Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

October 16, 2015

Hannibal

Filed under: Counterpunch,psychology,television — louisproyect @ 3:59 pm

Hannibal: Television in the Spirit of Buñuel

As a rule of thumb, network television is the bottom feeder in popular culture while the novel, a medium we associate with classics such as “Don Quixote” and “Moby Dick”, dwells in the heavens. In a striking reversal, NBC television has aired a series called “Hannibal” that while based on the novels of Thomas Harris is far more complex and inspired than the source. As each episode begins, we see the words “Based on the characters of the book ‘Red Dragon’ by Thomas Harris”. Having just read “Red Dragon” to help me prepare this review, I would say the relationship between the source and its offspring is close to the one that exists between a banal tune like “Tea for Two” and how Thelonious Monk interpreted it.

The television show also borrows from the novel “Hannibal”, which like “Red Dragon”, was written after “Silence of the Lambs” in an obvious bid to cash in on the massive book sales that followed Jonathan Demme’s blockbuster film. The TV series omitted any reference to “Silence of the Lambs” and to Clarice Starling, a wise move since this overly familiar material would have undercut the goal of seeing the characters with fresh eyes. Once you’ve seen Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins square off, there’s no turning back.

For some Thomas Harris is a novelist to be reckoned with. David Foster Wallace includes “Red Dragon” and “Silence of the Lambs” as two of his top-rated ten novels. That being said, he is a fan of pulp fiction and includes Stephen King’s “The Stand” as well. (A confession: I consider King to be the finest novelist writing today.) In my view, “Red Dragon” is an engaging police procedural that includes lots of chatter about carpet fibers, fingerprints, blood samples, autopsies and the like. If you enjoy CSI, you’ll probably go for this novel in a big way. Given Harris’s background as crime reporter for a Waco, Texas newspaper, he is obviously familiar with the terrain.

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11 Comments »

  1. How is King finer than Delillo, Pynchon, Roth, or Toni Morrison. His books are sold in the airport and grocer for a reason. And if we’re going to count airport authors Follett is superior to King.

    Comment by GHB — October 17, 2015 @ 11:36 am

  2. King is our Charles Dickens. If Dickens were writing today, his books would be sold in airports as well.

    Comment by louisproyect — October 17, 2015 @ 2:57 pm

  3. That is a very bold claim. I’m sincerely asking, can you defend it please? I’ve never been able to finish one of his books. I found The Stand and The Dome to be dreadful, and returned both of them after approximately 200 pages.

    Comment by GHB — October 17, 2015 @ 3:22 pm

  4. I feel the same way about everything that Pynchon has written except for “V”. I liked “Portnoy’s Complaint” and “Goodbye, Columbus” but like Pynchon Roth went downhill. DeLillo and Morrison I have never read, nor care to. Based on the TV show, I suspect that “The Dome” is not worth reading. “The Stand”, however, is brilliant.

    Comment by louisproyect — October 17, 2015 @ 3:27 pm

  5. Cosmopolis, White Noise, and Underworld are no doubt worth a read. They are most assuredly trying to rescue the critique of Capital, and commodity fetish from the strains of postmodern thought, while simultaneously recognizing the degrees to which postmodern thought are necessary conditions of late capitalism.

    Cronenberg’s film Cosmopolis is as close to a movie rendition of the novel as one could get, so perhaps a safe place to start?

    Comment by GHB — October 17, 2015 @ 4:19 pm

  6. Interesting review. It almost makes me decide to watch television. The feeling will probably pass, however; it always does.

    It’s somewhat ironic that the M’Naughten rule was invented for a man who tried to kill a head of government who went on to revitalize a rightwing party. And then it was ended for the man who tried to kill the head of another government who would go on to revitalize his own rightwing party.

    And of course the latter was inspired by his love for Jodi Foster, who was largely responsible for making Hannibal popular in the first place. This shows that all digressions return to the subject if spun out long enough.

    Comment by DK Fennell — October 18, 2015 @ 3:37 am

  7. So I bought a Smart TV and signed up for Amazon streaming and almost finished the 1st season of “Hannibal” last weekend.

    While it’s different and entertaining I’m loathe to wonder how they can sustain it for 2 more season as it’s tending to get redundant and boring, that is, any sense of realism is quickly fading as how could one branch of the FBI possibly be getting all this consistent action?

    Like war movies tend to glorify the Pentagon this series glorifies Quantico. It appears that society isn’t safe from a plethora of degenerate serial killers without their bloated budget. True the agents aren’t all Mormons like used to be recruited back in J. Edgar’s day but man I wish you could get a hold of a copy of “Citizen Cohn” and review it because that was about real life monsters instead of these fantastically fabricated ones.

    For sure the Dr. Lechter actor is brilliant and would make a perfect SS officer should Tarantino or Spielberg want to make another Inglorious or Schindler type movie.

    So far the 1st season of “Bloodlines” on Netflix seems possibly more entertaining as the strangeness of the Florida Keys is just a far cooler setting than The Beltway.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — October 20, 2015 @ 1:13 am

  8. I should only add that too bad the Hannibal series didn’t feature an episode with a real life psychopathic serial killer like Whitey Bulger because then they could have explored how abjectly corrupt the FBI was in aiding and abetting him for almost 30 freaking years!

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — October 20, 2015 @ 1:42 am

  9. Karl, sorry you were disappointed in “Hannibal” but Amazon streaming is the way to go with Netflix going more and more in the direction of TV series. You might want to look into the alternatives to Netflix I wrote about on CounterPunch now that you have a Smart TV.

    Comment by louisproyect — October 20, 2015 @ 3:18 am

  10. I wouldn’t go so far as saying I’m “disappointed” just yet as I haven’t even finished the 1st season — but I’m sensing that possibility.

    I watched the 2nd episode of season 2 of “Fargo” last night on FX and I must say it’s been pretty riveting.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — October 20, 2015 @ 1:35 pm

  11. You analogy employing Monk and “Tea For Two” is excellent, but why dismiss the wonderful old Vincent Youman’s composition as “banal”? Jazz musicians have always loved the tune, as I firmly believe Monk did. The lyric may seem trite out of context, but the play for which it was written was a farce, and was written a long time ago in a different world. The harmony and melody, on the other hand, are marvelously sophisticated. In Monk’s loving hands, this becomes not only evident but undeniable.

    Comment by Mark Rowan — October 23, 2015 @ 6:46 pm


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