Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Don't Point That Thing at Me: The Mortdecai Trilogy, Book 1, by Kyril Bonfiglioli. Big Screen Limited Release of Book-to-Movie: Mortdecai, was on 01-23-15!

The first book of The Mortdecai Trilogy, is Don't 
Point That Thing at Me. Book 2, is After You With
The Pistol, and Book 3, Something Nasty in the 
Woodshed. The trilogy, The Mortdecai Trilogy,
may also be purchased in the paperback format, apt-
ly enough, under the title, The Mortdecai Trilogy.[1]
Book Review by: Sharon Powers.

   Don't Point That Thing At Me, by Kyril Bonfiglioli had movie rights purchased and was made into a movie that opened in theaters this week, Friday, January 23, 2015. The movie, entitled simply, Mortdecai, from the name of the protagonist of Kyril Bonfiglioli's book, is very loosely based upon Bonfiglioli's book. 

     Many changes were made in order to adapt the book to the silver screen. Writing the screenplay for Mortdecai, was Eric Aronson, who also received writing credits for the movie, On The Line. Directing the movie was David Koepp, notable director of Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit; Angels and Demons; Spider Man; Jurassic Park; The Lost World: Jurassic Park; Carlito's Way; Stir of Echoes, and many other popular movies.

     Before we delve any more into the book-to-movie, both book and film, let's take a look at the synopsis for Kyril Bonfiglioli's book. This will become very important as we begin discussing how his book came to the big screen, and why changes were made to the book to adapt it to a movie.

BRIEF SYNOPSIS OF: DON'T POINT THAT THING AT ME.

Although I don't remember what kind of Silver Ghost Charlie
Mortdecai had, I wanted to show you what a vintage Silver
Ghost, looked like. I found this beautiful photograph of a
vintage 1915 Silver Ghost (courtesy of BoldRide). [2]
     Charlie Mortdecai, his title dubbed "Honorable," was due to his father being the First Baron Mortdecai of Silverdale, County Palatine, in Lancaster. A great art dealer, Bernard Mortdecai, received his barony for contributions of art (mostly unsaleable) to the government (and the real reason, for "forgetting something embar- rassing he knew about some- one." loc.94.) 

     In an ironic twist, the "Honorable" Charlie Mortdecai is to deliver a stolen Goya painting to a party in the U.S. To get the Goya through customs, it is hidden in the headliner of a vintage Rolls Royce Silver Ghost.

This still photo is from the movie, Mortdecai. Charlie Mort-
decai is on the right (Johnny Depp) and Jock Strap, Charlie's
body guard/thug/manservant, is on the left (Paul Bettany). [4]
    Once the car is through customs Charlie sets out on a series of misadventures, aided by his manservant (thug), Jock Strap [3], to deliver the painting. Charlie is chased by his nemesis, Extra (police) Chief Super- intendent Martland--who really "[L]ikes hurting people, a lot" (Loc. 79). Charlie undergoes a pleth- ora of misadventures.

     Charlie and Jock are constantly watching out for the police (from England), being chased by a mysterious "powder blue car" (that always seems to find him), a near death car accident(?), murder, a dead client, near-misses, chase scenes in the dead of night, and sex with a "hot," beautiful recent widow, to name a few of those adventures. What will Charlie do? Will he be able to escape the pursuit of Martland?

