Brian McFarlane
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The adaptor
Winterbottom and the English novel
in Michael Winterbottom
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Those who admired Michael Winterbottom's first cinema feature, Butterfly Kiss or the telemovie Go Now would not have been likely to expect him next to turn his interests and talents to adapting Thomas Hardy's late Victorian tragic novel, Jude the Obscure. The film moves inexorably, as the novel does, towards its bleak denouement, stopping short of the death of Jude with which Hardy concludes his agonising fable of lives crushed by a heartless society as well as by a malign fate. Winterbottom also adapted Hardy's The Mayor of Casterbridge to make The Claim, which fits easily into one of the dominant Western paradigms. If Laurence Sterne's Tristram Shandy diverges wildly from the first-person chronicle that was the characteristic genre and mode of the eighteenth-century English novel, Winterbottom's A Cock and Bull Story plays with several recognisable film genres, its own most obvious genre is that of the film-about-filmmaking.

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