How Stephen Sondheim’s work was (and wasn’t) transferred to the screen.

What makes it so difficult to adapt Sondheim to the canvas? With very few exceptions, there are no major screen interpretations of his work that are not filmed theatrical productions.

He gives you something you think you understand. Even with “In the forest” (the 2014 film), it’s like, “Oh, it’s a deconstruction of fairy tales.” But that’s really not enough to keep going. There’s something really deep going on about sadness and loneliness that’s probably really hard to reconcile with the trappings of the genre. They’re tricky because he’s always doing two things at once. And when making a movie, filmmakers often focus on the spectacle without realizing that the spectacle needs to be hidden. That’s really difficult in the movie.

I was thinking today about which Sondheim works I would like to see filmed. I never want George in the Park to be a movie just for what it is, how it’s made, what it’s about. What it does feels so New York stage, it would be so weird.

Could you talk about Sondheim’s and Madonna’s cinematic work in “Dick Tracy”?

For me, as a young gay boy with his Madonna tape I’m Breathless in 1990, that was the gist. Period. “Dick Tracy,” the gruff male comic book detective with the lantern jaw, just doesn’t interest me. But I remember those songs. It’s one of those things that a queer agent is. “Dick Tracy” really feels like a mix of many different sensibilities. I like the way Sondheim’s and Madonna’s contributions help negate the over-masculinity of the text.

And we need to talk about it”The Last of Sheila‘ (1973), which he co-wrote with Anthony Perkins.

This is difficult. It’s interesting that they’ve chosen an intricate crime-thriller material, because how else would you intelligently infuse this Sondheim complexity and the idea of ​​overlapping narratives, characters, and themes into a genre film? I think that makes it appealing. With Sondheim you can see the gearbox working without it tearing you out of the film. It’s a movie about playing games that constantly asks you to assess the people involved. It’s very mechanical in a fun way.

And in a nasty way that I love too.

One of the playing cards in the film reads “You are a homosexual”. And the way they talk about it is surprisingly casual and somehow progressive. There is an idea that this is an indictment. But when it’s revealed, there’s a real casualness. It is surprising that “closed” – back then – gay men write.

See It Big: Sondheim runs at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens until May 1st. For more information, see Movingimage.us.

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/01/movies/stephen-sondheim-films.html How Stephen Sondheim’s work was (and wasn’t) transferred to the screen.

Isaiah Colbert

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