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Critics' choice showcases from-novel-to-film classics

     Be it a film or a novel, classics have the power to seduce audiences or readers to read them again and again. At a different time and place, each re-reading leads to new inspiration and enlightenment. Six film critics will present their favourite films adapted from classic novels that both seduce audiences and challenge their perspectives.

     Presented by the Film Programmes Office of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) and organised by the Hong Kong Film Critics Society, "From Novel to Film - Critics' Choice" will be shown from May 15 to October 23 at the Cinema of the Hong Kong Film Archive (HKFA) and the Lecture Hall of the Hong Kong Space Museum.

     The six films selected by critics Thomas Shin, Longtin, Matthew Cheng, Ka Ming, Cheng Chuen-wai and Lau Yam are: director Morita Yoshimtsu's "And Then…" on love and friendship; film master Alain Resnais' famed "Last Year at Marienbad"; Luchino Visconti's masterpiece "Death in Venice"; German director Volker Schlöndorff's unflinching satire "The Tin Drum"; the extraordinary work "The Saragossa Manuscript" from the Polish director Wojciech Has, and Martin Scorsese's feminine film "The Age of Innocence".

     Film appreciation, analysis and interpretation, especially of films adapted from novels, require theoretical grounding. To complement the screenings, four "Workshops on Film Criticism" will be held at 2.30pm on July 31, August 7, 14 and 21. Film critics Matthew Cheng, Cheng Chuen-wai, Thomas Shin and Ka Ming will share their views on films from various perspectives and the relationship between literature and film. The workshops will be conducted in Cantonese and held at the HKFA's Resource Centre.

     To encourage the workshop participants to write about their views on films, the Hong Kong Film Critics Society will publish selected articles in the house programme and the websites of the Film Programmes Office and the Hong Kong Film Critics Society.

     One characteristic common to films and novels is the narration of a complete world, encouraging the audience/reader to delve into it and feel it. The comparison and interaction between original literature and film fully demonstrates the importance of text. Exploring the proto-structure of text in cinematic art and the "original" will be an interesting journey.

     Japanese director Morita Yoshimitsu's "And Then…" (1985) is regarded as one of the best adaptations of the novel by Natsume Soseki, one of the foremost novelists in the Meiji era. It is a probing tale of a complex relationship of love and friendship among three people during the 19th century in Japan, revealing conflicts between responsibility and desire, loyalty and group mentality versus freedom and individuality, personal isolation and estrangement. The film won for Best Director at the Kinema Junpo Awards, Japan, 1985; Best Supporting Actor and Best Cinematography at the Japan Academy Prize 1986, and Best Director and Best Supporting Actor at the Blue Ribbon Awards, Japan, 1986.

     A stranger tries to persuade a married woman to run away with him. He tells her that they met last year at Marienbad and had an affair, which she hardly remembers. A love story has no story. A dream has no beginning and end. Audiences are introduced into the real-time experience of déjà vu in "Last Year at Marienbad" (1961). Alain Robbe-Grillet's novel could be treated as the detailed shooting script for French film master Alain Resnais, who followed it faithfully. The film proves to be the perfect marriage of "le nouveau roman" and cinema as modern art and won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival 1961.

     Based on the original novel by Nobel prize-winner Thomas Mann, combining the brilliant cinematography of De Santis and a fascinating city called Venice with Mahler's Symphony no.5 (Adagietto), under Luchino Visconti's aristocratic direction, "Death in Venice" (1971) has become an all-time art-house classic. It is truly a masterpiece of intrinsic beauty. The film won the 25th Anniversary Prize at the Cannes Film Festival 1971.

     Honoured with the Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival 1979 and the Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards 1980, German director Volker Schlöndorff's "The Tin Drum" (1979) is a visionary adaptation of Nobel laureate Günter Grass' acclaimed novel, an unforgettable fantasia of surreal imagery and striking eroticism. A boy who is born with an intellect beyond his infancy witnesses the hypocrisy of adulthood and the irresponsibility of society. On his third birthday, he refuses to grow older and starts to show his discontent via his drum and scream.

     A beauty, a villain, a Gypsy, a Muslim, a Jew and a cabalist come out one by one with weird, interwoven stories. "The Saragossa Manuscript" (1965) was adapted from the novel by Jan Potocki, a legendary figure in 18th century Poland. The secretive, surrealistic landscape created with ultra-wide shots by Polish director Wojciech Has became a cinematic cult classic for Martin Scorsese, Francis Coppola and many of today's film masters. With help from its famous admirers, the three-hour full version of the film was recovered and screened many years later.

     American film master Martin Scorsese is known for his macho cinematic style, yet he has loved Edith Wharton's feminine novel "The Age of Innocence" for many years. Turning the novel into a film in 1993 became a transcendent work in his cinematic career. The film endeavours to create a rich classical atmosphere. The camera captures gorgeously forbidden love in the 19th century world - its flow, its imprecision, its breath, and its burial in the depth of soul. With nostalgia for a bygone age (and its film and people), Scorsese also reflects on the modern concept of liberty and love and the eternal conflicts between individual and society.

     All the films have English and Chinese subtitles. "The Tin Drum" has been classified as Category III and only ticket holders who are aged 18 and above can be admitted.

     Tickets for screenings priced at $50 and workshops priced at $80 per session are available at URBTIX outlets. Half-price tickets are available for senior citizens aged 60 and above, people with disabilities, full-time students and Comprehensive Social Security Assistance recipients.

     Programme and discount details can be found in the leaflet at all LCSD performing venues. Reservations can be made by phone on 2734 9009 or via the Internet at ( For enquiries, please call 2734 2900 or browse the website at

Ends/Thursday, April 22, 2010


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