The cinematic novel


Jose-Luis Moctezuma on Mariano Llinás Historias Extraordinarias @ The Hydra.
André Bazin, patron saint of film criticism, observes in his essay, “In Defense of Mixed Cinema”, that the reciprocal, progressive relationship shared by literature and cinema should serve as an advantage to the seventh art. If literature is conventionally regarded in the ascendant position, bestowing literary techniques and methods of narrative on the younger medium, then cinema has only proven to return the favor fourscore. The transmigration Hamlet made from Bill Shakespeare to Sir Lawrence Olivier was probably less unorthodox, certainly less controversial, than the subway ride it took to reach Stratford-upon-Avon via Thomas Kyd. Bazin writes, “While critics are apt to view with regret the borrowings made by cinema from literature, the existence of a reverse process is as accepted as it is undeniable. It is in fact commonly agreed that the novel, and particularly the American novel, has come under the influence of the cinema.”Bazin’s essay dates from the period in the late 40s/early 50s when cinema was going through a kind of midlife crisis (in which the technology which had given it birth also managed to accelerate its potential obsolescence). No longer in its “classical period,” cinema found itself under threat by television and the beginning of commercial media saturation, forcing it to find recourse in the development of cheap and fast genres (teen-age romances, horror flicks, drive-thru sized pictures), when it was not pillaging literature for convenient, ready-made scenarios that could be efficiently translated to the screen. Post-World War cinema could no longer feign aesthetic innocence or rely on the scenarios of “pure cinema” to sate the industrial demand for more more