How soon into a movie or book or anything do you know you'll love it? When I first read The Hours, Michael Cunningham's transcendent riff on Virginia Woolf's "Mrs Dalloway" I knew as soon as Clarissa had entered the flower shop. With the film version I knew even sooner, perhaps having been prepped for the movie by the book but also because of the unfussy simplicity of the kick-off to this glorious triptych. (The Hours isn't always unfussy, of course, but note how the music drops out completely in this absolutely key moment when Virginia finds her first sentence.)
All we're left with is three women, three eras, three great actresses, and three separate temperaments.
Virginia: Mrs Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.
Laura: Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.
Clarissa: Sally, I think I'll buy the flowers myself.
How utterly perfect and succinct - Art, uttered first in the imagination, is then received and contemplated, and finally lived-in and through, having made its mark. (It's a subtle thing but how beautiful that Stephen Daldry's camera pulls out a bit with each repetition, making more room in the world for the words)
"Mrs Dalloway", Virginia Woolf's masterpiece -- or one of them at least (I can't live without "Orlando") -- was first published 88 years ago on this very day!. The concept, a woman's whole life in a single day. And as the later book and film helpfully extrapolates and reminds us ... and in that day her whole life.
I love the cut to Allison Janney's blunt exclamation, that pulls us out of this first sentence reverie before it gets to precious.
[to Clarissa] WHAT? What flowers?
[to Self] Shit.
Which books do you wish would inspire not straight adaptations but spun off works of art that stand beautifully on their own? How soon did you love The Hours?