Monday, January 31, 2011

Barney's Version

I read Barney's Version by Mordecai Richler, this summer, and anxiously awaited the movie. Saw it last week.

First, the really dumb stuff. Somehow or other, the time frame has been shifted 15 years forward, and Paris becomes Rome, and Toronto becomes New York. This means that scenes that took place in the 50's in France, now have to be set in 1970 in Rome. I hope you get the picture. I found it jarring.

The big fuss about the wife going back to work, the vast quanities of alchohol being consumed; all of these things make much more sense in the 50's and 60's and seem downright out of place in the 70's and 80's.

Now for what is right and true about this movie. Montreal. The lake. The passage of time, from young man to his demise, is completely believable. The story will make you cry. It is true that some sense of voice is lost. In the novel, Barney talks constantly in his head to "Miriam, my love" - his great love. The movie does give you a good impression of his devotion, but the voice is lost.

The wedding scene is far better in the movie than in the novel. How could it not be? A novel does not do justice to music, dance and dress. The wedding scene is cut raw from Richler's life. He did meet Florence, his second wife, at his marriage to his first wife. They were married six years later. The great love for his children, the adoration for his wife, the mother of those children - this is true.

However, unlike in the movie, Mordecai and Florence Richler, parents of five children, were married for 41 years, until Richler's death in 2001. Their marriage was an icon of enduring love and inspiration to others. The irascible and irreverent Richler did not have the marriage of Barney Panofsky.

Barbara Gowdy tells an anecdote of how she saw Richler at a writer's convention, flirting outrageously with a beautiful woman. She found out later that it was his wife of many years. That is how they were.

So, if you see the movie, remember that it is made from a novel, not from a biography. I have enjoyed the novel, the movie, a biography of Richler, and now, this evening, I watched Charles Foran, his biographer, being interviewed.

1 comment:

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