Wednesday, August 12, 2009

What can I even say?

Have any of you seen this?

David Mamet, renowned playwright, screenwriter, and director, famous for his filthy language, twisted syntax, and lack of interest in women and their lives, has been contracted (by Disney!) to make a new film version of The Diary of Anne Frank.

Where to begin? Well, first of all, as I said, Mamet has shown very little interest in the lives of women. (He did write the all-female Boston Marriage, about lesbians in the 19th Century, but that was more of a nasty little game than a serious exploration of anything.) Aren't there women who could write Frank's story? Or people who seem to find women interesting as more than ciphers?

Second, Mamet's language is full of evasions, deceit, circumlocutions, and of course obscenity. Isn't the point of Anne Frank's writing her beautiful simplicity of language and purpose? Where do Mamet's verbal curlicues come in?

And finally...well, I guess I just don't get Mamet. His verbal facility is fascinating. The way he shows the lies people tell, the games they play--lots of fun. But what's underneath? Many people find a deeper meaning there, but I've never seen it. What am I missing here?

So does anyone else agree that this is a colossal mismatch of writer and subject? Does anyone think this could work? Did I just imagine this whole thing?


DJ Chas said...

I think it could work, but I'm inclined to agree with you on this, Zev. Mamet is an odd choice and the fact that it's Disney seems even more twisted. Maybe someone read "The Wicked Son" and said, Aw, what the hell, why not?

I have no idea. I don't take him to task as harshly as you do here, but I understand your thinking and imagine MANY people feel the same way. I imagine the story, and his selection will generate plenty of hype and backlash if it hasn't already.

I think he's more than capable and may surprise some people. (Good writers will do that, from time to time) But he's certainly not a safe choice, and most likely not the best. He's a name and a talent, to be sure, however. Out of curiosity, do you have any names come to mind as better choices?

Mr. K said...

What's the problem, Zev? You see that diary? Anne Frank's diary brought in more than this blog. It made $970,000 last year. How much you make? You see, pal, that's who Anne Frank is, and your blog is nothing. Write women well? I don't give a shit. Good playwright? Fuck you! You think Ann Frank's diary is good? "Speed-the-Plow" is art, you cocksucker!
(w/apologies to Mamet and Alec Baldwin)

Zev Valancy said...

I've been thinking about people I'd like to see tackle this story on screen. Here are three:

Michael Chabon--yes, he's mostly a novelist, but he has written screenplays (Spiderman 2, which was excellent). Also, he has frequently discussed the Holocaust and the lives of Jews in his novels, and in a more nuanced way than Mamet. Also, he's wonderful.

Lynn Nottage--As "Ruined" shows, she's very good at taking what could be preachy issue stories and making them vibrant and interesting. And "Intimate Apparel" shows she knows from period pieces.

Tony Kushner--partially just to see the dust-up: some more conservative Jewish groups are not big fans of his stand on Israel. Also, though, his political engagement and glorious language might make for a story that goes outside of the attic.

Also, does anyone else find it ironic that Mamet said in his essay about converting to conservatism that people are essentially not good at heart is doing the story of a girl who said that she still believed people were good at heart?

Mr. K said...

Oh, so this seems to suggest some weirdness on Mamet's part:
10 years ago, he wrote an essay suggesting that Anne Frank's diary was really a comedy and should have been burned.
So, what are you really thinking, Mr. Mamet?