Saturday, April 21, 2007

RAYMOND CARVER—So Much Water So Close To Home

So much water so close to home, why did he have to go miles away to fish?

A while back, David Lowery came up with a term that I love and seem to keep using over and over—"substantiating connective tissue"—to describe what ties together literature and cinema (or—for that matter—any other artistic medium and cinema). For our immediate purposes, however, perhaps the term stuck with me because increasingly over the last year I've become interested in the writer's role in this complex business of making films. Not only, let's say, a novelist or a short story writer whose work has been picked up for adaptation; but the screenwriter's challenge in pursuing such an adaptation. Let alone writers like myself who approach film from either a critic's perspective or a commentarian's fascination. The written word and the cinematic image seem as intimately linked as a sibling relationship, whether one of rivalry or loyalty.

There are several essays I've been methodically shaping. The work of James Leo Herlihy in film. The work of Julio Cortazar. Soon, I hope, I can present those burnished musings on The Evening Class. For now, I was reminded of my "substantiating connective tissue" projects by correspondence I received from Russell Perreault, Vice President and Director of Publicity for Vintage Books and Anchor Books, a division of the Knopf Group/Random House, Inc. In what I consider one of the most creative and imaginative publicity campaigns in recent memory, Perreault forwarded a copy of "So Much Water So Close To Home", the short story by Raymond Carver that serves as the basis of the Sony Pictures Classics adaptation Jindabyne, opening later this month. It felt refreshing to start at the beginning, to read this deeply evocative story and to imagine how it caught the attention of filmmakers and how they will amplify Carver's tale into a full length feature. Further, it was a unique reading because—knowing beforehand Laura Linney would be in the film—I kept seeing her face and hearing her voice while reading the story. It made for a rich, imaginative read and I'm looking all the more forward to watching Jindabyne at a press screening next week. I commend Perreault for reminding of the source material.

Along with Carver's story, Perreault advised of other Vintage and Anchor books that are being adapted into movies in the coming year and I thought it would be of interest to replicate those here, with the encouraging subtext that this is coming from only one publishing house.

Away From Her (Lionsgate). Based on the Alice Munro short story, "The Bear Came Over the Mountain." Directed by Sarahi Polley; starring Julie Christie, Michael Murphy, Gordon Pinsent, and Olympia Dukakis.

Evening (Focus Features). Based on the novel by Susan Minot. Lajos Koltai (Fateless) directed; screenplay by Minot and Michael Cunningham. Vanessa Redgrave, Claire Danes, Toni Collette, Patrick Wilson, Meryl Streep, Glenn Close, Eileen Atkins, Mamie Gummer, Natasha Richardson, and Hugh Dancy star.

The Hottest State (ThinkFilm). Based on the book by Ethan Hawke and directed by him. Starring Mark Webber, Jesse Harris, Laura Linney, Ethan Hawke and Michelle Williams.

No Country For Old Men (Paramount Vantage). Based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy. Scott Rudin produced with Ethan and Joel Coen, who wrote the script and directed. Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, Woody Harrelson, Stephen Root and Josh Brolin star.

The Feast of Love (MGM/Lakeshore Entertainment). Based on the novel by Charles Baxter. Directed by Robert Benton. Starring Morgan Freeman, Greg Kinnear, Radha Mitchell, Jane Alexander, Alexa Davalos, Toby Hemingway, and Selma Blair.

Into the Wild (Paramount Vantage). Based on the book by Jon Krakauer. Sean Penn directed. Produced by Art Linson and Bill Pohlad (Brokeback Mountain). Oscar winners William Hurt and Marcia Gay Harden; and Emile Hirsch (The Lords of Dogtown), and Catherine Keener star.

Lust, Caution (Focus Features). Based on the story by Eileen Chang. Directed by Ang Lee, produced by William Kong, screenplay by Hui-Ling Wang; starring Joan Chen, Anupam Kher, Lee-Hom Wang, Wei Tang, and Chih-ying Chu.

Silk (New Line/Picturehouse). Based on the novel by Alessandro Baricco. François Girard (Thirty-two short films about Glenn Gould, Red Violin) directed, and the cast includes Michael Pitt, Koji Yakusho, Alfred Molina and Keira Knightley.

