mandag 1. februar 2010

SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE MYSTERY OF THE SCHIZOPHRENIC DETECTIVE



It is not often that I would call His Lordship, the most excellent Lord Bassington-Bassington silly (he does, after all, have a nasty bite), but here I will make an exception: His recent post on Sherlock Holmes is just plain silly, insisting as it does on Jeremy Brett’s interpretation of Holmes to be the canonical one.

I am myself a fan of Jeremy Brett. Though after seeing quite a few episodes again recently, I must admit that they are not as good as I remember them. Brett’s portrayal of Holmes is of course grounded in the books, but he tends to exaggerate wildly parts of Holmes’ personality, while overlooking others.

Conan Doyle’s Holmes is a far more complicated figure than Brett’s. If he wasn’t, he would not be as good at gaining people’s confidence as he is.

If anyone were to choose only one portrayal of Mr. Holmes as canonical, the obvious one would be the canonical one: Sherlock as he comes across in the original stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Every other portrayal of him must be seen in the light of them.

I’m still a fan of Brett, though. It’s mainly the production that is dated, not Brett. He is as cool as ever. But his is still an interpretation.

To deny oneself the pleasure of other interpretations, as Bassy does in refusing to see the new Holmes movie with Robert Downey Jr as the great detective, seems to me a silly thing.

The fact is that Robert Downey Jr’s interpretation of Holmes is quite a good one, partly even rather obviously moulded on Brent’s. And he is coupled with a surprisingly good Jude Law as Watson. They are in themselves reasons enough to see the movie. As is Mark Strong as a rather wonderfully villainous villain.

But the real stars of the movie are London and CGI. The entire movie has the feeling of watching a real life cartoon. I rather expected it to turn into steam punk at any moment. It simply looks so damn good – way too good to be real.

Downey Jr’s Holmes is more of an action figure, as was to be expected, but he is still one of the better Holmes-actors I have seen. The inclusion of Irene Adler opens up for a little romance – she is after all The Woman – but fortunately not too much.

The plot is far fetched in the extreme, seemingly supernatural, though rationalist at heart. But it is great fun, in the same way as Pirates of the Caribbean was fun: Silly, absurd and over the top, but loveable and good hearted.

But the most important difference between the Brett series and the new movie, is that this is not based on a Conan Doyle story. As far as I remember all the Brett episodes are.

This is a pastiche on Holmes, standing in the long and proud, if often incredibly silly, tradition of Holmes pastiches.

As pastiches go, it is one of the more extravagant. The mixture of secret societies, peculiar science and strong indications of supernatural influence, makes it something entirely different from Conan Doyle’s stories. Though I am not at all sure the old Conan Doyle wouldn’t believe most of it.

Another rather obvious difference is that the Brent series has high and rather serious artistic ambitions – ambitions it to a large extent lives up to – whereas the new movie is a piece of cartoonish popcorn entertainment. It is a good cartoon, in a League of Extraordinary Gentlemen kind of way, but it’s still rather camp. It is fun though, something the Brent series seldom is. The two are, in other words, two entirely different species. And they are both prime specimen.

My simple point is this: There is no reason why a fan of the great detective should not be able to enjoy different Sherlocks. Homes is an ingrained part of our popular culture, someone who can and should be played around with. There is no true Sherlock Holmes outside of the Conan Doyle's stories.

Which interpretation we prefer is of course a matter of taste, but there is no reason to fear that Holmes will be contaminated by a silly romp like the new movie.The stories are strong enough in themselves to survive any kind of tomfoolery.

But of course the real mystery of the movie is this one: Guy Ritchie made a couple of decent movies. Then he married Madonna and became The Worst Director On Earth. No sooner has he parted company with the lady, than he makes his best (or possibly second best) movie so far.

Sherlock Holmes and the Mystery of the Cursed Madonna. Now that is a movie someone ought to make – the sooner the better. I wouldn’t mind Robert Downey Jr playing Holmes.
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4 kommentarer:

  1. Hear hear! I heartily agree! As I commented over at his Lordship's wonderful journal, the new Sherlock Holmes movie was quite entertaining, and far from being as horrible as I originally feared upon watching the promotional material.

    SvarSlett
  2. Don't worry. I'm a snuggler, not a biter.

    I think you took that blog post too seriously, it was more about that talk show sequence and L'Orchestra Noir than it was about the new Holmes film.

    But thanks for your thoughts, you're definitely more knowledgeable in Holmesian matters than I am.

    SvarSlett
  3. Bassy Boy: You know me, any excuse will do for a good rant. Though you DID write yourself into a certain sherlockian tradition that tends to give me a rash.

    SvarSlett

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