MY FAVORITE QUOTE:
     The scene, below, in the quotation, is near the beginning of the book. Chief Superintendent Martland has made a call on Charlie; Charlie "was more or less expecting him" to come. Martland has made a comment about a frame Charlie had been burning in the fireplace, of course, Charlie has indicated it wasn't valuable. Martland had made some protestations....
This is an example of  a
Louis Seize Mirrow, from an
auction house. The Louis
Seize is always gilt. Charlie
was burning something along
these lines, although this is
a mirror. [5]
He made embarrassed, protesting noises as though nothing was further from his thoughts than the princely Goya whose theft from Madrid had filled the newspapers for the past five days. He helped out the noises by flapping his hands a bit, slopping some of the alleged wine onto a nearby rug. 'That,' I said crisply, 'is a valuable Savonnerie rug. Port is bad for it. Moreover, there is probably a priceless Old Master cunningly concealed beneath it. Port would be very bad for that.' He leered at me nastily, knowing that I was quite possibly telling the truth. I leered back coyly, knowing that I was telling the truth. (Emphasis Added; Location 56) 
     This quote is a perfect example of Bonfiglioli's writing. Since this wonderful novel has been around since  1972, it has attracted a legendary cult following. Lovers of Bonfiglioli's work will probably all say that his work is extremely hard to describe, or even put into a classification.

This image is from the movie, Mortdecai--
the stolen Goya. [6]
     Often found in genres such as mystery, mystery-thriller, myst- ery and crime, comedy, thriller, and British Literature, it is easy to be confused as to what genre into which most people place it. For example, the majority of GoodReads readers place it almost equally between mystery and fiction, a second group places the book in humor, crime, and thriller genres. [6] But no matter which genre seems correct to you, you, undoubtedly, will have a difficult time actually describing his writing.

     I love the quote for its pithy humor, condescending attitude towards Martland, and a witty quality of letting the reader in on all this, but concealing it from Martland. It is sort of the way Charlie conceals the Goya beneath Martland's feet, making him wonder in confusion over whether Charlie was telling the truth, playing a fop, lying, just entertaining, or gloating about his knowledge of art. I love the gyrations through which he put Martland. Really great!

WHAT I THINK ABOUT THIS BOOK:
[8]
     The way I feel about the above quote, I would say about the whole of the book. The writing is in a style of pithy humor, sarcasm, and irony. Much has been said about Bonfiglioli's allusion to, and outright flagrant use of P.G. Wodehouse. Bonfiglioli even has Charlie reference Wodehouse in the novel, itself. Many critics have noted Bonfiglioli's writing style and the way he structures his novels as a somewhat favorable comparison to the writings of P.G. Wodehouse's, Wooster and Jeeves. It has even been said that Bonfiglioli's pair (Mortdecai and Jock) "bear[] a fun-house mirror relation to Wodehouse's Wooster and Jeeves." [7]

     In one of the Wodehouse writings, Jeeves and the Kid Clementina, Jeeves even has a conversation with a policeman (it seems a favorite trope in literature--even Edgar Allen Poe in the Tell Tale Heart has the guilty man entertain the police having the police sit in chairs right above where the dismembered body is hidden--akin to Charlie and the painting beneath the rug.); Jeeves refers to himself as a Gentleman's (Personal) Gentleman or valet who serves the gentleman and "not the household" (i.e. so, not a butler). So, the term, "Jeeves," has become so iconic that it is now in the dictionary as to actually mean, valet. And, ironically, it's also become a search engine on the internet. [9]

Edgar Allen Poe's Tell Tale Heart, wherein the protagonist
invites the police in and has them sit in chairs just above
where the murdered man's dismembered body is hidden
--beneath the floorboards. [10]
     Turning back to Charlie and his man, Jock, we can then see a sort of mirror image of the two. A mirror image is the reverse of the original image. Jock is a thug. That is, he is anything but the proper English valet image of Jeeves. While Jock does take care of Charlie, it is not the way a valet would normally take care of a "Gentleman" with the standing of Baron. Compare Jeeves (in the photo below) to the Jock in the photo, above.

P.G. Wodehouse's Jeeves and Wooster have an enduring
popularity and are still loved, today. [11]
     If the characters of Charlie and Jock are, indeed, a "funhouse mirror" relationship to Jeeves and Wooster, perhaps we can understand why Bonfiglioli's following is so beloved. The "fun-house mirror" description is perhaps, very apt, as Sam Leith of the Guardian states that Mortdecai is nothing more than a "debauched" Wooster and Jock carries negative-energy unlike Jeeves.

