Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
James and the Giant Peach
The Fantastic Mr. Fox
The similarities? Only two, which is what the subject of this thread is about. The first is easy: Roald Dahl adaptations. The second is more what I want to get into: Dahl’s attraction to visual fantasists and the results they retrieve from his work.
The Witches seems like a match made out of hell. You have to think about it like this… who thought it would be a good idea to pair up the director of Don’t Look Now, the production studio of Labyrinth, and the writer of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, except some producer with a deliciously sick sense of humor? Whoever greenlit that production gets a tip of my hat, but even though the movie doesn’t mesh well as a whole, it’s still remarkable for anyone with a dry sense of humor. I would say that as an entertainment movie it fails, but as a production exemplifying how collaboration shapes results, it’s darkly witty.
James and the Giant Peach and Fantastic Mr. Fox showcase a similar form of childhood whimsy (and are both stop-motion animated, if that matters), but it’s quite striking to see how different they are. Hell, even as just representations of goth and indie chic in childhood cinema is one way you could look at it but doesn’t really encompass the methods to which the auteurs Selick and Anderson express their particular fantasy worlds in these movies.
And I stress auteur Selick because homeboy is the consistent imagineer behind what has largely been credited to Burton’s and Gaiman’s work, unjustly. Hell, Burton tried making Corpse Bride without Selick and look at how that turned out. But I digress.
Mel Stuart isn’t really what I would call an auteur and so it seems Willy Wonka is ill-fit for this exercise, but notice the result of Willy Wonka and its mad brilliance and compare for instance to the auteurship of Tim Burton in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I trust I am not being controversial when I say that Willy Wonka is better than Charlie. That should not, as best I know, cause all too much disagreement. Nevertheless the reason why I bring them up is to point out how Burton formulates Dahl’s world around his own in the same manner as the other auteurs did, but Stuart probably gives the best key to the how Dahl really underlines all the productions no matter what the auteur. It seems there is an inability to resist some encompassing fantasy world Dahl described that gets these directors’ imaginations cranking into his, Dahl’s, idiosyncratic machinations. Or at least I like to think so.
To tie it all up, Matilda provides another good example. It is probably the most ‘childish’ of the Dahl adaptations and purposefully so as far as I see DeVito’s intentions. But again the movie is pure DeVito in a way that gloriously springs right off of Dahl’s world, as if he’s some sort of core that casts its foundations for the witty, the whimsical, and the darker side of childhood dreams. DeVito’s movies aren’t great but I could actually make the argument that they are consistent along auteurist definitions, in the sense that he maintains a similar style and tone and seems to above all really enjoy doing precisely what he’s doing.
I feel there is a shared aesthetic between these movies, very difficult to describe but still there, that is not just tied to the name of the original writer but to the method to which these mostly visually imaginative filmmakers get sucked into this world Dahl created and come out with their own image stamp altered — and with the sole exception of Tim Burton, for the better.
I’’m not very familiar with Dahl’s work but it clearly lends itself to visual invention. I’m not sure if the similarities you mention are due to Dahl’s world itself (he hated Willy Wonka, all but disowning it, and I’ve heard from fans that his universe has never truly been represented accurately on screen) or because of the fact that it is so clearly subversive that it attracts a certain kind of filmmaker, or a filmmaker with very specific intentions. It is taboo to scare children, particularly in mainstream films, but (with the exception of Mr. Fox) the films you mentioned gleefully do so. Entire generations were scarred from Wonka’s boat ride alone.
As a child, I was in love with his most popular books, but the only film adaptation I really do love is Willy Wonka. It’s ashame that Dahl’s work, in general, seems to get a massive dose of Americanisation on screen, especially Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox, one of the most false film adaptations of all time.
What do you do with his Bond film?
Well my roommates are watching the Bond films in reverse order, an activity I’ve sort of slipped in and out of because I don’t care for that franchise, so I suppose I’ll look it over later with this thread in mind.
From my hazy memory of when I was twelve and watching the Bond movies in chronological order, You Only Live Twice was pretty decent. The Lewis Gilbert Bond movies, though pretty much ridiculous when you see them as an adult, are some of the less forgettable. By the by I’ve discovered from this recent Bond activity that the two Timothy Dalton Bond movies are actual spy movies with plots and mystery and reveals and characters and stuff. No wonder Dalton didn’t last long, they were actually mostly worth watching!
To be fair to Roald Dahl, he has better real life Bond experience than most writers, so it would be interesting if I review You Only Live Twice and find it to be one of the best characterizations or something.
Yeah, he lived and interesting life (and he and Fleming were buddies, which is how he got the Twice gig in the first place).
I can’t wait for someone to adapt My Uncle Oswald. Now that would make a very interesting film.
If I ever bump into David Cronenberg I’d mention it to him.
“t, but even though the movie doesn’t mesh well as a whole”
That’s an understatement.
It needs to be remade!
^ But I guess part of the thing I’m noticing is that Dahl’s sensibilities somehow ignite the auteur’s sensibilities, so that if we agree that The Witches needs to be remade
(which I don’t:
Consideration has to be made toward how the director’s style will function to match the world Dahl created with his or her own. For instance, Joe Wright, Terry Gilliam, and Tarsem I believe could all make amazing Dahl-based adaptations, but the results would be hugely different and debatable.
Dahl was my favorite author when I was 10.I read Charlie And The Chocolate Factory 25 times.Most of the directors succeeded in accomplishing his vision,some didn’t.It’s more interesting to discuss his books than the adaptations,seeing that there aren’t that many.
@PolarisDib I don’t about Wright,but Gilliam would make a great film and Tarsem would just ruin it.
Tarsem needs a good story to pull his movies above the current visually spectacular but empty pieces they are, which is why Dahl might help. But if he decides to dismiss the story, then yes, he will ruin it.
I read a number of books by Roald Dahl in grade school. He was a character, always inventing stories with such style and imagination. Film-wise, his works always have a certain presence to them. Both adaptations of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” are great in my opinion, “The Witches” (though I haven’t seen the damn thing in probably ten, eleven years) has this great style to it complimented by a wonderful performance by Angelica Houston, and “James and the Giant Peach” is engaging and whimsical.
Engaging, whimsical, dark, elements of satire, has character, certainly lends a lot of resources for directors to use for their own devices.