In the Works: Wes, Pedro, and More

Lyna Khoudri, Bill Murray, and Elisabeth Moss in Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch (2020)

Ennui-sur-Blasé is the name of the fictional twentieth-century French city where Arthur Howitzer, Jr., the editor of an American magazine played by Bill Murray, is putting together a collection of stories for the final issue. The weekly’s title is also the title of Wes Anderson’s forthcoming film, The French Dispatch, due in theaters on July 24. Searchlight Pictures released a trailer today, following yesterday’s unveiling of the poster and a set of ten stills. “The movie has a really rich cast of characters and is really dense in terms of storytelling, so the poster also has a lot going on to reflect that,” designer Erica Dorn tells It’s Nice That’s Jenny Brewer. Besides Murray, that rich cast includes Benicio del Toro, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton, Léa Seydoux, Frances McDormand, Timothée Chalamet, Lyna Khoudri, Jeffrey Wright, Mathieu Amalric, Stephen Park, and Owen Wilson.

Dorn, who worked with Anderson on Isle of Dogs (2018), tells Brewer that Spanish designer Javi Aznarez has created a series of covers for The French Dispatch, “and when Wes decided that the poster should also look like one of the covers, of course it had to be Javi who did the illustrations.” The magazine, which in the world of the film began as a Sunday supplement to the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun, was inspired by the New Yorker, which Anderson has been avidly reading since he was a teen. According to the New Yorker itself, he’s “even amassed a vast collection of bound volumes of the magazine, going back to the 1940s.”

Tilda Swinton, in the meantime, is also lined up for one of two projects that Pedro Almodóvar told IndieWire’s Eric Kohn about when they met up at the Oscars on Sunday. She’ll star in a short film running fifteen minutes or so, an adaptation of Jean Cocteau’s one-act play The Human Voice, in which a woman talks with her lover over the phone one last time. Swinton is “so open, so intelligent,” says Almodóvar. “In the rehearsal, we understood each other very closely.” The film, which will run around fifteen minutes and should roll out during this fall’s festival season, will be Almodóvar’s first in English. It will serve as a sort of practice run for his first feature in English, which he hopes to begin shooting before the end of the year. That one will be based on a collection of short stories, A Manual for Cleaning Women, by one of Almodóvar’s favorite writers, Lucia Berlin.

Reviewing the book for the New York Times in 2015, Ruth Franklin wrote that “Berlin’s stories are the kind a woman in a Tom Waits song might tell a man she’s just met during a long humid night spent drinking in a parking lot. They take place in the ragged borderlands on the outermost fringes of American life: West Texas (‘the Holy Land,’ one character calls it), inner-city Albuquerque, the slums of Oakland—all dust and buses and late-night laundromats.” Almodóvar tells Kohn: “This is a real whim for me.”

A new adaptation of George Gershwin’s classic American opera Porgy and Bess to be directed by Dee Rees is no whim at all. Rees’s first two features, Pariah (2011) and Mudbound (2017), were among the best-reviewed films of their respective years, but her adaptation of Joan Didion’s novel The Last Thing He Wanted, cowritten with Marco Villalobos, was met with lukewarm reviews when it premiered at Sundance last month. “Porgy and Bess is at its core, a love story,” says Rees in a report from Deadline’s Mike Fleming Jr. “So I’m very excited to take on the challenge of this highly venerated, iconic material and lift the architecture of this unlikely love story and re-site it at a place and moment of resistance.”

There’s word today of another adaptation from Variety’s Justin Kroll. Maggie Gyllenhaal will make her directorial debut with The Lost Daughter, based on the novel by Elena Ferrante, and Olivia Colman, Dakota Johnson, Jessie Buckley, and Peter Sarsgaard have signed on to star. “Can a work of consequence really be constructed around an event no more momentous than a toddler’s loss of a doll?” asked Barry Schwabsky in his 2017 review of the book for Hyperallergic. “At the end, I find myself gulping for air.”

Let’s wrap with brief mentions of two projects we know very little about so far but are definitely worth noting nonetheless. Deadline’s Andreas Wiseman reports that Asghar Farhadi (A Separation) will begin shooting A Hero in Iran this summer, and he’ll be “working with well-known Iranian actors who haven’t worked with him before.” All that Memento Films will tell Wiseman at the moment is that the screenplay “tackles many contemporary issues of our modern societies.” And Deadline’s Amanda N’Duka reports that David O. Russell has written a new feature about which we know nothing other than that he’ll be working with Margot Robbie for the first time and reuniting Christian Bale, who starred in Russell’s The Fighter (2010) and American Hustle (2013).

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