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Sometimes a Great Notion

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Sometimes a Great Notion

An underseen film adapted from a novel that should probably have greater prominence in American literature, Sometimes a Great Notion contains both the sweep of epic and the intimacy of family drama. Familial rifts and local rivalries play out against the waterlogged forests of the Pacific Northwest and are as deeply rooted as the trees themselves. Kesey’s novel is a labyrinth of language, dense with imagery and detail. The film pares down the book—it would hardly be possible to truly adapt the writing style to the screen—but the scenic beauty of the film does evoke Kesey’s richly descriptive prose, giving us a look at the strengths of each medium. – Sarah Soliman, series curator

Based on the second novel by Ken Kesey, his follow-up to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, this adaptation stars Paul Newman (who also directed) as Hank Stamper, the oldest son of an Oregon logging family headed by Henry (Henry Fonda). Hank’s half-brother, Leeland (Michael Sarrazin, They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?), returns after a ten-year absence to work in the family business. Leeland’s presence causes friction with his father—who resents his prodigal son’s counterculture mindset—and Hank, who perceives Leeland as a threat to his own position in the family’s hierarchy. Hank has a good reason to feel resentful: before long, his wife, Viv (Lee Remick, Anatomy of a Murder, The Omen), has entered into an affair with Leeland. Meanwhile, Henry wages an ongoing battle with the unionized loggers in the region, who threaten reprisals should Henry attempt to continue his business without union backing. Newman was hailed by Roger Ebert as, “a director of sympathy and a sort of lyrical restraint,” for his second turn in the director’s chair and the film earned two Academy Award nominations.

JBFC Members can purchase a ticket package now for three or four Adapted screenings at a discounted price of only $15 per screening. Subject to availability, any remaining tickets to individual screenings will go on sale to JBFC Members and nonmembers in mid-August.

This film is part of the Adapted: Page to Screen series.

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