Sunday, December 27, 2009

Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes

Last night I had the pleasure of seeing the new Warner Brothers interpretation of Sherlock Holmes.

An older friend of mine warned me that the movie does not measure up to the original. Although he did refer to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, I think perhaps, that he was recalling the original screen version of Sherlock Holmes, played by Basil Rathbone in the 1930s and 40s - a tamer portrayal than the current incarnation, to be sure.

In my opinion, however, the current film version does justice to Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock, who first appeared in print in the 1890s. Robert Downey, Jr. is alternatingly brilliant, seedy, humorous, indulgent, depraved, and eccentric. The setting, too, is authentic, featuring a squalid, industrial London, dotted with the enclaves of the “haves,” the Grand Hotel, Parliament, upscale restaurants. (My daughter did point out that the exterior views of the Houses of Parliament appeared to be modern images with an overlay of horses and buggies and other period accoutrements. I didn’t notice.) Watson, played by Jude Law is perhaps a bit more dashing and vigorous than Conan Doyle’s original (it is Jude Law after all), but the chemistry and humor between the two is pulsating and energetic.

Also in keeping with the original stories, are two recurring characters, the wily and beautiful Irene Adler, played by Rachel McAdams, and the unseen and mysterious arch-villain, Professor Moriarity.

The movie is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some startling images and a scene of suggestive material. (more humorous than suggestive)

If you prefer your Sherlock Holmes off–screen, I suggest The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes (2005 by Leslie S. Klinger), a hefty volume with extensive notes, historical background, photos, drawings, and a chronological timetable.

Or if you prefer audio, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes I, read brilliantly by David Timson, and produced by Naxos Audiobooks.

Sherlock Holmes in any format is suitable for teens and adults. I'm heartened that the movie has increased the circulation of Sherlock Holmes books at the library. If you've never read one, do. They're short and brilliantly written in the old style of detective novels - fantastical crimes solved through deductive reasoning. Begin with "A Scandal in Bohemia" to acquaint yourself with the mysterious Irene Adler.


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