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Banks' adaptations discover Tinseltown 'Sweet' success

Once again, Princeton and Hollywood meet, but this time it will not be to provide the scenery behind Meryl Streep in her recent film "One True Thing" nor will the University be the butt of a joke as it was in "Animal House."

Instead, armed with "Affliction" – a novel by University creative writing professor Russell Banks – and film star Nick Nolte, director Paul Schrader has crafted a celluloid version of Russell's book. The movie keeps the book's title.

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Another book-turned-to-silver-screen by Banks, "The Sweet Hereafter," was nominated yesterday for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay.

"The Sweet Hereafter" is the story of a "school bus accident that kills 14 children and injures many others. The story follows the families whose lives were irrevocably changed," according to an online review on the "Girls on Film" Web site.

The film was directed by Atom Egoyan, who also wrote the screenplay. Banks refused to comment on his book and movies.

'Affliction'

"Affliction," scheduled to debut next fall, was previewed at the Sundance Film Festival. The Sundance Web site features a rave review by Geoffrey Gilmore.

"This powerful, sometimes-bleak tale depicts a small-town cop in upstate Vermont struggling to rebuild his relationship with his young daughter after ending his marriage."

Nolte – who once again plays an emotionally disturbed man, as he did in the "Prince of Tides," – plays protagonist Wade Whitehouse, who is "mercurial, even unstable," Gilmore writes.

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"Wade (Nolte) is trying to reestablish a family and regain visitation time with his daughter, but the dysfunctionality in his life is not merely the result of a failed marriage. A short visit with his domineering, abusive father Glen (frighteningly portrayed by James Coburn) makes us realize the complexity of Wade's plight," Gilmore writes.

Gilmore credits Schrader as one of the "preeminent American directors exploring the existential conditions of our lives." The acting, he writes, is "as good as any you will see this year, but Nolte must be especially recognized for his masterful evocation of a man in the throes of becoming aware," he wrote.

Sissy Spacek, William Dafoe, Mary Beth Hurt and Jim True make up the rest of the principal cast.

The book behind the movie, published in 1997 by Harper Collins, is about Whitehouse, a well-digger and policeman, who lives in a small New Hampshire town.

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"(Whitehouse) is a former high-school star gone to beer fat, a loner with a mean streak," according to the Harper Collins web page about the book.

"Wade comes to loom in one's mind as a blue-collar American Everyman afflicted by the dark secret of the macho tradition."