Saturday, October 22, 2011

Brighton Rock (Rhoades)

“Brighton Rock” Gets Dusted Off
 Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

As a college student I got hooked on Graham Greene’s spy novels – “The Confidential Agent,” “The Third Man,” “Our Man in Havana,” and “A Burnt-Out Case.” In the end, I read every novel by this gifted British author and literary critic. The Collected Edition of Greene’s works fills 22 volumes in all. Included among them are his four so-called Catholic novels. My favorite of these was one titled  “Brighton Rock.”
This is the story of a punk who commits a murder, brags about it to a waitress, and winds up marrying the girl to keep her quiet. A friend tries to save her from the clutches of this young monster.
The novel was first made into a movie in 1947, a black-and-white noir starring Richard Attenborough as color-contradiction Pinkie Brown. Attenborough had played the character on stage three years earlier. In the US, the film was retitled “Young Scarface” to give it more sizzle.
Many of the Roman Catholic underpinnings were deleted so as not to offend the Church. This made for a lesser film, given Graham Greene’s penchant for weaving his beliefs into the fabric of his writing.
Greene converted to Catholicism in 1926. His first published novel was “The Man Within” in 1929. He went on to write some 34 novels, short story collections, and autobiographies.
However, Greene always objected to being described as a Roman Catholic novelist, preferring to be seen as a novelist who happened to be Catholic. Even so, religious themes provide the warp and woof of many of his finest novels.
A new film adaptation of Graham Greene’s “Brighton Rock” appeared last year. Director Rowan Joffe also penned the screenplay, basing it on the original book rather than the older movie. And he updated the story from the 1930s to the 1960s, setting the action among Britain’s Mods and Rockers, opposing youth gangs.
Joffe explains why he did the film. “The novel was worthy of a contemporary adaptation. In fact, it makes it almost more dutiful as a filmmaker if you love the novel, to bring it to life without the restriction of censorship.”
“Brighton Rock” is exploring the morality of Britain’s criminal elements at the Tropic Cinema this week.
In it, Sam Riley (“Control”) plays the sociopathic young hoodlum. Pinkie’s slicked-back hair and scar across his face make him a criminal to be reckoned with. Not a nice guy.
Andrea Riseborough (“Never Let Me Go”) portrays Rose, the young waitress who becomes entangled with Pinkie. She gets a juicer part than seen in the original film because “the original black-and-white was made is a period where we were culturally and politically very patronizing to women,” says Joffe.
Helen Mirren (Academy Award-winner for “The Queen”) co-stars as Ida, the woman out to save Rose. Among the criminal elements are John Hurt (“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”) and Andy Serkis (the Gollum in “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy).
Despite Joffe’s dusting off Graham Greene’s “Brighton Rock,” spiffing it up, and adding color, it remains a gritty noir. A bit depressing in tone, but Greene at his finest, a man wrestling with morality as defined by the Church.
After watching the movie, I’m going to dig through the books in my attic and reread “Brighton Rock.” And maybe reread Greene’s delightful “Travels With My Aunt” just to balance it off. Like visiting a garrulous old friend.
[from Solares Hill)

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