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Posts Tagged ‘movie’

L.A. Advice: Writers Dating, Fear of the Blank Page

October 7, 2011 | by

Last night, seventy-five or so Angelenos gathered at the Standard, Hollywood to listen to Ann Louise Bardach, David Kipen, Jonathan Lethem, Tom Lutz, and Michael Tolkin answer audience questions on life, love, and books. Subjects ranged from The Onion (everyone’s favorite contemporary humor publication) to Dickens (in whom “the archetypes for all modern fiction can be found”) to the possibility of making a living as a poet (consensus: other sources of income help). What follows are a few of the questions the panel addressed.

Should writers date each other?

Tolkin: No.
Bardach: Sure, but not in the same genre. That’s the important thing.
A guest: A writer and a reader?
Bardach: Well, yes, every writer should have one.

How does one get over the fear of the blank page?

Tolkin: First of all, it’s more a blank screen now. Don’t leave it blank. Put something on it, anything. If it’s bad, you can improve it, tear it apart. If it’s good, even better. The important thing is getting something down, taking that step.

How does it feel when your book is adapted [into a movie] but you’re not asked to be involved? Is it hard?

Tolkin: I take the money and run.
Lethem: I’d actually prefer not to be involved. I mean, I wrote the book: I’ve spent all that time with it already. And it’s a very different medium. Better to work on someone else’s story.
Lutz: Screw up someone else’s book, you mean.
Kipen: Thus far, no one has tried to adapt any of my book reviews. But I’m open to it.

What are your goals for a new novel? What’s your hope for it?

Tolkin: Kill every other book on the shelf.
Lethem: It’s a great line, but I actually feel the opposite: it’s those other books on the shelf that inspire me, and I want to join their company, add to that conversation. And, you know, looking around this room—I’m going to get very sincere, here—it’s affirming. This is not what we are made for, what I am made for. We sit and we write words, and for whatever reason, you’re all out here to listen, and see us. We’re in this strange, solitary profession, hoping to connect with a few people and, look—we packed a room.

Have a question for the editors of The Paris Review? E-mail us.


Li Bing Bing at High Tea

July 20, 2011 | by

Li Bing Bing as Nina/Lily in Snow Flower and the Secret Fan.

Just as high tea was being served at Gordon Ramsay’s Maze restaurant in midtown’s London Hotel last Wednesday, Li Bing Bing was accosted by a group of young fans, cameras in hand. Li, thirty-eight, one of the China’s most famous actresses, was perfectly coiffed, and dressed in skinny black pants, a butterfly-print top and a crisp white blazer with a mandarin collar. Her face gave way to an ever-so-slight sulk as the fans excitedly chatted in their native Mandarin and gathered around. But then the petite actress swept her hand through her hair, rose from her seat and smiled pleasantly for the photo.

Li had arrived in town earlier in the week to promote her latest film, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, accompanied by director Wayne Wang, author Lisa See, and producer Florence Sloan. (The latter’s counterpart, producer Wendi Deng Murdoch and wife of Newscorp’s Rupert, was conspicuously absent.) The movie is loosely based on See’s novel, which is set in a remote, nineteenth-century Chinese village and follows the difficult, foot-bound lives of Lily and Snow Flower. The women have been laotong (“same old”)—or, as one might say, BFFs—since meeting at age seven and, when apart, communicate the tales of their lives through written messages using their own made-up language. For those who may have been excited by the trailer, ahem, there is no lesbian sex, nuanced or not. Wang also took substantial artistic license, reimagining the story through a split in time and personality—the modern-day, bustling, city lives of businesswoman Nina (Lily) and writer Sophia (Snow Flower).

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Plimpton! on Kickstarter

June 27, 2011 | by

For over the last year, Thomas Bean and Luke Polling have been working on a documentary about George Plimpton called, well, Plimpton!. Today they launched a Kickstarter project to help them cover the expensive costs of paying for archival footage. Watch the video above to see a short clip of the film, which combines Plimpton’s own narration with interviews from his family and friends such as Peter Matthiessen, Gay Talese, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Mike Milbury, Elaine Kaufman, Robert Silvers, James Lipton, Jay McInerney, and Hugh Hefner.

If you donate $100 or more to the film, you’ll receive a Paris Review subscription along with a DVD of the film and other goodies. We can’t wait to see the finished project!


Who is Bernard Herrmann?

June 23, 2011 | by

The name Bernard Herrmann may not be as familiar as Aaron Copland or Samuel Barber, but you’d know his music instantly. Some of it—the shrieking strings from Psycho’s shower scene, for instance—is as famous as anything written in a classical idiom this century.

Herrmann wrote film scores—most notably, nine for Alfred Hitchcock, including VertigoNorth by Northwest, and The Man Who Knew Too Much. But despite his music’s indirect fame, Herrmann (whose centenary is June 29) has yet to get his due as a serious composer. And he was one. His life had the dramatic arc of a great twentieth-century maestro: expulsion from Juilliard, works commissioned by the New York Philharmonic, major awards, an underappreciated symphony, friendship with Charles Ives, a feud with Leonard Bernstein.

The word centenary usually implies fanfare—live performances, retrospective essays, new biographies competing for the cover of the New York Times Book Review. But scrolling through the News and Events section of is underwhelming. There’s a smattering of concerts, mostly abroad (Edinburgh, Bristol, Frankfurt) and nothing from the New York Philharmonic that once performed his music. Herrmann’s estate is once again trying to sell the original score to Psycho (in 2009, it was sheepishly withdrawn from auction when it failed to garner a minimum bid). The Minnesota Opera is staging Herrmann’s forgotten opera based on Wuthering Heights. Perhaps a headline in the Twin Cities Daily best sums up the state of affairs three decades after the composer’s death: Who in the world is Bernard Herrmann?

I recently bought a few Herrmann sound tracks but, after listening to them, found them disappointing. Something was conspicuously absent. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was listening to the sound track of a missing movie.

Is there a way to free film scores—especially those as artistically rich as Herrmann’s—of their film-cue obligations without deflating them? Can casual listeners appreciate Herrmann without the aid of Jimmy Stewart following Kim Novak around 1950s San Francisco? Maybe scores could thrive in a different context. In honor of Herrmann, I conducted an experiment. I loaded two scores, Psycho and Vertigo, onto my iPod and tried them out as personal sound tracks for wandering around New York.

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On ‘Barney’s Version’: Barney’s Voice

February 25, 2011 | by

A Confession
David Bezmozgis | February 23, 2011

Rosamund Pike as Miriam, Barney's third wife.

Dear David,

There is a bias in Hollywood against voice-over narration. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve sat in a meeting and heard producers and development people go on and on about how they hate voice-over, calling it a “device.” I feel differently, however. My thinking is that if it can embellish the material, it should be used. The problem is that far too often it is used as a crutch. It’s redundant (we hear what we see) and therefore, downright boring. This has given voice-over narration a bad name. Yet we have seen it used effectively in films from the past, such as Little Big Man and My Life as a Dog, or more recent films, such as Easy A and Juno.

Even if I agree with you about the flow of the movie being better without the use of Barney’s particularly idiosyncratic voice, which is ultimately the main artery into Richler’s voice, I still have this nagging sense that something is missing in the film. To be honest, I am not sure I will ever be totally happy with the film but this opens up a whole other can of worms. Most artists, in general, are never really satisfied with the final product. We are always the Monday-morning quarterback, wishing we had done it like this and not like that. Don’t get me wrong, there are many things I like about Barney. The wedding sequence, for example, always gives me a kick. But in retrospect, I do miss Barney’s voice, because without it I feel that we are missing the notion of his actual “version.” His voice would have given the title more resonance and, in doing so, perhaps given more cogency to the piece as a whole. Also, for the audience, the concept of unreliable narrator would have been far easier to grasp.

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On ‘Barney’s Version’: The Great Taboo

February 25, 2011 | by

A Confession
David Bezmozgis | February 23, 2011

Mordecai Richler.

Hi Richard,

It’s interesting to hear you say that you still miss Barney’s voice. The book is driven to a great extent by Barney’s strong, idiosyncratic voice. (I, too, remember very well his riff about the colander.) That’s a tough thing to transfer to the screen. How to do that without weighing the film down and without making the audience too conscious of some kind of device—that is, the technical justification for how we are able to hear him? (One example from a relatively recent American film is Alexander Payne’s About Schmidt, in which we hear Schmidt’s voice through the inappropriate letters he writes to the child he is sponsoring in Africa.) What did you have in mind for Barney in that nursing home?

For what it’s worth—and not knowing what solution you had in mind—I was glad not to have Barney’s voice. I appreciated how fluidly the action unfolded and didn’t feel like I missed anything about Barney’s character. He still seemed to me like the Barney I remembered. I admired how, even without the voice-over, you managed to create a film that seemed very faithful to the book. I suspect Richler would have approved. (In my mind, when I tried to conceive of how I might adapt it, it became a road movie.)

On the subject of Richler and his voice, there’s something I’ve often found curious about him. Or if not curious, let’s say surprising. For a man who was a renowned curmudgeon, contrarian, and even cynic, he was also an extraordinary romantic. In his public life and in his books, Richler skewered seemingly every institution except the institution of marriage. The guy really believed in true love and in marital fidelity. You see it in the novel, and you were consistent about it in the movie. Cheating on your spouse, in Richler's moral universe, brings ruin. For Barney, and for Miriam, his beloved third wife, infidelity is unforgivable, irredeemable. In our hip, irreverent world this seems a very uncool position to take.

I’ve rarely heard this aspect of Richler’s work spoken about, and yet I think it’s present in all of his novels. In all of his “mature novels,” the hero—who is increasingly an alter-ego for Richler—behaves badly in any number of ways (he may profane God and country), but he never cheats on his wife. That is the great taboo. Not that I disapprove, mind you, but it seems a much stricter article of his faith than it is of mine. Was this something you thought about when making the film? It factors so heavily into the plot that I wonder what you made of it.

Faithfully yours,