Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Movie and DVD Reviews: The best and not-so-best movies available on DVD, and whatever else catches my eye.

Mimsy Review: The Neon Bible

Reviewed by Jerry Stratton, February 5, 2000

Here we are gathered together again for another glorious night of conversion and salvation.

Special features

Awards Listing4
Cast Information5

This book by John Kennedy Toole is a fascinating story about growing up poor in rural America in the middle part of the century. The movie is an interesting film but ultimately unsatisfying. It takes a heavy subject and treats it mostly superficially. I also, heartily, recommend reading “A Confederacy of Dunces” by Toole.

RecommendationPossible Rental
DirectorTerence Davies
WritersTerence Davies, John Kennedy Toole
Movie Rating4
Transfer Quality5
Overall Rating5
  • Letterbox

The pacing of the movie is similar to other movies I’ve seen from England—although in those other movies (such as “Love for Lydia”), they were miniseries for television, and had the time to spare for such moody timewasters. In a movie, however, especially a movie that doesn’t even hit an hour and a half, and one from a book as involved and packed as Toole’s, the slow pacing literally detracts from the story. Scene shifts are excrutiatingly slow, and almost always involve some “cool” effect that transports us from one time to another “seemlessly”.

It has a haunting (and equally slow, but worth hearing) score. The credits list “Isobel Griffiths” as “music contractor”. I don’t know if that means Isobel found the music somewhere or wrote it. (It reminds me of the score from the aforementioned “Love for Lydia”.)

John Kennedy Toole has written two novels that I know of, both published posthumously: “A Confederacy of Dunces” and “The Neon Bible”. Both are brilliant works. “Confederacy” is a dark comedy about the choices a man makes conspiring against him; “Bible” is a dark drama about life in the rural south conspiring against humanity. I strongly recommend both books.

The menu selection on the DVD is nice. It’s similar to that in “L.A. Story”, in that four selections are shown at a time, and each selection is a tiny motion picture from that scene. However, unlike “L.A. Story”, the video chosen for the menu does not distract from the menu selection process.

There are no subtitles on this DVD—I can’t even find close captioning.

Note that, despite what it says on Amazon, this is a letterboxed movie, not a chopped movie. It is letterboxed to 2.35:1, as it was presented (according to the Internet Movie Database). The movie is reasonably clear, similar to the other Fox-Lorber title I’ve seen, “Tampopo”. It isn’t great, and it isn’t anamorphic, but it’s well above VHS quality.

I rented this movie because I wanted to see what this particular vision of the book would be; I didn’t have high expectations because I didn’t see how the book could be translated well into a movie, especially a short one. I’d like to say that if you haven’t read the book yet, you’ll like the movie better because of the lack of preconceptions, but I suspect not. Without having read the book, you’re likely to be completely lost. On the plus side, the movie does do a pretty good job of capturing rural life in the United States, and the acting is very good, especially Jacob Tierny as David. It might be worth a rental, but I doubt you’re going to want to own it.

Recommendation: Possible Rental

DirectorTerence Davies
WritersTerence Davies, John Kennedy Toole
Based onThe Neon Bible
Spoken languageEnglish
Special FeaturesAwards Listing, Cast Information, Trailer
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