Monday, April 04, 2005

MOVIE OF THE MONTH The BBC's 1979 small-screen version of TINKER, TAILOR, SOLIDER, SPY is as successful a LeCarré adaptation as one could hope to encounter.

The mini-series--bursting with a labyrinthine plot that uncompromisingly tracks the novel's storyline--boasts careful attention to detail and a simple, unadorned visual approach that lets LeCarré's spy story stand front and center.

And then there's Alec Guinness as George Smiley: He gives a stellar performance, one that does justice to a character whose traits and idiosyncrasies have been built up and fleshed out over more than one thousand pages across several novels.

There are things, of course, that the adaptation can't convey: A viewer unfamiliar with LeCarré's work might not realize that the novelist is a student of bureaucracy as much as he is one of spycraft: His knack for capturing the complexity of inter-agency turf fights and intra-organizational feuds is inevitably lost when several hundred pages are boiled down to a six-hour movie.

But this is less a fault of the production than it is a limit of the visual medium.

CONTRAPOSITIVE is edited by Dan Aibel. Dan's a playwright. He lives in New York City.