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Books unbound at Cannes
[ 12:00 p.m. PDT- 05/17/99 ]

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By Marilyn August

CANNES, France (AP) -- At this year's Cannes Film Festival, three films screened in the last few days are based on prize-winning books read by millions. But only one seems to really work.

Canadian director Atom Egoyan's "Felicia's Journey," a suspenseful, macabre tale of a lonely bachelor who befriends wayward girls, is based on William Trevor's 1988 Whitbread Prize-winner of the same name.

With a fresh take on the traditional serial-killer story -- no blood, no detective tracking the criminal -- the film won enthusiastic praise at Monday's screening.

Egoyan said he took liberties with the original text, transforming the character of a socialite mother into a glamorous celebrity TV chef who humiliates her fat son on camera, stuffing him with raw liver. "The only violence in this film is emotional, and it begets a monster," Egoyan said.

"No One Writes to the Colonel" is Mexican director Arturo Ripstein's adaptation of the novella by 1982 Nobel Prize-winner Gabriel García Márquez.

Set in the tropical heat and rains of 1950s Mexico, the two-hour film portrays an elderly couple waiting, in vain, for the colonel's long-promised military pension to come in the mail. Their only son has died in murky circumstances, and their only joy is a fighting cock they hope will save them from starvation.

Ripstein said he had wanted to adapt the Márquez novella since he was 21 years old. "Márquez said 'I'll give it to you when you learn,' and I waited 33 years," he told reporters.

Márquez, who attended film school in Rome before becoming a novelist, praised Ripstein's effort. "It's a great film ... and does justice to me," he wrote in a letter read to reporters. But many viewers found it slow-moving.

Veteran Chilean director Raúl Ruiz's adaptation of Marcel Proust's "Le Temps Retrouvé" ("The Past Recaptured"), meanwhile, had more than one critic napping -- despite an all-star cast featuring Catherine Deneuve, Emmanuelle Béart and John Malkovich.

Set around World War I and structured as a series of vaguely linked vignettes weaving together past and present, the film -- based on the seventh and final novel of Proust's monumental "À la Recherche du Temps Perdu" -- fails to capture the rich, analytic texture of Proust's prose.

"Proust is a director himself, with a vision of things that makes you want to adapt it to the screen," Ruiz told reporters. "The difficulties aren't insurmountable."

Yet Proust has frustrated generations of filmmakers. Orson Welles, Luchino Visconti and Joseph Losey tried but gave up. Volker Schlöndorff's 1983 "Swann's Way" was a critical flop.

© 1999 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. The information contained in the AP News report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press.

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