The Music Of Chance

Though it eliminates most of the first chapter and sweetens the ending, this is a fairly literal adaptation (1993) by documentary filmmaker Philip Haas (Money Man) of Paul Auster’s allegorical, parablelike novel about the nature of freedom, scripted with Haas’s wife, film editor Belinda Haas. A former fireman and drifter (Mandy Patinkin) stakes a professional poker player (James Spader) in a game with two eccentric millionaires (Charles Durning and Joel Grey); after going bust the drifter and poker player wind up building a stone wall across a meadow to work off their debts. The acting is engaging and resourceful (Spader and M. Emmet Walsh as a foreman are standouts), but the translation of this highly literary tale into something cinematic never quite takes place; with Samantha Mathis. (JR)

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