Sunday, September 9, 2007


Working as a noun, a frame is a structure enclosing or containing some systemic entity, be it a photograph, a painting, a document, a house, even a human body. In its avatar as a verb, frame has various meanings including the enclosing of the structural parts of a building, building a structure of plausible logic of guilt about an innocent individual, or basing an invented narrative around another.

In the literary sense, framing can be seen as wrapping characters and/or events in the structure of another story, thus James Joyce's
Ulysses,framed on or by--your call on the preposition--The Odyssey, Jane Smiley's latest framed on The Decameron.

We have gone through this a number of times, seen it spread through movies such as the famed John Wayne/Claire Trevor Western Stagecoach,framed on a short story by Guy de Maupassant, Bouile deSuif, (Ball of Fat), and of course JohnWayne again in Red River, in a real sense Captain Bligh to Montgomery Clift's Fletcher Christian in a remake of Mutiny on the Bounty, rendered not at sea but on the open range.

Framing is a way of taking an iconic formula, dare I say myth?,and recasting it. The risk is the same risk for all remakes, but the fault there, I argue (if there is indeed fault) is with the writer not taking enough chances.

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