"They is, they is, they is"
Tobias Wolff was at the vanguard of the so-called "dirty realist" movement in American fiction in the 1980s, alongside the likes of Richard Ford, and the grandaddy of them all, Raymond Carver. All three of these writers specialised in Short stories, altough Ford and Wolff have since found greater fame and success in the novel and memoir respectively. Wolff's "This Boys Life" and "In Pharaoh's Army" are both beautiful memoirs of distinct phases in his early life, notable for the grace and clarity of his prose. These same qualities are evident in his short fiction, which he continues to publish in The New Yorker and periodically in collected editions. "Bullet in the Brain", a two page story, was published in his last collection, "The Night in Question" in 1997. It has an impact disproportionate to its length, and an absolutely beautiful and poetic conclusion.
David von Ancken became best known as a jobbing television director, working on shows like "Oz", "Numb3rs" (is anybody else really irritated by that 3 replacing an "e" in that title?) and "The Shield", before he made his feature debut this year with "Seraphim Falls", a fantastic little Chase-Western which demonstrated that he has the talent to make a name for himself on the big Screen. He first came to prominence, however, when he wrote and directed a short adaptation of "Bullet in the Brain" in 2001. He does it about as much justice as could possibly be done, displaying a visual lyricism in the final minutes that captures to some extent the poetry of the story. He is helped by the great Tom Noonan in the lead role and the lovely voice of George Plimpton reading the narration over those closing images, which comes straight from Wolff's story. Its a great short film, and combined with "Seraphim Falls", it suggests a flexible, multi-faceted talent, which makes me very excited about what von Ancken could go on to achieve in his career.
"Bullet in the Brain":