The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Friday, July 07, 2006

Pity Poor Alice Munro

by Melissa Bell

I have to feel bad for her, in some way. Here's this woman – considered by many to be one of the greatest [insert additional adjective here, eg. living, woman, English-language, etc.] writers around, and yet no one's adapting her work for feature films.

Okay, that's a bit of a lie. A perfunctory Google shows that an adaptation of Ms. Munro's short story, "The Bear Came Over the Mountain", is currently in post-production. Directed by Sarah Polley, executive produced by Atom Egoyan, it stars Julie Christie, Gordon Pinsent, Wendy Crewssssssssssszzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Oops. Sorry. I nodded off there for a sec.

And you. C'mon, admit it. You unsuccessfully tried to stifle a yawn in the interest of Canadian politesse, didn't you?

So would adding a few exclamation points to the second paragraph above make it sound more exciting? Or should I just go ahead and add some cricket sounds and cue the tumbleweeds?

Looking back to an earlier bitchy post of mine where I was kvetching about a certain Mr. Steve Martin writing his novella, Shopgirl, solely with a view to eventually triple-dipping his Hollywood chips, I still have to wonder why, with the incredible body of work Alice Munro has created in her lifetime, zero has yet made it to the "big screen". Sure, Boys and Girls picked up an Oscar, but…yeah, yeah, didn't you know? Neither did I. Oh, nobody you'd know, of course. It was back in the early '80s. Best to just forget about it – everyone else has.

Okay, another look at shows that Julianne Moore is "in talks" to do Hateship, Courtship, Friendship. I suppose that's promising, but "in talks" pretty much means…whatever. Meanwhile, Paul Gallico's The Poseidon Adventure was just remade. Did it need remaking? And who the heck is Paul Gallico when he's not marginally famous among sports trivia fans for organizing the Golden Gloves amateur boxing competition?

Of course I realize that most of Ms. Munro's work comprises short stories. But that certainly doesn't mean that all short stories are destined to be nothing more than overlooked short films. So why has so little of her work been produced in other media? And, of the handful of her works that have made the leap from the page to the screen, how did a two-bit schmuck like me get cast in two of them? (Yes, alright, it was in a whole other life, but honestly, people - when a crappy ex-actor like myself can claim two Alice Munro adaptations in my sorry-ass and wince-inducing list of past screen credits, all is seriously not right in the literature-to-film world.)

She's no diva. I doubt she's playing hardball with the Big Boys. Permit me a self-indulgent "brush-with-greatness" anecdote, but I did meet the lady once. I was doing summer stock in Blyth, Ontario, and she showed up one late afternoon to the strawberry social held at the Town Hall. And, god bless her, she wore a long white cotton dress with hand-embroidered strawberries on it and just kind of wandered around drinking tea and eating pie. This is not the kind of woman one imagines screaming into her cell phone at her agent with a "Fuck 'em, Marty, they want Half a Grapefruit? I want six points, a Hummer, name above the title, or no fuckin' deal. Ya got that?" Nah, our Alice doesn't do that.

Maybe that's the problem. She's just too fuckin' nice.


Blogger Anne C. said...

Julianne Moore? As the housekeeper? Weird.

Tell us more about your filmography, mysterious MelBel.

Fri Jul 07, 07:47:00 am GMT-4  
Anonymous christopher hearns said...

Uhm, why would people desire film adaptations? Most are horrible because they don't account for the different medium, simply trying their best to tell the same story even though three hours of film is unlikely to be able to capture all the details of a book. Giving us something that likely makes no sense unless you've read the book in question.

Is this something all writers look for? To have their litterary works turned into films? Is that some kind of affirmation that you've made it?

And even then I'd have to think that since movies can't quite capture the time span that a book can, wouldn't short stories make better movies, simply because you can probably tell the entirety of a short story in the span of a movie (presuming we're talking about a standard film adaptation that doesn't take into account the different media).

Fri Jul 07, 05:46:00 pm GMT-4  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love it, Melbel! And I'm truly excited about The Bear Came over the Mountain. It's one of my favorite stories. And, how 'bout more details about your acting life?

Tricia (anonymous, again, until I get some PC bugs worked out)

Fri Jul 07, 09:25:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger MelBell said...

I think a lot of people are interested in film adaptations in order to see if their own sparked imagination matches that of the end product. I think it's rare when it does. And yes, I agree - most film adaptations are very poor.

Is this something all writers look for? Good lord, I hope not! And certainly not in Alice Munro's case. (I think perhaps I mistitled the blog post.) No doubt Munro "made it" ages ago. I just find it very odd that nobody's made a big Hollywood feature of any of her work yet.

And absolutely agree that short stories sometimes make the best films. Sadly, most filmmakers fail to see that, and would rather turn a terrific novel into a crappy film. (Exception: Francis Ford Coppola - the reason he started up in the first place was to seek out short stories that perhaps might have film potential.)

Thanks for comments Christopher.

Anne, Tricia...
My acting life was incredibly fun, but remarkably unspectacular. Maybe I'll post a wee about it in the future... :-)

Fri Jul 07, 11:44:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Patricia said...

Yes, tell us more about your filmography for sure, you always crack me and I know of one, more actually short stories that have been made into films, great films in fact, you never know, maybe it'll happen to you!!! and you can write in it and star in it!!


Fri Jul 07, 11:55:00 pm GMT-4  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i love it! ascerbic and almost naughty. You've got a great voice, Mel, looking forward to further posts.

Sun Jul 09, 06:29:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Andrew Tibbetts said...

"The Albanian Virgin" would make a great movie. It has disguises. And pistols! It rollicks. Atom Egoyan and Arsinee Khanjian, hello!

Mon Jul 10, 07:33:00 am GMT-4  

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