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Sunday, September 27, 2015

THE WHALE (2013)

Herman Melville’s MOBY DICK has proved an elusive beast on screen. So, a modest cable pic on the true story behind the famous novel sounds like a possibility. Turns out truth, in this instance, is definitely not stranger than fiction. The film is harmless, yet somehow infuriating. (As missed opportunity?) It does clear up Melville’s masterstroke; switching obsessives. It’s not the whale who holds a grudge against a whaling ship, but the captain of a whaler with a grudge against one particular white whale. And it’s this turnabout that turns incident into art. Even for what it is, this factoid seafaring adventure feels almost pointless, with paint-by-numbers characterizations and plug-in shots of our special guest star whale swimming underneath deep waters to no discernible purpose after the first attack takes out the ship. Martin Sheen is on hand as a survivor, now grown elderly, to tell the tale in flashback, no doubt boring the hell out of his interlocutors. You keep hoping they’ll rip up their notepads at the end and say, ‘When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.’

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT/LINK: It sounds unlikely (heck, it sounds the height of sheer folly), but the only worthwhile adaptations of the Melville classic are Orson Welles’ eccentric/effective theatrical piece MOBY DICK REHEARSED and the recent opera from Jack Heggie. Here’s a trailer from a 2014 production: and a promo/rehearsal clip of the Welles: (The opera is variously available; the Welles apparently not.)

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