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Saturday, April 22nd, 2006

"Grandfather Informs Me This Is Not Possible"

It’s probably for the best that I haven’t read Jonathan Safran Foer’s source novel for Everything Is Illuminated, because from all accounts it does a rather poor job of capturing the intricacies and depths of the book. But on its own, as a peculiar sort of buddy/road trip flick, it definitely has its merits. The story of an American Jew (Elijah Wood) who travels to the Ukraine seeking his roots and the locals whose job it is to guide him, and the things they discover about their pasts along the way. While it’s Wood who gets top billing, the film actually belongs to Eugene Hutz (of Gogol Bordello) as the young, America-obsessed translator. Hutz is delight to watch, so clueless in his way, yet so utterly sincere and endearing. His character of Alex could have easily been a horribly offensive caricature, but Hutz makes him delightfully real.

For a rookie director, Liev Schrieber – maybe best known as the guy from Scream who didn’t marry Courtney Cox – does a pretty good job. He manages to get some stunning visuals of the Ukranian countryside and has some genuinely creative and interesting ideas, but on the whole underdirects, substituting silence for substance. Wood spends much of the film looking unnaturally stoic, coming alive when engaged in conversation and then snapping back into silent observer mode. There’s also an inconsistency in tone – there light comic moments, mostly at the front of the film, are genuinely funny and the emotionally weighty moments similarly affecting, but the two don’t quite sit as congruously as one would like.

I found the deleted scenes on the DVD particularly telling, as they were a lot more lively, surreal and humourous than much of what made the film, but would have been even more hugely at odds with the theme of the film, moreso than what did make the cut. But the fact that they were even shot in the first place indicates that Schrieber wasn’t entirely sure what direction he was taking it even while making it. Still, for all its shortcomings, I found Everything Is Illuminated to be a worthy film and almost certainly would be a worthier (if intimidating) book.

UK-based women-in-rock zine Wears The Trousers has an extended conversation with woman in rock Neko Case, herself of Ukranian descent. Via For The Records.

Sad news from Mojave 3 – bassist Rachel Goswell has revealed via MySpace blog that she has some rather serious medical conditions involving her ears that basically prevent her from being an active member in the band for the next while. That’s why you’ll note she didn’t appear in the video shoot photos from earlier this week (no, that’s not her on the skates) and even though they’re not planning to tour North America till the Fall, one might not want to put too many hopes on her being along for the trip. Needless to say, best wishes to Rachel for a full and speedy recovery. I do, however, believe that she still appears on Puzzles Of You, out June 20.

Bella Union has got clips of the whole of Howling Bells’ debut album, due out May 8. You can pre-order it from the label now for a pretty reasonable price – less than what you’d pay in stores as an import, anyway.

Tiny Mix Tapes interviews Jose Gonzalez, the Argentinian singer-songwriter with a Swedish mailing address who will be at Trinity-St Paul’s on June 26.

The Straight and View (not The View) talk to Paul Pittman of Vancouver chamber popsters Young & Sexy, who are in town tonight at the Drake Underground with Gentleman Reg. As many of you found out to your confusion, there were no advance tickets for this – it’s $8 at the door, which opens at 9 with Reg on at 10 and Young & Sexy up at 11. Everything should be wrapped up by midnight if you’ve got something better to do with your Saturday night.

np – Ambulance LTD / New English

By : Frank Yang at 9:09 am
Category: Uncategorized
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  1. kathryn says:

    The book is fantastic, and does a much better job of transitioning from the lighter beginning to the heavier ending. Of course, now that you know (sort of) what the storyline is, you won’t find the novel quite as suspenseful. I found JSF’s book to be a page-turner when I first read it, and I hope you pick it up soon.

    For what it’s worth, Prague doubles for Ukraine in the film, and I’ve been told repeatedly that the proper phrasing for the country is without the article. "Ukraine" as opposed to "the Ukraine." Don’t ask me why.

  2. Frank says:

    The IMDB says that Odessa and Lvov in Ukraine were used for shooting as well as Prague. I don’t know if I want to live in a world where the IMDB can’t be considered infallible.

    And the definite article just sounds better! Henceforth, I will refer to my homeland as "The Canada".

  3. bcpl says:

    Agreed that the book is worth reading, and not really intimidating. I thought this adaptation was pretty disappointing. That and Bee Season were two film adaptations that were much worse than they needed to be.

  4. Anne says:

    I enjoyed the book, but I love the movie. Repeated viewings resolved many of the things I wasn’t sure about (as well, reading interviews where Schreiber explained by he made the changes from the book he did). There are a lot of little details that come out in a second viewing, as well as nuances in the performances. Your comments on the deleted scenes are right on.

  5. Sean says:

    From everyone I know who read the book, I heard the movie was pretty poor so I have yet to see it. But I think I’ve been set up to be disappointed by the film so much that I can safely see it now…and not expect anything.

    You really should read the novel…it is one of my favourite books ever and probably should have stayed a book.