Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Reading versus watching

Richard and I saw Salt the other night. It was great--Angelina Jolie as the central player (or so we think) of a vast conspiracy. Is she good, is she evil, predator, prey? It's baroquely over the top yet obeys the laws of our known contemporary physical and secular universe (if you accept that, say, Die Hard does the same). Although she looks spectacular in every scene, Jolie's beauty is not a plot point or character trait and goes unremarked. I also came away thinking that while she is obviously too old, I could see her as Katniss.

The plot is twisty but emotionally involving (unlike, say, Duplicity) and the tone is coherent--no winks or comic asides. Afterward, we were going over the plot, trying to figure out the spot where Salt first shows her true colors, and arguing whether or not the story held up under post-mortem examination. Richard maintained that while the movie might have contradicted itself in a place or two, it didn't matter--what counts is how you feel while the movie is going on.

I wonder if it is different with books.  While I  love my audiobooks, they do miss an essential quality of print-culture literature. What's unique about text is that it encourages you to move around, skip back, reread, skim, go ahead, go away, come back later, etc. You are the thing that moves, not the book. It's a little easier to hold up to the light that way. But then, maybe the distinction is really about expectations: we watch an Angelina Jolie thriller differently from, oh, that languid Patricia Clarkson in Cairo film, just the way we read The 39 Clues differently from The Westing Game.

Or maybe what I like best about going to the movies is that I feel no professional pressure to have an opinion beyond SUCKS or LOVED IT.


Melinda said...

I have to say that audiobooks have actually enhanced my reading experience. Not only am I able to read at work (at least when I'm looking at numbers and layouts), but the audiobook makes me read slowly. I generally read at 128 mph but the audiobooks takes me through the work word by word, and I can think about connections and ideas as I go.

Also I made it through Anna Karenina and many other classics due to audiobooks, a feat I never would have accomplished though print!

Lois Lowry said...

I thoroughly enjoyed SALT. But wondered why, when she dyed her hair black to disguise herself, didn't she cut it as well? She still looked exactly like herself, re-colored. Small niggling point, but still. Hmmmpph.

Roger Sutton said...

Lois, I figured she thought she would be moving too fast for anyone to get a good look.