Tuesday 21 September 2004

Paul Auster and Darth Vader

Not sure if I've mentioned this here before, but Paul Auster is rapidly establishing himself as my favourite author. I'm not actually reading anything by him at the moment (I'm reading an excellent book on the 1932/33 Bodyline Ashes series, as it happens) but I have just been sent a bunch of his books by some bookcrossers. YokoSpungeon has lent me her copy of 'The Book of Illusions', Andi1203 sent me 'Moon Palace' as a RABK and just yesterday, the lovely YowlYY sent me a copy of 'In the Country of the Last Things'. Thank you all. If there's one thing better than discovering a new author who is so good that he makes your skin tingle, it's knowing that he has written loads of other books that I haven't read.

And to think I only discovered him when I randomly selected a copy of 'New York Trilogy' from the bookshelf of MrBones in exchange for one of my books that he was interested in. If I get nothing else from Bookcrossing, then this is more than enough.


My Star Wars DVD set was dropped round by a neighbour today - cool. I'm actually quite looking forward to sitting down and watching these through again. I've watched them a 100000 times each, but they are part of the tapestry of my childhood. I remember so distinctly standing in a queue in the pouring rain outside the Electra cinema in Newport Pagnell with my brothers, my dad and Roy Walker (no, not that one) to watch 'The Empire Strikes Back'.

I'm pleased to see that George Lucas appears to have got a little bit off his high horse about these and has deigned to do some commentaries as well. Over the last few years Lucas has really started to get up my nose with his relentless mythologising of his lucky break - all that crap he talks about having the whole thing mapped out in his head from the beginning and that episodes I, II & III were all basically in place from the beginnning etc. etc. Am I alone in thinking he's guilty of treating his audience like children (hold on, there is Jar Jar...)?

Star Wars was called "Episode IV: A new hope" in that famous bit of creeping text because Lucas wanted to place the film squarely in the context of those saturday matinee things we all used to watch, where it was always part 42 or something (a trick Lucas repeated with Indiana Jones actually). It wasn't because he saw it as part of a 9 film cycle at all. You just cannot persuade me that Lucas knew that Luke & Leia were going to be related at any point during the writing or making of the first film. There is no way that a contemporary, mainstream and pretty conservative director like Lucas would have touched on all those faintly incestuous notes. I'm prepared to believe he had worked it out by the time they made Empire, as Luke has pretty much backed off by now, and it's all Leia and Han....

And I notice that the DVD versions only contain the "remastered" versions of the 3 films. Apparently this is the way that we were always intended to see the films, but the technology wasn't good enough at the time. Now we're lucky enough to have a caring director like Lucas to clean them up for us. Nope. Not buying it. Fair enough that you block out some of the matte lines and make the TIE fighters look like they are flying rather than being pulled on strings (although to be fair, in the main the effects hold up remarkably well). Why do we have to have a version of the film where Greedo draws his gun on Han first? What on earth does that add? In the version where Han just blasts Greedo under the table, we get a great introduction into the pretty shady character of a renegade smuggler - he's a bit of a scoundrel (albeit with a heart of gold). This apparently isn't good enough for George - Solo is an all round good guy and he certainly isn't the type to shoot someone in such an underhand manner. Hey! Hows about we modify the scene so Greedo pulls first, thus justifying Han shooting him? NO! that's the Stalin version of history! And notice how 'Star Wars' is now 'Star Wars Episode IV: a new hope'? Neatly paving the way for the prequels? And now you can't even get the original versions (mine are with an old girlfriend) so people are growing up with this revisionist history!

Hold on. Do I sound like a fan boy?

One last thing - nice trick George. I bought the orignal versions of the films on video when they were released in the late 80s (I think). I then went out and bought the remastered trilogy in the 90s. Now I have gone out and bought the DVDs. Can you think of any other film where you would do this? I've basically bought the same thing 3 times (not to mention the versions I used to have on Betamax - I can still remember where the ad breaks are!)


News on my developing mania - I'm still being driven mad by the growing number of scratches on my glasses lenses. Any tips on how to get over this mania? Millions of other people seem to manage ok with them. Why do I find it so hard?

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