Brian McFarlane

Words and Images is a valuable contribution to the rapidly growing body of work on Australian film culture and a welcome addition to the relatively small collection of volumes dealing with the film-literature connection. As McFarlane notes there is not, as yet, a ‘definitive work’ on the art of adaptation, though George Bluestone’s Novels into Film (1957) established a fairly solid base for others working in this area. McFarlane’s acknowledged indebtedness to Bluestone is most evident in the method he adopts in order to examine individual adaptations. Essentially it is one of determining and exploring changes to texts, that is, the major alterations and manipulations which take place in the process of adapting a narrative from one medium to another.

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Brian McFarlane’s small book on Martin Boyd’s Langton novels is a particularly measured and useful study. He makes no grand claims for Boyd but sees and appreciates him for the writer that he is when he is at his best, and the Langton novels – The Cardboard Crown, A Difficult Young Man, Outbreak of Love, and When Blackbirds Sing – certainly see Boyd at his best.

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‘I wanted to give a sense of the people of the book, the different hands that had made it, used it, protected it. I wanted it to be a gripping narrative, even suspenseful.’ So says Hanna Heath, protagonist of Geraldine Brooks’s latest novel, about her search through time and place for the history of ‘the Sarajevo Haggadah’, the ‘Book’ of the title ...

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Brian McFarlane reviews 'Dirt Music' by Tim Winton

Brian McFarlane
Monday, 03 June 2019

Talk about unlikely associations. My first response to the opening chapter of Tim Winton’s latest novel was how its sense of a life at a standstill, awaiting some new impulse, reminded me of Jane Austen’s Emma. Winton’s protagonist, Georgie Jutland, with a string of unsatisfactory relationships behind her ...

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'It is arguably the most famous play on the planet’, writes Jonathan Croall in his introduction to this absorbing study of how the play and its eponym have gripped the imagination across the ages – and, as far as this book is concerned, particularly across the last seventy years. Whether for actor or director, Hamlet has always been ‘a supreme challenge’, making huge demands on those bringing it to theatrical life.

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Peterloo ★★★★

Brian McFarlane
Tuesday, 20 November 2018

What I’ve come to expect of a new Mike Leigh film is, above all, the unexpected. His first feature, Bleak Moments (1971), of which there were quite a few in that contemporary study of urban, lower-middle class life, made him a potent force in British film. Think of Naked (1993) and Secrets & Lies (1996) ...

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We invited some writers, film critics, and film professionals to nominate their favourite film – not The Greatest Film Ever Sold, but one that matters to them personally.

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One of my favourite podcasts at the moment is called The Rewatchables. It deconstructs movies (mainly from the 1990s and 2000s) and offers an enjoyable mix of amusement, nostalgia, and insight. It also speaks to the desire, particularly strong in the internet age, to hear what other people think about content already ...

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Darkest Hour ★★★★

Brian McFarlane
Monday, 08 January 2018

Who knows why, but there have been at least three films in recent months focusing on the Dunkirk evacuation: Lone Scherfig’s Their Finest, Christopher Nolan’s magisterial Dunkirk. and now Joe Wright’s Darkest Hour. Unsurprisingly in view of this, we have also seen a lot of Winston Churchill on our screens ...

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Readers of this review are warned that they are in the presence of an addict. Having read Anthony Powell’s monumental twelve-volume Dance to the Music of Time three times, I had been trying not to succumb to a fourth. Then along comes Hilary Spurling’s brilliant biography and will power has suffered total defeat ...

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