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Zoot Suits: Play And Movie Comparison

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Film Studies
Wordcount: 1003 words Published: 18th May 2017

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Traditionally, books and films are quite different because they refer to different forms of art. At the same time, many films are based on books and directors attempt to mirror the story conveyed by writers in their films. In this regard, effects of making a film on the basis of a book may differ consistently because of the vision of the director and his or her interpretation of the original story. At this point, it is possible to refer to “Zoot Suit” a play that was used by Luis Valdes in his film “Zoot Suit”. In this regard, it is worth mentioning the fact that the film appeared just two years after the debut of the play but still the book and the film are different for the director attempts to convey his vision of the story depicted by him in the play in the visual form, in his film.

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At first glance, it seems to be quite strange that the film and the play directed and written by one and the same person. In addition, the book and the film are based on the same story. In this regard, the difference between the book and the film are insignificant. To put it more precisely, on analyzing the plot of the book and the play, it is hardly possible to trace any substantial differences that strike the experienced viewer or reader. At the same time, the major difference between the film and the book can be found in the presentation of the story and its delivery to the audience.

In fact, “Zoot Suit” is written by the famous playwright Luis Valdez and also it is featuring some incidental music. It debuted in 1979, and gained a fame of the first Chicano play on Broadway. However, the film version of the play was directed by Luis Valdez and debuted in 1981. Talking about differences between the written play and its film version, should be mentioned that they have little in common in many the details. In “Zoot Suit”, Luis Valdez weaves a story involving the real-life events of the Sleepy Lagoon murder trial – when a group of young Mexican-Americans were wrongfully charged with murder – and the Zoot Suit Riots. In the play, Henry Reyna (inspired by real-life defendant Hank Leyvas) is a pachuco gangster and his gang, who were unfairly prosecuted, are thrown in jail for a murder they did not commit Moreover, the written play is said to be set among the Los Angeles barrios during the early 1940s against, obviously, the Zoot Suit Riots backdrop and, further still, the World War II. In play, as well as in the film, El Pachuco (who is an idealized zoot suiter) is portrayed with Edward James Olmos. He is a narrator whom we can observe throughout the entire story and he even serves as conscience of Henry. In such a way, the play conveys the tragic story of the murder and the fate of the main characters. In this regard, the play mirrors the tragic fate of many Mexican Americans sent to prison after commitment a crime. In such a way, the play mirrors the position of Mexican Americans and tragedies they encounter in their life.

Paradoxically, the film is often said to be a comedy, although it has the message, which is, to a significant extent, similar to that of the play. According to some specialists (Tyler, 1994), the politically charged theme imbues the production with a particularly strong relevance for the cast. It is possible to relate a lot of the play to immigration issues and what’s going on now. The tone of the musical is alternately somber and playful, while the hazy narrative structure often blurs the line between reality and fantasy (Cosgrove, 1989). Nevertheless, it is important to place emphasis on the fact that the film contains comic or, to put it more precisely, ironic elements close to the black humor, whereas the play is the tragedy, where there is little room for any manifestations of humor.

In addition, the film allowed Luis Valdez to use the full potential of the visual presentation of his vision of the story he conveyed in the play. To put it more precisely, the costumes and decorations he used in the film make the film quite different from the play, which seems to be a bit artificial and not so close to the real life as the film. The visualization contributes to the easier perception of the director’s message compared to the book, where readers should complete images of the main characters with their own fancies, details they fancy out, while reading the book. In this regard, the film helps the audience to perceive characters as the director sees them.

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Furthermore, the actor play is also very important and distinguishes the film from the play consistently because the director often uses close-ups and other techniques to convey emotions of the main characters, their mood and feelings. In such a way, the film makes the audience feel more compassionate to the extent that the audience becomes a sort of participant of the film. At this point, it is worth mentioning the fact that the visual perception is very important for the audience. On the other hand, the film leaves viewers little room for their fancies. Instead, the director convey clearly the message he wants to convey, whereas in the play, when people read the book, they can just fancy over the main characters, their environment and so on, while watching the staged play they cannot see beyond the scene and decorations looks artificially and do not make the story as realistic as the film does.

Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is important to place emphasis on the fact that the film and the play “Zoot Suit” are quite different and the main difference can be traced in terms of the perception of the story by the audience. In fact, the film is closer to the audience, viewers can watch and feel emotions of the main characters. Instead, when they read the book or watch a staged play they cannot get rid of its artificiality and they need to complete existing gaps with their own ideas, imagination, and fancies.


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