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On Movies: Writer grows his own story for the screen

In Noise, Tim Robbins plays a successful New York businessman being driven mad by the city's constant cacophony of police sirens, fire trucks, jackhammers and car alarms. Especially the car alarms.




Tim Robbins

plays a successful New York businessman being driven mad by the city's constant cacophony of police sirens, fire trucks, jackhammers and car alarms. Especially the car alarms.

In fact, he takes to the streets and starts vandalizing the blaring vehicles, smashing the windows and disengaging the alarms.

And then he gets caught by the cops, and arrested.

"That's me," confesses Henry Bean, who wrote and directed Noise (which opened Friday at the Ritz at the Bourse), a juicy black comedy about obsession and the urban life.

"The first arrest is mine. I shot it exactly where I was arrested, and basically duplicated that event," says Bean, a veteran screenwriter who made his directing debut with the 2001 Ryan Gosling drama The Believer.

"So, yes, I did go around breaking into cars and killing the alarms. But when I got arrested I stopped. And then I started thinking about somebody who wouldn't stop."

That somebody is the guy Robbins plays in Noise. He ignores the cautions of the judge and police, puts his marriage (to Bridget Moynahan) and his livelihood in jeopardy, and goes on a vigilante quest - as "The Rectifier" - to put the quiet back on the streets.

"I was in court for the disposition of the case a few months later and they said to me, 'If you can stay out of trouble for the next six months, this will go off your record,' " Bean remembers, on the phone from - yes, he still lives there - New York.

"And everybody laughed because it was so obvious that somebody like me was never going to get in trouble again.

"But I was sitting there thinking, these guys don't get it. Once you get in trouble, it's so easy to get in trouble again. . . . And so I began to think about the guy who just went ahead and got in trouble again. And that was what generated the movie. . . .

"That is the inspiration for the film, but it's not an autobiographical film. I'm the guy who stopped and he's the guy who doesn't."

There Will Not Be Blood. Although a couple of the kids get scratches, and the dastardly villain (Sergio Castellitto) gets poked with a sword, drawing droplets on his neck, there is precious little blood to be seen in The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, though there are two epic battle scenes and a mess of swordfighting, arrow-piercing and castle-seizing going on.

The absence of blood (fake, of course) is one way that director Andrew Adamson managed to win a PG rating for the Narnia sequel, which opened Friday - and which definitely goes to the edge of what's deemed acceptable for the mild "parental guidance" warning. One of the early shots of the super-pricey fantasy (a reported $280 million budget) involves the attempted assassination of the title character, believed to be sleeping in his bed, by a gang of soldiers, standing at close range, wielding weapons.

"Some of it is on the edge, and I wanted it to be on the edge, to be honest," says Adamson, who directed the first Narnia installment, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, as well as the first two Shreks. While he says that he was contractually obliged to deliver a PG - "and wanted it to be PG" - he was committed to bringing some of the darkness and violence of C.S. Lewis' Caspian book to the screen.

"I read the books when I was 10 years old, and I wanted [the film] to be accessible to kids of that age," says the New Zealand writer-director. "At the same time, I think sometimes we're a little overprotective. I do think every parent needs to judge it for their own child, how much intensity and how much action the child can deal with. . . .

"There's a moment in the book where it talks about how Peter swiped the legs out from under this guy and with the back-stroke of the same sword-swipe walloped off his head. That stuff happens in the books, and I remember as a kid that was a very visual thing - I could see that perfectly.

"Obviously we don't do that, there are limits. But I do think the action does need to be intense, the jeopardy needs to feel real. You need to believe that these kids are in a life-or-death situation . . . and you can only get that with a certain amount of intensity."

So Adamson, who screened Prince Caspian for the MPAA's ratings board, tried to find the right balance - dark, violent and intense, but not too dark, violent and intense.

"You don't want it to be traumatizing," he explains. And what determines that is "often about duration, about how long you stay with that intensity. How loud it is, for instance, or how much is played by the music, how much is conveyed on someone's face, how much you actually see versus how much you suggest. . . .

"But there are no real clear guidelines, and ultimately the best thing I could do to figure out what was OK, and what wasn't, was to screen it for an audience of kids."

Adamson faced a comparable challenge - albeit one involving sex, not violence - when he test-screened an early cut of the inaugural Shrek.

"There was some humor with Robin Hood, when he was hitting on Fiona," says Adamson. "And there were a couple of lines in there that I thought were pretty funny. But the first time I watched it with an audience of families and kids, I was sinking in my seat, thinking, 'Oh, this is so inappropriate.' And I cut some stuff out because of that.

"There was a similar thing with some of the intensity of the action in Prince Caspian. There were a couple of moments where I thought, 'You know what, I don't need that, I shouldn't leave that in there.'"