The Cultural Gutter

hey, there's something shiny down there...

"We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." -- Oscar Wilde

But What I Really Want to do is Direct

Chris Szego
Posted March 18, 2010

teenyclapper.JPGThere are lots of great modern romance novels out there. And there are plenty of wonderfully romantic movies. Oddly enough, the latter aren’t usually based on the former (modern romance novels; in this one instance, Jane Austen doesn’t count). Which is not to say there aren’t any at all, but Twilight aside, most of them appear on cable television. And those I’ve seen, well… let’s just say they weren’t entirely successful

It makes sense, when you think about it. Romances are written by and for women. Movies, wide-release movies anyway, are aimed at a broader demographic. And the two storytelling forms are very different. The things that give a romance novel oomph – the emotional insights and changes – are interior processes. Stuff that happens inside people’s heads doesn’t always translate well to the screen.

Nothing wrong with that. I certainly love books, but I also love movies, and I don’t expect the same things from each. But I do believe that many modern romance novels would make fun,
highly-watchable movies.  Here are a handful. 

First, some historicals:

The Masqueraders, by Georgette Heyer

Basic premise The son and daughter of an adventurer, Robin and Prudence have led a vagabond life. After Bonnie Prince Charlie fails to retake his throne, the siblings arrive in London to take part in one of their father’s schemes, posing as Kate and Peter, respectively. Thus disguised, each meets his or her perfect match. Zaniness ensues.

Why
it could work
This novel has everything you could ask for in a historical adventure:
fabulous clothes; blackmail schemes; elopments; duels; cross-dressing; all delivered with wit and a delightful sense swashbuckling adventure.

Who should direct Kenneth Branagh. His Much Ado About Nothing is ample demonstration that he can handle the costumes, language, characters and manners of past ages while making them relevant to today. He also has a feel for which scenes can be safely left out without damaging the whole. And he would be absolutely perfect for the role of the siblings’ irrepressible father.

Magic Flutes, by Eva Ibbotson

Basic Premise Guy Farnes, a wealthy Englishman in Vienna after the first World War, buys the famous Castle Pfaffenstein. The former owner is Princess Theresa-Maria, who, given the downfall of her family, works
incognito for an opera company in Vienna. Farnes hires that companyto stage a show at Pfaffenstein, and finds himself captivated by an employee named Tessa…

Why it could work The opera – planning, rehearsing, staging – provides a solid
framework for the love story. And it would give viewers a glimpse of a time and place in history we don’t often see in film, post WWI Vienna.

Who should direct Joe Wright, who did something of the sort with Atonement. Magic Flutes takes place after the war, not during, but Wright deftly chronicled a time when life as everyone knew it changed forever. He also captured the cataclysmic changes in the existing societal structure, and the pitfalls along the way.

Agnes and the Hitman, by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer

Basic Premise Shane is a covert ops agent called back to his hometown by his
uncle. Agnes is a food writer whose house is the epicentre of a decades old mob plot involving millions of dollars. Sparks fly, both between the main characters and during all the firefights.

Why it could work The relationships in this book progress through dialogue. Funny,
brash, startling dialogue, the kind that would actually work on screen. And there are fist-fights, shoot-outs and rocket launchers enough to keep even the most bloodthirsty of audiences satisfied.

Who should direct Shane Black. His Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang featured the same sort of rapid-fire dialogue, and proved he can steer a film from violence to humour and back again with consummate grace. He also balanced two disparate main characters (one highly competent, one… not so much) with ease.

Natural Born Charmer, by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Basic Premise Before training starts, star quarterback Dean wants to visit his new country home. En route, he encounters a woman in a beaver suit stomping down the highway. Blue is an artist tired of making do with stupid part-time jobs. She convinces Dean to give her a ride, and the resulting road trip, and destination, is an eye-opener for both of them.

Why it could work It has a similar air to the classic Hepburn/Tracy flicks: a funny story with a serious core, though with a more modern outlook. It also provides ample opportunity for sight-gags: properly handled, the whole beaver-suit scene could be hilarious.

Who should direct Howard Deutch. He helmed Some Kind of Wonderful, which hits a lot of the same notes: the gap between rich and poor; the struggle to figure out who you want to be; lots of scenes in a car. Plus he also directed The Replacements
(which, though dumb in parts, remains my favourite gridiron movie ever), so he can be trusted with the football parts of the story.

All of these sugggestions would require much adaptation, of course. Subplots would have to be stripped out or simplified, along with many lesser characters. But in the right hands, these could be box office smashes. And I, for one, would be there on opening night.

~~~

Chris Szego enjoyed mentally casting these movies.

Comments

One Response to “But What I Really Want to do is Direct”

  1. Anne
    March 18th, 2010 @ 3:55 pm

    The casting game goes on forever…

Leave a Reply





  • Support The Gutter

  • The Book!

  • Of Note Elsewhere

    NPR interviews Hank Willis Thomas on his exhibition showcasing images of white women in advertizing. It’s a follow up to his 2008 exhibition, “Unbranded: Reflections in Black by Corporate America.” “I think what happens with ads — when we put text and logos on them, we do all the heavy lifting of making them make sense to us. But when you see the image naked, or unbranded, you start to really ask questions.”

    ~

    Our friends at Pornokitsch share a 1898 Philadelphia Press article on ghosts of the Capitol in Washington, D.C.

    ~

    The Journal of Popular Romance Studies interviewed author Joanna Russ in 2007 about slash fiction: “Her 1985 essay, ‘Pornography By Women For Women, With Love’ helped to set the terms of the discussion for feminist scholars who followed, and it is widely cited in fan studies. Russ argues that fantasy has to be read in more complex ways than simply seeing it as an effort at one-dimensional wish fulfillment. She posits fantasy as something rich and metaphorical. She reads slash as a genre that tells us new things about women’s sexuality and sexual desire, things that—in 1985—weren’t being talked about except in the very divided feminist ‘sex wars,’ where ‘pro-sex’ and ‘anti-porn’ feminists created ever more polarized stances.”

    ~

    At Hyperallergic, Jeremy Polacek writes about the history of Afrofuturism and the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s exhibit, “Space Is The Place: AfroFuturism On Film”:  “Afrofuturism is an empowering rubric, an approach and aesthetic that clarifies and connects history and the hope, creativity, and pain there within. Afrofuturism is wry, wise, and leveling — it believes that a brighter, more equal, funkier future is within the realm of possibility. You can be different; this world can be different — self-invention commingles with worldly reinvention; Africa is both glorious past and technocratic future.

    ~

    Sweet Jane shares a 1967 fashion editorial shoot mixing mod fashion and the work of illustrator Aubrey Beardsley. (via arabellesicardi.com)

    ~

    BBC Radio 4 is presenting an adaptation of Ursula Le Guin’s The Left Hand Of Darkness. You can listen to the first episode here. There are also other features, including an interview with Le Guin. (via Pornokitsch)

    ~

  • Spilling into Twitter

  • Obsessive?

    Then you might be interested in knowing you can subscribe to our RSS feed, find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter or Tumblr.

    -------

  • Weekly Notifications

  • What We’re Talking About

  • Thanks To

    No Media Kings hosts this site, and Wordpress autoconstructs it.

  • %d bloggers like this: