Monday, August 07, 2023

Jennifer Cody Epstein's "The Madwomen of Paris," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: The Madwomen of Paris: A Novel by Jennifer Cody Epstein.

The entry begins:
The Madwomen of Paris is a Gothic tale of hysteria, hypnosis, and theatrical spectacle set at the 19th century Salpêtrière asylum. Drawn from real—if often unbelievable—events, it follows two young women who must solve a murder mystery and escape a powerful (and possibly evil) doctor. The novel features scenes in which towering male medical figures (think Jean-Martin Charcot, Georges Gilles de la Tourette and Sigmund Freud) hypnotize female “hysterics” in front of rapt Parisian audiences, and would make for a pretty wild movie; not only in the challenging roles it would offer actors, but in the jarring relevance of its themes. To be honest, though, my first thought in sitting down to write this was not about actors I’d cast in the movie version. It was about who I’d cast as director.

And that—unquestionably—would be Greta Gerwig.

Ok, yeah. I did just see Barbie last weekend (along with the rest of the world), and left pretty much thinking Gerwig should direct every movie, ever made, about anything, from hereon in. But I was also—and completely unexpectedly—struck by just how much Barbie had in common with my book. Sure, one is about a busty doll in heels fighting to dismantle the patriarchy, and the other about traumatized young women in petticoats turning the tables on men who’ve dismissed them as hysterical, hypnotized them without consent and paraded them before a leering public. But in the end, both Barbie and Madwomen speak to the same, painfully enduring issues: the way women’s health is simultaneously ignored and fetishized. And the way society still uses terms like “hysteria” to demean and dismiss us. And, most of all, the ways in which men exert control over our bodies and behavior to achieve their own ends. Gerwig has already masterfully displayed her historical fiction creds in her brilliant 2019 reimagination of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, which also had some pointedly feminist undertones. But the fact that she turned Barbie into a feminist magnum opus for me makes her a shoo-in to adapt and direct The Madwomen of Paris, perhaps while also...[read on]
Learn more about the novel and author at Jennifer Cody Epstein's website.

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--Marshal Zeringue