Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Jennifer Epstein's "The Painter from Shanghai," the movie

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: The Painter from Shanghai by Jennifer Cody Epstein.

The entry begins:
I’m told that my novel could be a great movie, and I must say I agree. Its settings (1920’s Shanghai and Paris) characters (cruel madams, tortured artists, dashing revolutionaries) and Pan’s own, lush artwork would, if properly handled, make for a visual feast. Possibly a musical one too; or so the Taiwan Philharmonic seemed to think when it inquired about obtaining the opera rights.... Renée Fleming as Chinese prostitute-turned-post-Impressionist, anyone?

But that’s for another blog. This one’s about movies; the rights of which (to date) remain free in Painter’s case. Which isn’t so surprising: as Memoirs of a Geisha demonstrated “exotic” period films are both pricey and risky. Rob Marshall’s glittering bellyflop also neatly illustrated the pitfalls of poor casting and vision (Chinese actresses, playing Japanese geisha, speaking-- English?) Though it did mark progress from 1937’s The Good Earth, in which Paul Muni (in yellowface) plays a Chinese farmer, and Luise Rainer his heavily-made-up wife. To his credit, Irving Thalberg did want Chinese actors in these roles. But the era’s race biases (and in particular the Hays Code, which banned depictions of interethnic marriage) led MGM to refuse.

Happily, a filmic Painter wouldn’t face such hurdles, and could learn from Memoirs’ mistakes. Lesson #1:...[read on]
Jennifer Cody Epstein has written for Self, the Wall Street Journal, and the Chicago Tribune. She has published short fiction in several journals and was a finalist in a Glimmer Train fiction contest.

Learn more about The Painter from Shanghai and its author at Jennifer Cody Epstein's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Painter from Shanghai.

My Book, The Movie: The Painter from Shanghai.

--Marshal Zeringue