Jane Campion May Direct an Adaptation of The Flamethrowers. This is Great News.

Slate's Culture Blog
May 12 2014 12:41 PM

Jane Campion May Direct an Adaptation of The Flamethrowers. This is Great News.

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According to a feature published Sunday in the Guardian, New Zealand-born director and Oscar-winning screenwriter Jane Campion is “on the verge of closing a deal” to direct the film version of The Flamethrowers, the second novel from American author Rachel Kushner.

Published last year, the book follows motorcycle-riding visual artist Reno as she negotiates the 1970s New York City art scene, with chapters that flash back to early Futurists in Italy. A finalist for the National Book Award, The Flamethrowers enjoyed an overwhelmingly positive response from reviewers, even igniting a bit of a lit-crit kerfuffle about the way men and women, respectively, reacted to the book.

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Campion is the perfect director for the project. She has a long history of telling women’s stories, from Sweetie and The Piano to the 2013 Sundance miniseries Top of the Lake, which Campion co-wrote with Gerard Lee and co-directed with Garth Davis. Top of the Lake centers on a female detective investigating the case of a pregnant 12-year-old girl who has gone missing in their small New Zealand town. In many ways, the show is about a woman doing a job typically assigned to men and confronting the sexism of a male-dominated culture. Like HBO’s True Detective, the show dealt with sexual violence, but, as New Yorker TV critic Emily Nussbaum pointed out, where True Detective used victims of such violence as “symbols of the universe’s unspeakable horror,” Campion’s series was truly about the survivors of sexual abuse.

All of which is to say that Campion’s nuanced approach to women’s stories wonderfully suits The Flamethrowers, which is largely told from Reno’s perspective. “Filmmaking is not about whether you're a man or a woman; it's about sensitivity and hard work and really loving what you do,” Campion told the Guardian. “But women are going to tell different stories—there would be many more stories in the world if women were making more films.” Both Kushner and Campion have already proven they’re more than capable of telling complex and intelligent and entertaining stories about women. Fingers crossed that they get to tell this story together.

Lara Zarum is a graduate student in the Cultural Reporting and Criticism program at NYU. She writes a regular TV column for the Toronto magazine the Grid.

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