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Life Arts    H4'ed 3/7/10

Catch 22 (the film)

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Last weekend I watched the Catch 22 film for the second time in my life. The first time I saw it was when I was about 11 and it is fair to say I didn't really get it. In fact, I think I turned it off halfway through.

When I was about 17 I read the book and absolutely loved it and therefore in my mind the film went down as just a poor attempt at the book.

I now realise that was completely unfair. The film is fantastic. By turns it is black comedy, bizarre farce, unsettling and and all cut through with some fairly brutal wartime scenes.

The film stars Alan Arkin but also features Orson Welles (who wanted to make the film but didn't) and also 5 time-winner of the world's biggest forehead competition Art Garfunkel (Paul Simon was going to be in it but his part was cut and he took the huff).

I read somewhere that when you are making a film of a famous book then the object is not to make the closest possible copying of the book onto film but to make a film that is simply good in its own way. I can think of a few successful attempts at this and a few not so good.

This film however keeps the true sensibility (if that is the right word) of the book whilst playing out somewhat like a series of sketches.

For anyone who has neither read the book nor seen the film (but have probably used the term Catch 22 a million times) then Catch 22 is basically this"they are bombardiers being sent on missions. Some of them don't want to go. You have to be mad to want to go. You can't be sent on bombing missions if you're mad, and if you don't want to go then you must be sane, but if you're sane, then you're fit for the bombing missions.

Get it?

The same kind of logic is played out almost all the different scenes in the film but invades different situations like personal relationships and the famous scene with the old man who explains that Italy will win the war and the USA will lose it precisely because Italy is weak and the USA is strong.

When it was released the film was outperformed by MASH which I have to say I never got into at all, TV or film, but it could be one of those films that the more time passes the more people begin to realise it was a fabulous piece of work in it's own right. I hope so.

If this inspires you to watch it (and I hope it does) then just watch it as a film and don't sit with a copy of the book at hand. I am sure you will like it if you watch it in this way. If you need another guide on that then Joseph Heller himself was happy with the film.

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Scotland's Michael Greenwell has worked, at various times, as a university tutor, a barman, a DJ ("not a very good one," he clarifies), an office lackey, supermarket worker, president of a small charity, a researcher, a librarian, a volunteer worker in Nepal during the civil war there, and "some other things that were too tedious to mention." Nowadays, he explains, "I am always in (more...)
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