Saturday, December 16, 2006

"Character is a Psychosis. Integrity is a Complex."

"When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him."
-- Jonathan Swift, 1706

One of my favorite books has always been the Pulitzer Prize-winning "A Confederacy of Dunces", John Kennedy Toole's foray into the mind of Ignatius J. Reilly, an intelligent and portly man-child in 1960's New Orleans. So I was heartened to see Peter Hyman raise the seasonal question of whether the book would ever become a film over at
Slate yesterday.

Four years ago, when I was writing at a film site, I actually had the chance to
read the then-current draft of the screenplay. My main hypothesis was that it was destined to fall into the category of "good book, terrible film". In some sense, I still feel that way, honestly. But I'd give an arm and a leg to still see it made.

I still think the opening to the script was grand. As I wrote at FilmJerk at the time: "The start to Steven Soderbergh and Scott Kramer's treatment of the film is sure to cause [the viewer to gape, grin, laugh out loud, and shake his head in wonderment, in the words of Walker Percy]. "What in the world does the title of this ludicrous movie mean?," cries Ignatius off-screen as he, and we, see the credits of "Dunces" unspooling at a children's matinee. Continuing the very "Mystery Science Theater 3000" moment, Ignatius then calls the director a hack extraordinaire, blows a raspberry at those involved with the writing and, when the producer credits are unveiled, yells out, "That's not a good sign; the more producers, the more feeble-minded the production!" It's a great start to the screenplay, one which aptly sets up what is to come and will invariably draw the audience in."

Given what has since happened to the city of New Orleans 15 months ago, this would be a fabulous time to re-start the journey from page to screen-- to make it a tribute, in part, to a fallen city. It's going to be a hard sell to audiences, I'm sure, but the potential is there for this to be a majestic -- albeit goofy -- film.

I continue to hold out hope it makes it to the screen, someday.

(Disclosure: Peter and I both worked at the same PR agency eight years ago)

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