Sunday, November 18, 2012

Going Beyond OK

The difficult goal in life—not just for the so-called creative but for anyone—is to stretch and do work that goes beyond OK or pretty good or that solves a problem but isn’t extraordinary. Good isn’t good enough. A. O. Scott’s New York Times review of the movie “Anna Karenina” is for me an inspiring redemption story about a normally-judicious director who takes a risk and succeeds.

Scott is underwhelmed by director Joe Wright's caution and responsibility (not that there’s anything generally wrong with those attributes) in his earlier films and then excited by his approach to "Anna Karenina." Scott writes:

The British director Joe Wright has seeemed to me—up to now—to belong to the dreary party of humility. His screen versions of “Pride and Prejudice” and Ian McEwan’s “Atonement” are not terrible, just cautious and responsible. For all their technical polish and admirable discipline of their casts, those films remain trapped in literariness. Instead of strong, risky interpretations, they offer crib notes and the pale flattery of imitation. The proof of their mediocrity is that admirers of Austen or Mr. McEwen will find no reason for complaint.
Mr. Wright’s “Anna Karenina” is different. It is risky and ambitious enough to act as an art of artistic hubris, and confident enough to triumph on its own slightly—wonderfully—crazy terms. Pious Tolstoyans may knit their brows about the stylistic liberties Mr. Wright and the screenwriter, Tom Stoppard, have taken, but surely Tolstoy can withstand (and mya indeed benefit from) their playful, passionate rendering of his masterpiece.

Possibly, collaborating with the brilliant Tom Stoppard enabled Wright to rise above what the reviewer describes as his previous norm. Whatever the impetus, it's exciting to read that the risk was worth it. (Next step: see the movie . . .).

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