is a third generation writer in this tradition, and he counts on you knowing the previous generations so that you can appreciate the subtle craft in placing both in a "reality."
The centerpiece of course is how to fabricate a perfect love, suspend it in earnest imagination and make it real through writing. That last bit is the third generation bit, the idea that the writing of illusion makes it real. Students of narrative folding as a device to engage will recognize this trick as one designed to put the reader in the story. Everyone in the story is a "reader" of what Florentino writes. His passion in writing is immediately accessible to every other woman he meets and allows him to enter 622 of them.
That number of course is the number of menstrual cycles he waits for his love while engaged in maintaining the passion. This links to one of the two main metaphors, also partly illusory: the boats on the river. The other metaphor is love as a disease and the triangle established by the doctor dedicated to eradicate it. The structure is rather clinical, made attractive by the same passion in its writer as the writer character has. It matters that it is written in Spanish, a language that allows a connected flow of phrases and a tradition that assumes romantic fever.
I think Ruiz could have done this.
Newell has no idea what to do with this, and is left with simply trying lush shots and reading passionate text.
Here's an indication of his general ignorance: for practical commercial reasons the language must be English. But instead of having his characters speak English naturally and with passion, he has them adopt an accent which we will recognize as Hispanic speaking English as a second language. This is characterized by hypervigilance to the consonants separating words where the primary language centers of the brain are telling the speaker that they should flow with sonances. An astute listener (and if you are not, you do not deserve to have passion in reading) will know people with this, whose words flow in their mind, but become discrete pebbles in the mouth, breaking the flow of liquid life this whole story exploits.
Here's an indication of his cinematic ignorance: It matters what is shown, how and in what way, for how long and in what order. He films this as if every element that plays a role in the plot deserves equal weight. Thus, if we have a telegraph key that does something, or a boat people are on, or a ladder that slips, why we see those. All exist with equal weight. All are shown with the same reality and perspective. All have the same frame. But this manner of narrative is all about color and weight, all about the rhythms of love in reality. Some things should be sharp, magnetic, bright. Others foggy or not even touched. Some seemingly full and sensual but allowed to be discovered not so in a way that never informs the next lust.
Its all about rivers and inconsistent flows. All the sex is denoted by displayed breasts. This again is a commercial necessity, but the material is vaginal in focus. Such intense mysteries must always be. All of the mechanics of the story begin and end there, even in mention of the food.
Ted's Evaluation -- 1 of 3: You can find something better to do with this part of your life.
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