The news of J.D. Salinger’s death last week revived the discussion/debate over films adapted from his work, with many wondering if we would finally see a movie of The Catcher in the Rye, and others posting lists of films that, while not adapted from Salinger, were kind of Salinger-esque, maybe. (Less Than Zero, whuh?)
Lost amid all this discussion, though, was one somewhat recent film that actually was adapted from a Salinger work. Iranian director Darius Mehrjui’s Pari, made in 1995, is an honest-to-god adaptation of Franny and Zooey. Mehrjui was able to get away with it because Iran doesn’t have any copyright agreements with the U.S., although the director did reportedly send Salinger an e-mail before making his film, asking for permission for his adaptation. (Salinger didn’t respond.) Of course, Pari is not exactly easy to find in the U.S.: When it was slated to open an Iranian film festival at Lincoln Center in 1998, Salinger sicced his lawyers at the last minute and prevented its screening.
Which is a shame, because Pari manages to be quite faithful to the Salinger stories, while effectively retrofitting the characters and situations to modern-day Iran. So, the Martinis that Franny and her boyfriend (now fiancée) Lane have at lunch may be gone, along with “the Yale game,” but Franny’s spiritual dilemma remains mostly intact, as does her disillusionment with the phonies and the non-poet poets at her school, as can be seen in this clip:
Zooey’s later journey towards enlightenment is also there, as are his arguments with his family and his eventual bonding with his sister. Along the way, Mehrjui even lays out his version of the Glass family’s unique dynamics and history, complete with a detour into “A Perfect Day for Bananafish,” viewable here:
Sadly, our hopes for an Iranian Gravity’s Rainbow remain, as yet, unrealized.