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Posts Tagged ‘Films’

Heroes of the Civil Service: An Interview with Antonin Baudry

April 2, 2014 | by

Antonin Baudry 2013 photo credit clarisse rebotier

Antonin Baudry, 2013. Photo: Clarisse Rebotier

In 2010, a graphic novel, Quai D’Orsay, was published in France under a pseudonym, causing a quiet sensation. Set in, of all places, the Foreign Ministry, Quai D’Orsay starred a young speechwriter frantically learning on the job—the novel featured recognizable public figures, including the foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, who famously said non to the war in Iraq.

In France, graphic novels, or comic books (bandes dessinées), are a revered venue for pointed satire. The bestseller’s author, it turned out, was a wunderkind former staffer for Villepin named Antonin Baudry. A man of varied passions—board games, Metallica, Greek philosophy—Baudry is currently the French Cultural Counselor for the U.S. Last fall, he adapted the graphic novel for the big screen. The resulting film, The Minister, became an instant hit in France, earning the rookie screenwriter a nomination for a César, the French Oscar. The Minister is now showing (under the title The French Minister) at select theaters in the U.S., including the IFC Center, in New York; the graphic novel is available in English under the title Weapons of Mass Diplomacy.

Sitting in his cavernous office in the French embassy, overlooking Central Park, the informal diplomat says he would love to try another graphic novel “on globalism, set in the Middle Ages.”

Both in the graphic novel and the movie, you make it seem as if you hadn’t the slightest qualification to write speeches for the foreign minister. Is that true?

Yes. I didn’t have the background that all the people there had at all. I had never met a politician before. I had never met a diplomat. What happened was that Dominique de Villepin was looking for young people from different universes to write for him. He heard through a mutual friend that I had done master’s theses in math and literature, and he wanted to meet me. I totally panicked. I said to my friend, Why did you do this to me? I had to buy a suit. The minister received me at the Quai D’Orsay, and it was just like being hypnotized. He explained a lot of things to me and everything seemed clear, and then when I left, I couldn’t remember a thing. And there was this time pressure. He said I had to answer within twenty-four hours because we were possibly on the eve of a Third World War. I was twenty-six, and I thought, Why not? I’d done academic writing and I knew I wanted to write novels. I accepted the job because I think many writers have no experience of the world. I once worked for the sanitation department in Berlin, cleaning the streets at five in the morning. I loved it for the same reason—it gave me the chance to observe another universe instead of staying in my room, contemplating myself. Read More »

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Spoiler Alert

September 10, 2013 | by

brooke_gauzylarge

Here’s what happens when Hollywood makes a really bad movie out of your novel. You cringe, you pretend you don’t care, you laugh when they play the bad movie’s theme song at weddings you attend, and you wait for the whole thing to pass. And when it finally has, when your book has at last outlived the bad memories and associations of the first movie and it is making its leisurely literary way out in the world, without any connection to the bad movie, someone decides to make an even worse movie out of it.

I wrote Endless Love between the years 1975 and 1979, beginning it as my first marriage unraveled. In that stretch of time, I lived on unemployment, house-sitting for semifamous people in their isolated country houses in New England towns too small to have things like post offices. When my unemployment ran out I moved back to New York and worked for a small publishing company owned by a drug addict. I married again and I became a father and I sold my book for what was a small sum in those days and for what today wouldn’t buy two courtside tickets to a Knicks game. The marriage was good, the baby was great, and the book succeeded to the point where I had to take to my bed with a mysterious crippling illness. Eventually, it was diagnosed as sciatica, which couldn’t even begin to disguise itself as anything other than a nervous system overload. Read More »

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James Bond’s Breakfast, and Other News

February 25, 2013 | by

bondWhisk

  • Well, this is depressing: for fiscal reasons, a Tennessee post office has taken to tossing books that get returned to sender. Hopefully Dolly Parton, whose charity is involved, will intervene and make everything right.
  • Ten “unfilmable” books, made into films of varying quality.
  • Meanwhile, Penguin has been toting up the Oscar wins on adaptations of their titles, all of which are discounted. (The Shakespeares seem like cheating.)
  • If all that was old news to you, perhaps we can interest you in a literary Oscars quiz?
  • “Meticulous breakfast prep often signals violent tendencies.” On James Bond’s prandial fussiness and breakfast as character indicator in fiction. 
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    “Hooray for Santy Claus!”

    December 20, 2012 | by

    You may well know the 1964 camp classic Santa Claus Conquers the Martians as one of the worst films ever made, but did you know there’s also a novelization? That's right: in 2005, Lou Harry gave us the print version the world needed.

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    Tonight: “Get in the back of the van!”

    September 20, 2012 | by

    When BAM asked The Paris Review to choose a film for screening in concert with the Brooklyn Book Festival, the choice was obvious. So, tonight, please join Leanne Shapton, Lorin Stein, and yours truly for a special screening of the cult classic Withnail and I. To the uninitiated: the film, directed by Bruce Robinson, stars Paul McGann and Richard E. Grant as two wastrels in 1969 London who decide to take a restorative holiday in the countryside; obsessively quotable mayhem obviously ensues. Some find it baffling; some find it disturbing; for the rest of us, it is a magnificent obsession. All three camps are invited!

    Starts at 7 P.M. Discussion to follow. Click here for tickets.

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