Sunday, September 9, 2018

The trailer of HBO's adaptation of My Brilliant Friend is available

The trailer of HBO's My Brilliant Friend is available
as are reviews of first two episodes which premiered at the 2018 Venice Film Festival. Also Ferrante addicts can read numerous interviews with director Saverio Costanzo who confirmed Ferrante’s involvement in the film adaptation:

We have been mailing to each other,” Costanzo told journalists during HBO’s Television Critics Association press session in Beverly Hills on Wednesday. “I don’t know who she is and I don’t want to know … she is, in my opinion, a very good scriptwriter … I’ve been mailing to the publisher. The publisher would send it to her and then back to me.

The description of Ferrante as “a very good scriptwriter” is further evidence of the involvement of Domenico Starnone, an accomplished screenwriter, in the creation of the works attributed to Ferrante. In my recent book In Search of Elena Ferrante I argue that Anita Raja and her husband Domenico Starnone are the authors of the works attributed to Ferrante, with Starnone the principal author of the novels and Raja the principal author of the letters and interviews collected in Frantumaglia: A Writer's Journey.

In addition to confirming Ferrante’s involvement in the screenplay, Costanzo also notes Ferrante’s insistence that the film be in Italian, including much in Neapolitan dialect:

Because Ferrante wrote her novels in Italian, Costanzo said it would have been “impossible” to do the series in English. He added that HBO was firmly committed to maintaining the books’ Neapolitan dialect with English subtitles because “the dialect is part of the dramaturgy.

The dialogue in Neapolitan dialect will also be subtitled in Italy as the dialect is not generally understood outside Naples.

Critics have generally praised the authenticity of the sets. Vogue’s Jason Horowitz notes that that Italian producers “spared no expense in painstakingly constructing this enormous, 20,000-square-meter set in Caserta” a town near Naples:

Walking around, I am transported by weathered political posters and death notices. The convincingly aged walls of apartment buildings have working windows and internal staircases to reach the balconies where extras in expertly researched costumes pass the day.”I visit the costume department, just off set, where ten tailors and designers provide 1,500 Italian period pieces to the stars and extras. Racks of vintage drivers’ jackets, bras and stockings, Borsalino hats and suspenders, loose-fitting blazers and floor-sweeping skirts crowd the rooms. Fabric is soaked, burned, and otherwise distressed to make the clothes appear lived-in and humble.

The generally positive reviews of the first two hours of HBO's My Brilliant Friend also praise the performances of the two non-professional actors who play Elena and Lila as young girls.. From Daniel Fineberg in The Hollywood Reporter:
This limited sampling points to a handsome, largely dedicated Ferrante adaptation that, at least in this early going, is marked by spectacular casting of its inexperienced leads…My Brilliant Friend is blissfully neither based in a gauzy nostalgia nor mired in an affected documentary-style misery porn. It simply and cleanly embraces the details of everyday life, occasionally dirty or impoverished or ominous, spiked with moments of memory-infused whimsy. ..The series' first two hours mark an extraordinarily promising beginning.

From Daniel D'addario’s review in Variety:

And while achieving the internality of the book is too high an order for this series, its ability to conjure up the world of children confused at the happenings around them is its own achievement. “My Brilliant Friend” is an impressive effort, a translation of novel to screen that preserves certain of its literary qualities while transmuting others into moving and effective TV.

Adaptations of beloved books usually result in mixed reviews and My Brilliant Friend is no exception. From Emily Yoshida’s review in Vulture:
To say the advance press screening was a muted affair would be generous: I witnessed more walkouts throughout the two hours than I did during Luca Guadagnino’s bloody, polarizing Suspiria.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly how director Saverio Costanzo’s adaptation fails …But I could sense the strain of putting the weight of the drama on two first-time child actors, Elisa Del Genio and Ludovica Nasti, who certainly look their parts but don’t quite have the unguardedness suggested by Ferrante’s deeply relatable account of their childhood.

Yoshida also complains that Costanzo’s direction is “ponderous and slow,” with a “mechanical quality” to these early episodes. She speculates that HBO may have “a huge, expensive, foreign-language dud on their hands.”

In an article lamenting the lack of women filmmakers at the Venice festival, Yoshida returns to her reservations about My Brilliant Friend:
Saverio Costanzo’s overly mannered, tastefully sepia-toned adaptation has all the events of the first section of Ferrante’s first book, but the cloud of something else–ness is missing…everything is in place, but it feels hollow.

The “something else–ness’ may refer to Ferrante’s emotionally charged language exploring the characters’ innermost thoughts. We share the most intimate thoughts of the great fictional characters, knowing them in a way we can never know our family, friends and colleagues whose innermost thoughts we are doubtless fortunate not to know. Film may have replaced the novel as the principal story-telling medium of our age, but great novels like Ferrante’s Neapolitan Quartet remind us of what only literature can do.


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