Michael C. here to share another question for your collective answer. Every film that portrays creative people at work faces the same conundrum. In order to tell the story of an artist at work the movie has to depict the product of their labor, and making that convincing can require just as much effort as making the film itself. If you can make a painting that is believable as the work of a master, maybe you should just do that and skip the film altogether? You know what I mean?
There are various methods with which films skirt this issue. The simplest solution is to show nothing and simply have the characters talk about the brilliance (or lack thereof) of the work in question. We never do hear a passage from Grady Tripp’s acclaimed "Arsonist's Daughter" in Wonder Boys (2000), just as we never witness any of the actual stage performances from All About Eve (1951). Then there are those films which give just enough of a taste of the work without doing the heavy lifting. In the great All That Jazz (1979), for example, we see enough of Joe Gideon’s erotic work-in-progress to know why it’s an investor’s nightmare without ever learning much more about it.
In rare cases, films do such a good job suggesting a work of art that you leave the theater disappointed that the work doesn’t exist in reality. Here are three examples of fictional works of art from movies that I would happily shell out the cash for should they magically appear at multiplexes, book stores or on the Great White Way… [more]
“God of Our Fathers” from Bullets Over Broadway (1994)
I guess I’m a sucker for critical hype even if the play in question doesn’t actually exist. I have the urge to buy a ticket every time I witness the awed reactions when the characters read the draft of God of Our Fathers rewritten by Cheech, Chazz Palminteri’s hired goon/ dramatic genius. I would be especially fascinated to contrast the Broadway smash with the earlier draft by John Cusack’s talentless David Shaye, the one Helen Sinclair so delicately dubbed “the eunuch version”
“Old Custer” from The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
Well, everyone knows Custer died at Little Bighorn. What this book presupposes is... maybe he didn't? “
Question: How much inane literary pretension can Wes Anderson cram into a few lines of a pretend alternate history novel? Answer: a truly impressive amount. Maybe it’s tortured prose like "busted leather flintcraw” and “friscalating dusklight” or perhaps it’s the smug satisfaction with which Owen Wilson’s Eli Cash lays out the inane premise like it is solid gold genius. Whatever the case, I’m convinced a full novel of this faux Cormac McCarthy blather would be the funniest book since Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
“The 3” from Adaptation (2002)
Charlie Kaufman: How could you have somebody held prisoner in a basement and working at a police station at the same time?
Donald Kaufman: [pause] Trick photography. “
I can’t be the only one disappointed when Adaptation ends without showing so much as a clip from Donald Kaufman’s high concept thriller. Of course the joke is that Kaufman’s concept is so ridiculously high that it is essentially impossible to film, with the big twist being that cop, killer and victim all turn out to be the same person. Yet at the time of Donald’s tragic demise The 3 had sold for somewhere in the high six figures and it was being fast-tracked into production (with Catherine Keener rumored to star) so something has to end up on the screen. Ideally it would be a Mulholland Dr type mind fuck, but given what we see of its production history a sub- Shyamalan train wreck seems more likely. The least Charlie could have done to honor Donald’s memory would have been to write some footage from The 3 into to the screenplay of Adaptation.
I’m curious to know what you think. Do you want to see the result of whatever Marcello Mastroianni ends up filming in 8 ½ or do you want to go on a DVD binge of five classic seasons of Fox Force Five? Let us know in the comments.