posted on 05/05/23
This series of richly-illustrated talks will focus on five acknowledged masters of the short story, chosen for their variety of literary styles and registers. From the 19th-century naturalism of Guy de Maupassant to the 1970s gothic of Daphne du Maurier, we will explore the ways in which key works have been adapted for the big screen by a selection of distinctive and revered European filmmakers.
They take place every Thursday from 27th July to 24th August 2023 at 4.30pm (GMT +1) and, including Q&A, will probably last an hour. They are available for viewing for eight weeks after the last episode is streamed (19th October 2023).
One of the most influential short story writers, Maupassant tackled many different subjects and settings – among them the tumult of the Franco-Prussian war, rural idylls and the lives of city clerks. His stories have been adapted by filmmakers including Jean Renoir, Luis Buñuel and Max Ophüls. In this first talk, we will explore Ophüls’ supremely elegant and stylistically bold episode film Le Plaisir, an adaptation of three individual Maupassant stories, all set in 19th-century France.
2023 marks the centenary of Cuban-born Italian writer Italo Calvino, best known for his fable-like trilogy of novels Our Ancestors (1952–59) and his playful, reflexive 1979 novel If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller. Described by Gore Vidal as ‘the only great writer of my time’, Calvino wrote many short stories throughout his near four-decade long literary career. This talk will discuss ‘The Adventures of a Married Couple’, his 1958 story about two young newlyweds and its film adaptation Renzo and Luciana (Mario Monicelli, 1962).
Daphne Du Maurier was the writer behind Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca and The Birds – two of the master of suspense’s most popular films. Best known for her gothic-inflected romantic novels, Du Maurier also wrote many stories whose register was often far darker and macabre than her longer fiction. The subject for this talk is one of her later works – ‘Don’t Look Now’ (1971) – which tells of a British couple dealing with grief in a wintry Venice – and the brilliantly sinister 1973 screen version directed by Nicolas Roeg, starring Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland.
Danish author Karen Blixen’s most famous work is Out of Africa, her 1937 memoir which reflected on her life as a coffee farmer in Kenya between the mid-1910s and the early 1930s. The book was adapted into an Oscar-winning film in 1985, in which Blixen was played by Meryl Streep. Several of Blixen’s short stories have also been adapted for the screen. Often fantastical in tone, these include The Immortal Story (Orson Welles, 1958) and Babette’s Feast (Gabriel Axel, 1987). The latter tale, of a French chef fleeing from the Paris Commune who arrives in Jutland to work for two elderly, puritanical sisters, is the focus of this talk.
When Alice Munro won the 2013 Nobel Prize for Literature, the awarding panel noted how in the Canadian writer’s work, ‘a brief short story can often cover decades, summarising a life, as she moves deftly between different periods. No wonder [she] is often able to say more in 30 pages than an ordinary novelist is capable of in 300’. A great number of Munro’s stories tell of small-town Canadian life and a handful have been adapted for cinema, including, most recently, Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar’s Julieta. The film takes three stories by Munro from her 2004 collection Runaway, combines them into one narrative and shifts the action to Spain.
Lecturer in Film Studies at the University of Edinburgh. His research interests include European cinema, Film Adaptation, Film Aesthetics and Film Sound. An experienced arts broadcaster, he regularly contributes to BBC Radio. His film writing has appeared in Sight & Sound and Senses of Cinema, while his film curation work includes seasons at BFI Southbank, such as the 2020 Federico Fellini retrospective. Between 2018 and 2022, he was programmer of Scotland’s Italian Film Festival.
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