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European Cinema and the Short Story: From Maupassant to Munro – five online talks by Pasquale Iannone

posted on 05/05/23


Cinema’s ties to literature stretch back to the early silent era and even to this day, a significant number of all feature films produced can be described as adaptations of one literary form or another. While novel-to-film adaptations usually call for condensing, trimming and re-working to adhere to feature film length, the short story invites filmmakers to expand or combine in highly creative and imaginative ways.

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).

Register for the webinar series for £65


The talks 

1. Guy de Maupassant and Le Plaisir (1952) (27th July 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.

2. Italo Calvino and Renzo and Luciana (1962) (3rd August 2023)

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).

3. Daphne Du Maurier and Don’t Look Now (1973) (10th August 2023)

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.

4. Karen Blixen and Babette’s Feast (1987) (17th August 2023)

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. 

5. Alice Munro and Julieta (2016) (24th August 2023)

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.

Image: "05-31-1947_01828 Daphne du Maurier" by IISG is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

The speaker

Dr Pasquale Iannone

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.

Register for the webinar series for £65

Frequently asked questions

What methods of payment do you accept?

An electronic invoice will be sent to your e-mail address 1–3 working days after you have completed our registration form. Payment can be made online using AMEX, Apple Pay, Google Pay, MasterCard or Visa.

How do I purchase the webinar series as a gift?

Please contact us specifying how many subscriptions you would like and who they are for (we require their full name and e-mail address). We will invoice you directly, and after we have received your payment we will release the webinar joining instructions to your friend(s) or family member(s).

Can I purchase a single episode?

No, unfortunately not. The series must be purchased in full.

How do I join the webinar?

An e-mail confirmation will be sent to you after you have paid for your subscription, which includes your unique link for joining the webinar. Reminder e-mails will be sent to you one day and one hour before each event. We recommend that you download the Zoom software in advance of the first webinar.

Can I watch the live broadcast(s) on more than one device?

Only one device can be connected to the live broadcast(s) at any one time. If you wish to purchase a second subscription, please contact us.

What happens if I am unable to attend the live broadcast(s)? 

A recording will be uploaded to a dedicated webpage approximately two hours after the live broadcast. For copyright reasons, these recordings cannot be made available indefinitely; access is granted for eight weeks after the final live broadcast of the series.

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