Monday, May 02, 2011

The Cry of the Owl, by Patricia Highsmith

(hb; 1962)

From the back cover:

"[The Cry of the Owl] begins with an act of naïve voyeurism. Robert Forester, a depressed but fundamentally decent man, liked to watch Jenny through her kitchen window -- a harmless palliative, as he saw it, to his lonely life and failed marriage. As he is drawn into her life, however, recriminations of his simple pleasure shatter the deceptive calm of this small Pennsylvania town. With striking clarity and horrible inevitability, Forester is caught up in a series of deaths in which he is the innocent bystander, presumed guilty. . ."


This plot- and writing-taut, unsettling thriller about a socially maladaptive man who gets bound up in an ever-worsening - and increasingly violent - cycle of paranoia, isolation and murders is near-impossible to set down. Highsmith's masterful trademark elements - oddball/unpopular protagonists, mounting unease and social violence, and, often, resulting corpses - is on full display here, making this an excellent read.

Sad, memorable, echoes-real-life work. Worth checking out.

Three film versions have resulted from this novel.

The first version, Der Shrei der Eule, aired on German television in 1987.

Matthias Habich played Robert. Birgit Doll played Johanna. Jacques Breuer played Karl. Fritz Lichtenhahn played Lippenholtz. Doris Kunstmann played Vicky. Roger Fritz played Ralph. Gernot Endeman played Jakob. Hans Christian Blech played Dr. Knapp.

Tom Toelle directed the film, from a screenplay by Peter Märthesheimer and Pea Fröhlich.

The second version, bearing the same title as the novel, was released in France on October 28, 1987. It was released stateside on October 16, 1991.

Claude Chabrol directed the film, from a script he co-authored with Odile Barski.

Christophe Malavoy played Robert. Mathilde May played Juliette. Jacque Penot played Patrick. Jean-Pierre Kalfon played "Police Commissioner". Virginie Thévenet played Véronique. Patrice Kerbrat played Marcello. Jean-Claude Lecas played Jacques. Agnès Denèfle played Suzie. Isabelle Charraix played Mme Tessier. Gille Dreu played M. Tessier.

The third version, also bearing its source novel's title, was released in Germany on February 7, 2009. It was released stateside on March 12, 2010.

Paddy Considine played Robert Forester. Julia Stiles played Jenny Thierolf. James Gilbert played Greg Wyncoop. Caroline Dhavernas played Nickie Grace. Gord Rand played Jack Nielson. Charlotte Sullivan played Sally Nielson.

Jennifer Kydd played Susie Escham. Karl Pruner played Mr. Jaffe. R.D. Reid played Mr. Kolbe. Marcia Laskowski played "Nickie's Lawyer". Phillip Mackenzie played "Lavigne Client".

Jamie Thraves scripted and directed the film.

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