Sunday, January 5, 2020

Five NYC-set novels that became NYC-set films

Christian Blauvelt is an entertainment and culture journalist, who serves as the managing editor of leading film and TV industry website IndieWire. He regularly appears on CBS New York to give previews of upcoming films and awards season analysis; has hosted films on Turner Classic Movies; and has presented at South by Southwest and San Diego Comic-Con. Blauvelt is the author of books including Star Wars Made Easy and Cinematic Cities: New York - The Big Apple on the Big Screen. He lives in New York City.

At Book Marks he shared, with Jane Ciabattari, five NYC-set novels that became NYC-set films, including:
If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin

Published in 1974 but urgent enough to have come out in 2019, it was turned into a stunning feature film by Barry Jenkins released last year—filmed entirely on location in Harlem. One of its actors, Brian Tyree Henry, lived just 10 blocks away from the main filming site and would just walk to the set every day.

JC: Beale Street is the only Baldwin novel with a female narrator, Tish, and its power evolves from her love for her boyfriend Fonny, who is sent to prison on false rape charges just as she discovers she’s pregnant. How do you think the flashbacks to their earlier family connections help make this love story work?

CB: Baldwin’s use of flashbacks to establish the family connections between his doomed lovers, Tish and Fonny, who are separated when he’s falsely accused of rape, situates them in the rich context of their community and heritage—but also the Sisyphean existence, generation after generation, of an African-American family trying to live and love when everything is rigged against them by a racist society determined to crush their spirit. That a love like that between Tish and Fonny can exist at all under American apartheid is an act of resistance. But no matter how much you try to transcend, the scars accumulated along the way endure, something Jenkins’ captures beautifully in Henry’s one real scene during the film, in which he, in a long single-take soliloquy, shifts from jolly reveler to a haunted ex-con talking about how he can never escape his past.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue