Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Davies set to adapt erotic thriller for ITV

Andrew Davies must be the busiest writer in Britain. ITV has commissioned him to pen an adaptation of the modern, erotic thriller Sleep with Me by Joanna Briscoe, according to MediaGuardian. The two-part mini-series will be produced by Independent Clerkenwell Films. Davies is also working on a tele-film adaptation of EM Forster's A Room with a View for ITV, due to air in 2008.

Davies has also been busy scripting productions for the BBC. These include Sense and Sensibility, yet another Austen adaptation, set to air this Autumn, plus Fanny Hill, John Cleland's racy 18th century novel, which is to be broadcast on BBC4. Davies is also reported to be working on a new BBC series of Dicken's Little Dorrit, emulating the soap opera style of the highly successful Bleak House, and is also to pen a single 90-minute drama of James Hawes's Speak for England, to air on BBC2.

Coppola's Marie Antoinette proves to be a feast for the senses

Here's a little something I've been meaning to write for some time now. I wanted to record my huge appreciation of Sofia Coppola's mesmerising Marie Antoinette.

I simply adored this film. Most unexpectedly.

I fervently wish I'd caught it at the cinema - such a lustrous, richly visual spectacle probably deserved nothing less. But I had to make do with a DVD and my widescreen television, fed through speakers to do some justice at least to the wonderful soundtrack.

I also loved Coppola's Lost in Translation and her earlier work, The Virgin Suicides. Which must mean, I guess, that Coppola's aesthetic style appeals to me. There is a stillness, a silence almost, at the heart of her films - even when your screen is a riot of colour and activity - which I find intensely moving. I also love her focus on strong female protagonists, and by strong, that doesn't mean kickass 'Xena' warrior princess-types - but complex, multi-layered women, whose feelings you can't help but engage with.

Scarlet Johansson was a splendid Coppola heroine in Lost in Translation, capturing that slightly aloof yet densely textured Coppolaesque 'essence' for want of a better phrase. I harboured doubts about Kirsten Dunst in the title role as Marie Antoinette. I'm not a great fan of Dunst, even though I enjoyed her in Coppola's The Virgin Suicides.

In fact, for much of Marie Antoinette, I even wondered if Dunst had bitten off more than she could chew. She seemed so ill at ease, so lost in it all, overwhelmed ... and then it struck me that she was absolutely perfect for the role, capturing Marie Antoinette's own lost, lonely sense of alienation, her necessity to seal herself away in a lush, consumerist dreamworld - a fantasia which was to cost her dearly.

Indeed, Marie Antoinette's excessive purchasing habits, her debauched lifestyle, were splendidly portrayed here. As was the opulent grandeur and sumptuous ritual of life at Versailles.

Other performances worth mentioning include Jason Schwartzman as Marie's sexually awkward husband Louis XVI, Steve Coogan as Marie's Austrian compatriot Ambassador Mercy (their final parting was particularly poignant), Shirley Henderson as Aunt Sophie and Rose Byrne as the scandalous, vivacious Duchesse de Polignac.

I had no qualms with the plethora of American accents, with the liberties taken with historical veracity, with the tumbling juxtaposition of historicities with brash 80s pop music. Indeed, the music was a highlight. I especially loved the usage of Siouxsie and the Banshee's Hong Kong Gardens, complete with violin intro, and I loved how the disconsolate melancholy of The Cure was used in the closing credits, capturing the sense of tragedy which pervades the closing stages of the film - indeed, there is a haunting melancholic undertow throughout. We all know how it ends, even though Coppola chooses to close the action with the King and Queen quitting Versailles for the very last time.

Music is such a powerful sensory weapon in the director's arsenal and Sofia Coppola proves she has an expert ear.

All in all, this was one of my favourite filmic experiences for some time. I am disappointed that Marie Antoinette didn't receive particularly positive critical feedback. Nor was it a box office sensation. Far from it. But this is an assured and moving piece of work from a hugely talented director.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Becoming a Fan of Fan Fiction: Exploring Red Eye fandom

Apologies for not updating in a while. Life has been a hectic whirl.

I have also been exploring the wonderful world of 'fan fiction', with a view to writing a research paper on the subject, which is proving to be more fascinating than I could possibly have imagined! I'll jot down a few ideas on the subject for this blog in the next few days.

I'll also admit I have been inspired to write a 'fanfic' myself! It started out as an 'exercise' - almost as research - but I have become increasingly embroiled in my 'work', which is likely to take on novel-size dimensions if I'm not too careful. If you fancy a laugh, my 'fanfic' is called The Real Deal and can be found at, under the Movies category, sub-category 'Red Eye.'

Oh yes. I did say 'Red Eye'!! Not the most taxing, subversive piece of cinema to emerge in the last decade, granted. But a fabulous little genre-flick in my opinion - sheer unadulterated (guilty?) entertainment. What I have found fascinating about the Red Eye fandom is the overwhelming number of female fans. Of course fan fiction does seem to be dominated by women - this is quite noticeable actually, and is a topic worth exploring further in its own right - but what makes these fans so interesting, is their adherence to the idea of a passionate romantic pairing between the two leads in Red Eye, Lisa Reisert and the cold-blooded assassin Jackson Rippner, who tries to kill Lisa but winds up almost dead himself by the end of the film. This is NOT a romantic film. But it has spawned a plethora of romantic, and often pretty darn sexy fan fiction! There is, of course, undeniable sexual chemistry between the two leads, which is obviously unexplored by the film's core narrative, which focuses on its key generic functions as a thriller.

And it is because there is a 'gap' in the narrative, based on this unresolved chemistry - despite, and almost because of the dark S&M overtones that are expressed in the movie itself - we now have a small but fervent fan culture, which is devoted to further exploring the dynamics of this relationship. It is the stuff of fantasy of course - a guilty pleasure too in some respects, as the nature of the pairing is based to some extent on power, control and violence.

Of course the sexual tension between the two stars is ramped up considerably by the fact that both actors are no small beer in the looks department. Rachel McAdams is edibly luscious, while Cillian Murphy is blessed with unique good looks and chilling blue eyes. If Lisa and Jackson had been lumpy and drab, there would be no Red Eye fan fiction, I can guarantee it. (And likely no movie in the first place, all considered).

What makes Red Eye interesting too is the characterisation of Lisa, the heroine, who proves to be tenacious, kickass and indomitable - and completely underestimated by the smooth-talking psycho Jackson. Many fanfics have further evolved Lisa's hardball attitude, while others have reveled more in portraying her as passive to Jackson's tough guy dominance. Jackson himself is almost always 'redeemed' in some form or other, because, yup, you guessed it, because of the power of love and his idolising of Lisa, his perfect match.

My ongoing fanfic is focusing on Lisa's POV. Yes there will be romance (there IS that chemistry thing going on, it can't be denied), but rather than Jackson taking the initiative throughout, I have decided to cast Lisa as a 'detective', determined to uncover the truth about Jackson, his past, his persona, his work, his true identity &c. And I'll admit I'm enjoying every minute of it, although I've got a lot of plot still to get through (I've mapped out a large and convoluted story!). I'm a little scared actually how easy and enjoyable it is to write brute violence, and have been forced to edit my own work before publishing it online! I'm sure (or at least I'm hoping) that it must be a cathartic experience!