 

A Fun-House Mirror:
The distorted "fun-house mirror"
approach to the characters of
Jeeves/Wooster and Charlie/Jock.
[12]
 Leith goes on to state that "Charlie is cunning where Bertie [Wooster] is dim; Jock is thuggish where Jeeves is urbane." In the article by Leith, "Forget Johnny Depp in Mortdecai: Read the Much Funnier Bonfiglioli Novels...Sam Leith raises a glass to the original bon vivant." Leith praises the works of Bonfiglioli while at the same time suggesting that readers stick to the books instead of spending their time watching the movie. [11]

     So, we can get an idea of why Leith tells us to forget the movie and read the book, let's take a look at the trailer. Here is Mortdecai [Official Trailer #1 (2015)] with Johnny Depp (as Charlie), Ewan McGregor (as Inspector Martland), and Gwyneth Paltrow (as Johanna) [13]:


     An on-line newspaper, The Week, published a feature article about the movie, Mortdecai, four days after the movie hit the big screens (just yesterday, as I draft this post). The feature article [by Scott Meslow] was entitled, "Anatomy of a flop: How a horribly misguided movie like Mortdecai made it into theaters." [14]
[15]
     Meslow tells us that while filming Pirates of the Caribbean, co-star Jack Davenport lent his collection of Mortdecai novels to Depp, afterwhich Depp vowed to bring the character and novels to the big screen. It took Depp ten years to convince writer Aronson and Director Koepp to get on board. Depp then convinced Ewan McGregor, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Paul Bettany, all wonderful name actors to also sign up to do the movie. Lionsgate, thinking the prospects good for the film, perhaps even as good as The Pink Panther franchise, also gets on board. Promos are done and a trailer made. [14]

[16]
     But here, is where the story gets funky, according to Meslow. Those watching the trailer saw a "baffling" clip introducing a character, but no plot or indication of who Johnny Depp's character was. Two months later the second trailer was released and confusion metamorphosed into "irritation." Lionsgate cancelled their advanced screenings to hold off negative reviews as long as possible. On opening day, January 23, 2015 (just five days ago as I draft this post), reviews were extremely "dismal."

[17]
     Meslow reports that reviewers found the movie strange and unfunny, and that Rotten Tomatoes reported only 11% positive reviews. The final line is that the franchise "has been killed in its infancy." [14] It seems to me that if the reviews are as bad as Meslow seems to think the movie is, then this movie may go down in history much the way Endless Love did in 1981. Leonard Maltin (film critic) decried the movie as one of the worst of its time. See my review of Endless Love (the book and the movie), and more about Maltin's review by clicking, here

FINAL COMMENTS FOR THIS POST:

[18]
  1. I loved the irony that Charlie's title brings to the book. "HONORABLE." Of course, he is disreputable, without a doubt; some say he walks in the gray areas of morality. In any event, it is great irony in utilizing this title of "nobility" for Charlie. This gets into the area of how Charlie's father obtained the barony by less than noble means. I love it.
  2. Kyril Bonfiglioli writes in a style that is considered "dry humor." Some have called his humor, black humor. But, I rather love that it is "pithy," or "wry," with a slightly skewed, oddball way of looking at things. If this kind of writing is not your cup of tea, don't feel bad. Everyone, everyone! is entitled to read what pleases them. Just remember, if you don't like Bonfiglioli, there are plenty of other authors out there to read. Nuf said.
  3. Do not let the bad reviews of the movie deter you from reading the book. I loved it. It isn't that "Laugh out loud" kind of funny (although I did, once), I sniggered, chuckled, and just smiled. But, I DID enjoy it and thought it wryly humorous. Just don't let the movie spoil a great book.
  4. Many, many more things can be said about Bonfiglioli's writing and his book, Don't Point That Thing At Me. If you are interested, look Bonfiglioli up on the internet, library, or audio book club. Check out other reviewers to see what they have to say. I love to get more than one opinion (on almost everything), so why not you?
    [19]
  • Even having weighed others' opinions, sometimes it just boils down to you deciding to read and enjoy the book. Stop. Read. Enjoy. Like that old saying, Stop and smell the roses. You can take time for yourself and enjoy some time reading.
MY RECOMMENDATIONS AND RATING:
     I recommend this book for adults. Included in the book are themes of violence, murder, sex, and other "nefarious deeds." But adults should quite enjoy this book, as I have indicated, above.

[20]
     Based on all the information I have provided to you, above, and on my sincerest enjoyment of the book, I rate this book 4.0 stars out of 5.0 stars.

    Thank you for taking time to join me today. I sincerely appreciate you using precious time to read and consider my review, my ideas, and comments. Remember if you agree or disagree, you can always make comments, below. You can also contact me on Twitter (see above, right column). 
[21]

     Please join me again next time as we crack open another book for consideration. Take some time for yourself this week. The new year often feels to people kind of like a post-holiday let down. Be kind to yourself and others (you can never tell who needs that little bit of support.).


Until next time...
[22]

...many happy pages of reading!

All my love,


Sharon.

_________________________________________________________
REFERENCES/SOURCES
[1]  "Don't Point That Thing At Me: The Mortdecai Trilogy, book 1." amazon.com. Retrieved 01-27-15.
[2] "-Rolls-Royce-1915 Rolls-Royce Silverr Ghost London-Edinburgh Tourer Car Images." boldride.com. Retrieved 01-27-15.
[3] "Don't Point That Thing At Me (Charlie Mortdecai #1)." [by Kyril Bonfiglioli] goodreads.com. Retrieved 01-27-15.
[4] "Johnny Depp: Mortdecai was 'criminally fun to make.'" bbc.com. Retrieved 01-27-15.
[5] "Louis Seize Mirrow." auktionshaus-stahl.de. Retrieved 01-28-15.
[6] "Don't Point That Thing At Me (Charlie Mortdecai #1)." gooddreads.com. Retrieved 01-28-15.
[7] "Mortdecai." wikipedia.org. Retrieved 01-28-15.
[8] "My Man Jeeves." amazon.com. Retrieved 01-28-15.
[9]  "Jeeves." en.wikipedia.org. Retrieved 01-28-15.
[10] "American Literature Digital Anthology [Beginnings through 1914]." [Edgar Allen Poe: Tell Tale Heart.] genius.com. Retrieved 01-28-15.
[11] "Jeeves and Wooster." fanpop.com. Retrieved d0d1-28-15.
[12] "Man Standing in Front of a Mirror." pixgood.com. Retrieved 01-28-15.
[13] "Mortdecai Official Trailer #1 (2015-Johnny Depp, Gwyneth Paltrow Movie HD." youtube.com. Retrieved 01-27-15.
[14] "Anatomy of a flop: How a horribly misguided movie like Mortdecai made it into theaters." theweek.com. Retrieved 01-28-15.
[15] "Disney Blog: Johnny Depp's Massive Salary for Pirates." sgkenn330.wikidot.com. Retrieved 01-28-15.
[16] "Your Movie Sucks by Roger Ebert (2011 Reading List, #2)." robcarmack.blogspot.com. Retrieved 01-28-15.
[17] "Endless Love." [movie] imdb.com. Retrieved 01-28-15.
[18] "Bad Joke Eel." quickmeme.com. Retrieved 01-28-15.
[19] "The Clan of the Cave Bear." [by Jean M.Auel] writerjocarter.com. Retrieved 01-28-15.
[20] "Dark Souls II Review." giantbomb.com. Retrieved 01-28-15.
[21] "Thank You, Thank You!!!" oilersnation.com. Retrieved 01-28-15.
[22] "Pictures From My Garden." sparkpeople.com. Retrieved 01-20-15.