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Sunday, November 17, 2013

As I Lay Dying (2013)

When a Mississippi farm woman (Beth Grant) dies, her family honors her request to be buried in her people's town located several days away. As they undertake the journey of carrying her coffin by buckboard, everyone (including the deceased) reflects on their own aspirations, desires and feelings. William Faulkner's AS I LAY DYING is one of the great American novels. It is also among those literary works that defy being translated to film, unfilmable as it were. What makes Faulkner's book great is not necessarily its narrative but his technique, his style. The entire novel is a series of chapters, each complete chapter a stream of consciousness narrated by one character. That being said, director James Franco's (he also plays the second of the sons) film is probably as good a film of the Faulkner novel as we'll ever see. While his use of split screen as a visual device to approximate Faulkner's technique only partially works, there are still some impressive scenes (Beth Grant's monologue recalling her unhappy marriage and adulterous affair that spawned a son) that suggest the greatness of the novel. It bodes well for Franco's future as a director. The cast is perfect, they look like 1920s Mississippi farm people, not Hollywood actors and several of the actors deliver flawless performances: Grant, Tim Blake Nelson as her husband and Logan Marshall Green as the spawn of her affair. But it isn't Faulkner's novel, not really. The underscore by Tim O'Keefe is imposing. With Jim Parrack, Ahna O'Reilly, Brady Permenter and Danny McBride..

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