Heaven and Earth More Like Purgatory

Six Degrees of Separation

Plays can be turned successfully into films. Critics seem to forget that Amadeus and even Glengarry, Glen Ross were successfully turned into films when they write that Six Degrees is a case in point of what happens when plays are adapted. Six Degrees is just an example of what happens when it is done badly. It’s too bad that so little time and thought was spent on the adaptation of John Guare’s play, and it’s also too bad that the powers that be in Hollywood gave it to resident hack, Fred Scepisi, to direct. The play and the film are about a young, black con-artist who cons his way into the lives of an Upper East Side couple by pretending to be Sidney Poitier’s son. Scepisi’s adaptation takes the main characters from party to party to tell their story, rather than telling the audience directly as they do in the play. Maybe this would have worked if Scepisi really knew what these characters were about. Instead, what he has done is filmed a play which relies heavily on the nuances of Upper East Side culture while he himself knows nothing about that culture. In his adaptation, he has taken away everything that made the play great while adding nothing but gets and extras and jumpy editing. He misses every joke and every emotion.

Heaven and Earth

When Pauline Kael retired as a critic, one of the reasons she gave wasthat she couldn’t imagine sitting through another Oliver Stone film. It’s easy to see why when watching Heaven and Earth. The third film in his “remarkable” trilogy that started with Platoon and Born on the Fourth of July, Heavenand Earth follows a Vietnamese woman from her idyllic village through the Vietnam war to her immigration to San Diego. There is no question that she suffered in the cruel hands of war: she’s raped, forced into prostitution, tortured, etc. Of course, she lived to tell the tale so she overcame. She was a survivor. Unfortunately, she doesn’t do much else and because of this, Stone never seems able to bring her character to life on the screen. We all know that war is hell, but to be battered over the head with this message by Stone’s slick, overbearing direction for nearly three hours is a bit much. The only Oliver Stone film I like is The Doors, but I don’t like to criticize his other films because I usually agree with what they say, I just don’t like the way he says it. Who else would make a film about the Vietnamese side of the war? MM

Clips

Far Away, So Close: A surprising mess
of plot twists.

Schindler’s List: Best thing out there.

Short Cuts: Long, depressing, self-righteous.

Fearless: Drab, but cute (especially Rosie
Perez).

Jamon, Jamon: Continental sex romp.

The Piano: As good as it gets.

Remains of the Day: Stiff and innocous.

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