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Adaptations

MUBI Special

Since its inception, cinema has dialogued with, incorporated, and even cannibalized other art forms—pre-existing texts—and the immense question of adaption has long been a foundation of film art. To explore this vast, challenging basis of storytelling, we offer this eclectic on-going series, which ranges from spry reinventions of Shakespeare on the streets of Buenos Aires to a freewheeling Portuguese adaptation of timeless Middle Eastern folk tales.

Transit

Christian Petzold Germany, 2018

Christian Petzold (Barbara) boldly transforms Anna Seghers’ WW2 novel into a haunting period film set in an ambiguous present. A stirring melodrama of love during oppression, Transit is every bit as scintillating as Casablanca, thanks in part to the outstanding duo of Franz Rogowski and Paula Beer.

Hermia & Helena

Matías Piñeiro Argentina, 2016

Matías Piñeiro was the subject of a “What Is An Auteur?” double bill in 2019 and the glorious Hermia & Helena intersects Shakespeare with modern life. His first film in the U.S., this charming comedy captures the youthful zeal of New York, playing with form and time to craft an imaginative delight.

End of Desire

Alexandre Astruc France, 1958

Expired
Adaptations

Better known for his work as a film critic, Alexandre Astruc was nevertheless a talented filmmaker. With Une vie, Astruc crafted a faithful adaptation of Guy de Maupassant’s major novel, a carefully constructed period drama on the life of a woman tainted by her husband’s deception and infidelity.

Never Ever

Benoît Jacquot France, 2016

Expired
Adaptations

Adapted from Don DeLillo’s novel “The Body Artist” by star Julia Roy, Benoît Jacquot’s film is a ghostly story of lost love and longing, set in a magnificently designed Portuguese seaside mansion. Calling back to The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, it boldly mixes the romantic with the supernatural.

The Possessed

Andrzej Wajda France, 1988

Expired
Adaptations

The anger of a society in the deepest reaches of inequality is distilled in this look at radicalism by Dostoevsky. Brought to motion by Ashes and Diamonds auteur Andrzej Wajda, The Possessed is a potent political symphony starring Omar Sharif, Lambert Wilson, and Isabelle Huppert.

Time Regained

Raúl Ruiz France, 1999

Who could ever adapt Marcel Proust? With a rare inspired adaptation of his writing that’s so difficult to transfer from page to screen, the Chilean exile and dream-spinner Raúl Ruiz is up for the task! Catherine Deneuve, Emmanuelle Béart, and John Malkovich lead an all-star cast.

A Chinese Odyssey - Part Two: Cinderella

Jeffrey Lau Hong Kong, 1995

Expired
Adaptations

Jeffrey Lau’s intrepid adaptation of the Monkey King tale concludes with this majestic finisher. Continuing to synthesize an array of genres to brilliant effect, the multi-hyphenate Stephen Chow (Kung Fu Hustle) dazzles in this adventure of time traveling misfires, unexpected romance, and destiny.

A Chinese Odyssey - Part One: Pandora's Box

Jeffrey Lau Hong Kong, 1995

Expired
Adaptations

An inspired, action-packed take on the timeless Chinese novel Journey to the West, the legends of the Hong Kong New Wave unite for this marvelous diptych adaptation. Weaving pure fantasy with slapstick, giant spiders, and even time travel, this is a brilliant zenith of cinema as spectacle.

Venus in Fur

Roman Polanski France, 2013

Expired
Adaptations

Adapted from a play by David Ives—itself inspired from the novella of the same name—Roman Polanski won his fourth César Award for Best Director for this metafictional period drama. Both smart and playful, a wicked two-hander starring Mathieu Amalric and regular Polanski star Emmanuelle Seigner.

The Dead

John Huston United Kingdom, 1987

Expired
Adaptations

On the birthday of one of Hollywood’s greatest—directors, screenwriters, voices—John Huston, we share his final feature. Never afraid to transform literature into vivid cinema—he took on Hammett, Melville, Kipling, O’Connor, Crane—this is an achingly felt, richly observed adaptation of James Joyce.

The Man from London

Béla Tarr, Ágnes Hranitzky Hungary, 2007

Expired
Adaptations

After transforming two László Krasznahorkai novels into epic monuments of Eastern European art-cinema, husband-and-wife team Béla Tarr and Ágnes Hranitzky surprisingly turned to French crime novel master Georges Simenon for an unforgettable re-interpretation of film noir. Co-starring Tilda Swinton!

The Duchess of Langeais

Jacques Rivette France, 2007

Expired
Adaptations

After taking Balzac in radically new directions with 1971’s conspiracy epic Out 1, Jacques Rivette returned to the author for this silken, haunting tale of romantic obsession. On the surface: a costume drama; underneath: the dark shadows of doomed love. With Jeanne Balibar and Guillaume Depardieu.

Much Ado About Nothing

Joss Whedon United States, 2012

Expired
Adaptations

Amidst filming The Avengers, television auteur Joss Whedon took a break and pivoted to this low-budget and ingeniously faithful Shakespeare adaptation. Shot in a mere 11 days with close-knit theater collaborators, Much Ado About Nothing is luminous in timeless Shakespearean charm and insight.

The Lair of the White Worm

Ken Russell United Kingdom, 1988

Expired
Adaptations

Iconoclast Ken Russell transfers Bram Stoker’s final work to modern Scotland and ups the delirium in this delightfully smutty adaptation. Hugh Grant stars as the vampire hunter tasked with the titular coven, offsetting hijinks of camp, sleaze, and an endless array of phallic symbols. Splendid.

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Anatahan

Josef von Sternberg Japan, 1953

Realized from a first person account of being marooned on the Japanese island of Anatahan after WWII, Josef von Sternberg controversially recreated the disputed events with his baroque, magnetic touch. Whether truth or fiction, Anatahan offers a potent look at social power structures in microcosm.

Tape

Richard Linklater United States, 2001

Expired
Adaptations

To reimagine a stage play as cinema, inventive American auteur Richard Linklater turned to shooting on video for its dynamic, tactile possibilities. The result is the fittingly titled Tape: an electric showdown between truth, memory, and the male ego inside the single locale of a hotel room.

Cosmos

Andrzej Żuławski France, 2015

Expired
Adaptations

Next in our series devoted to ingenious adaptations is the final film by the ferocious Polish auteur Andrzej Żuławski. He transforms an almost unfilmable book by his fellow countryman Witold Gombrowicz into a clamoring melodrama of tremendous verve and surprise. Read our interview with Żuławski.

$3.99

Arabian Nights: Volume 3, the Enchanted One

Miguel Gomes Portugal, 2015

Who would have thought austerity measures could trigger such an epic tale of tales? Gomes explores Portugal’s fractures with unmatched originality, sharpness and love—both to his country and to the act (and art) of storytelling. This is the last volume, but we certainly wish it would go on forever.

$3.99

Arabian Nights: Volume 2, the Desolate One

Miguel Gomes Portugal, 2015

The second installment of Miguel Gomes’ magnum opus is arguably the most melancholic of the three. While the whole trilogy is a unique blend of fine irony, dark humor, blissful fantasy, and fervent commitment to the present, this middle section confirms Arabian Nights as the ultimate political film.

$3.99

Arabian Nights: Volume 1, the Restless One

Miguel Gomes Portugal, 2015

We’re kicking off a new series devoted to Adaptations and their multitude of cinematic approaches to pre-existing texts. First up is Miguel Gomes’ triptych vision of modern Portugal told with the inspiration of the timeless folk tales of Arabian Nights. An inventive masterpiece in three parts.

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