Reservation Road (RH Films/Focus Features). Based on the novel by John Burnham Schwartz, who likewise wrote the screenplay. Terry George (Hotel Rwanda) directed; starring Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Ruffalo, Jennifer Connolly and Mira Sorvino.

Love In the Time Of Cholera (New Line/Stone Village Pictures). Based on the novel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Oscar-winner Ronald Harwood (The Pianist) wrote the screenplay. Mike Newell directed. Javier Bardem, Benjamin Bratt, Giovanna Mezzogiorno, John Leguizamo, Hector Elizondo and Fernanda Montenegro star.

Atonement (Focus Features). Based on the book by Ian McEwan. Produced by Robert Fox (The Hours); script by Christopher Hampton. Starring Keira Knightley, James McAvoy, Brenda Blethyn, Vanessa Redgrave and Romola Garai.

Fugitive Pieces (Serendipity Point Films). Based on the novel by Anne Michaels. Stars Rosamund Pike, Stephen Dillane, Rachelle Lafevre. Directed and screenplay by Jeremy Podeswa.

Cross-published on Twitch.


Anonymous said...

I feel like the concept of adapting films from literature has been rediscovered after reading this post.

Li Wen said...

Jindabyne opened in Australia several months ago. I look forward to your thoughts on it.

Evening: Cunningham might be a novelist of great talent, but his first screen-writing attempt (an adaptation of his own novel, "A Home at the End of the World") was disjointed and weak. We'll see if he does better this time. Based on the trailer, the film departs from the novel quite significantly (dare I say, melodramatically?), but I cannot decide yet whether that is good or bad.

Some other adaptations that come to mind:

Matt Cohen's Emotional Arithmetic (Paolo Barzman; starring Susan Sarandon, Gabriel Byrne, Christopher Plummer, Max von Sydow)

Tim Winton's Dirt Music (Phillip Noyce; starring Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz)

Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited (Julian Jarrold; starring Ben Whishaw, Hayley Atwell, Matthew Goode)

Jose Saramago's Blindness (Fernando Meirelles; starring Julianne Moore, Daniel Craig)

Mircea Eliade's Youth without Youth (Francis Ford Coppola; starring Tim Roth)

Paul Auster's In the Country of Last Things (Alejandro Chomski; starring Eva Green)

Cormac McCarthy's The Road (John Hillcoat)

Michael Chabon's Mysteries of Pittsburgh (Rawson Marshall Thurber; starring Jon Foster, Sienna Miller, Peter Sarsgaard, Mena Suvari)

Raimond Gaita's Romulus My Father (Richard Roxburgh; starring Eric Bana, Franka Potente, Marton Csokas)

Too many books to read, not enough time...

Michael Guillen said...

Thanks for your comment, Peter. As a fine writer yourself, you must have been as heartened as I was learning this information.

Diana, thanks for weighing in from down under, and especially for supplementing the list of projects with yet more intriguing titles. Cormac McCarthy's having a good year, eh?

Li Wen said...

Given how I had never actually heard of McCarthy before last year - and only came to read about "The Road" through a science fiction zine, of all things - I would definitely say that he's having a good year, even without the Pulitzer and the mixed blessing of being Oprah's pick. American and Canadian contemporary literature on the whole seem to carry less weight down under, compared to British titles, and it can can sometimes be quite difficult to track down copies of books. I am, for instance, having a devil of a time trying to track down a copy of "Emotional Arithmetic", which is by a Canadian author.

Michael Guillen said...

Incidentally, referring back to David's Drifting piece, I note that he mentioned the adaptation of No Country For Old Men. It also looks like Blood Meridian is finally being adapted as well.

Anonymous said...

Did you ever write that Herlihy in film essay? I would love to read it. I have not been able to view the film made from Blue Denim yet, though I understand they butchered the ending. I am working on a dissertation on Herlihy presently. I see that you are based in San Francisco--I am giving a talk comparing Herlihy's and James Purdy's work in SF at the American Literature Association conference at the James Purdy Society panel on Sat May 24 at 12:30, Hyatt Regency at Embarcadero, room Seacrest C.