Monday, April 30, 2012

A fine migration for John Le Carré

A tap on the "search me" button, to the right, will fill in any blank for a reader, on the adoption here of Graham Greene's sense of the word, entertainment, of which he remains the master, when it comes to suspenseful fiction involving diplomacy and its sometimes luridly covert arts - a contradiction in terms which John Le Carré mines consistently to its most interior depths. A generation ago, with Alec Guinness in the lead, British television adapted Le Carré in a memorable series, Smiley's People. 

Last year, the same novel was reworked, with Le Carré co-producing, consulting, and disporting himself in a walk-on part to sing the Communist Internationale at an MI-6 Christmas party. In my maturity, Le Carré occupies for me the place Enzo Ferrari held in the wisdom of my boyhood, as the author of works I implore the gods to issue for the rest of my life, because I love them helplessly. 

Finally to discover a movie which can be respected for being more than faithful (The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, 1965), but literally renewing, and knowing in its demanding transfer to screen narrative, affords a pleasure I never really required of Le Carré or expected of our time. Oldman, an actor I've always been able to ignore, is outstanding in this rôle, and his George Smiley's victory is uncannily as the novelist presented it - one of character. 

What is at stake, as almost always in Le Carré, is the state of readiness of a marginalised midlife figure, to distinguish between actual and imagined betrayal, malign and undesigned dismissals, accident and conspiracy, with practiced intelligence and naïve energy. Now, a generation after the first attempt at this text, I'm happy to investigate how plausible this is. So, yes. The guy in the aquascutum turns out to have held on to who he is, against a nemesis he describes as our familiar partisan from Hell -- He is a fanatic, and that is how I know he can be beaten. A fanatic is always concealing a secret doubt.

Tomas Alfredson, director
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
Focus Features, 2011©

Benjamin Eidem 

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