From the Chicago Reader (May 4, 2001). — J.R.
The Luzhin Defence
Directed by Marleen Gorris
Written by Peter Berry
With John Turturro, Emily Watson, Geraldine James, Stuart Wilson, and Christopher Thompson.
In Slate last March two film critics with literary backgrounds, Phillip Lopate and A.O. Scott, argued about Terence Davies’s adaptation of The House of Mirth – an exchange that only illustrated how hard it is to settle questions about fidelity to novels. Lopate, who’s been involved with film much longer than Scott, called it his favorite American film of 2000. Scott, whose readiness to bone up on movies since he started reviewing them for the New York Times has been invigorating, didn’t seem blind to some of the film’s virtues, but he was much more concerned with what seemed reductive about it.
Having read Edith Wharton’s novel for the first time just before I saw the movie, I found myself agreeing to some extent with both critics. The film is inferior to Davies’s Distant Voices, Still Lives, The Long Day Closes, and The Neon Bible, all three of which strike me as essential works, though they’ve received much less attention from the mainstream, perhaps because they’re further from conventional narrative.… Read more »