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Oxford Screens Franco Adaptation of Faulkner (With Video)

Premiere included Q&A with producers and introduction of local cast members.



“My mother is a fish.”

It was a heck of a big-screen debut for young Brady Permenter, who, as Vardaman Bundren, got to utter Faulkner’s immortal words. And a packed house at the Lyric Theatre in Oxford gave Permenter a big ovation for it.

The Oxford Film Festival team hosted the Mississippi premiere of James Franco’s As I Lay Dying last night with special guests producer Lee Caplin and executive producer Heidi Jo Markel at the Lyric Theatre in Oxford. The audience was treated to a screening of the film, followed by a Q&A with Caplin and Markel and the opportunity to meet local cast members, including Permenter, who talked about their experiences making the film. Caplin spoke about Franco’s creative choices and the use of split-screen scenes to enable the film to tell more of the story and its characters’ perspectives.

Franco’s ambitious undertaking works quite well, eschewing Hollywoodizing (bastardizing) Faulkner’s vision. Caplin said Faulkner once told him that not all books can be made into movies, but Franco certainly has given As I Lay Dying its best shot. In an age of movies selling tickets with zombies rising from the grave, Addie Bundren stays very dead. As she smells worse and worse, the Bundren clan battles adversity not only in the forms of the elements and bad luck but in their own dysfunction, en route to Jefferson to lower Addie into a plot with her ancestors.

Filmed in Mississippi in 2012, the film is an adaptation of the William Faulkner novel of the same title. It stars James Franco as Darl Bundren, Logan Marshall-Green as Jewel Bundren, Danny McBride as Vernon Tull, Tim Blake Nelson as Anse Bundren, Beth Grant as Addie Bundren, Jim Parrack as Cash Bundren, Jesse Heiman as Jody and Scott Haze as Skeet MacGowan.

The New York Times recently wrote that Franco has “accomplished something serious and worthwhile.” The script was written by Franco with Matt Rager. Local cast members spoke about Franco’s passion for the story, noting that he carried with him on the set the actual novel—not the screenplay—to make sure details were true to Faulkner’s.

Producer Lee Caplin and executive producer Heidi Jo Markel engage in a Q&A after the screening. As a boy, Caplin knew Faulkner and presently is the executor of the Faulkner estate.
Producer Lee Caplin and executive producer Heidi Jo Markel engage in a Q&A after the screening. As a boy, Caplin knew Faulkner and presently is the executor of the Faulkner estate.

The multi-voiced story is about a family on an errand to haul the dead body of one of its members through rough Mississippi terrain in the 1930s. Written while working at the power plant at the University of Mississippi, Faulkner wrote the novel in six weeks and is consistently ranked among the top novels ever written. The story is set in fictional Yoknapatawpha County, based on Faulkner’s real home, Lafayette County.

The film premiered at Cannes Film Festival in May and has been seen in New York and Los Angeles.

The Lyric is perhaps best known as the place where William Faulkner world-premiered Intruder in the Dust in 1949 and has since been the home of many a movie before transitioning to an office building and then to a large-scale music venue and occasional movie house. The As I Lay Dying premiere served as a fundraiser for the Oxford Film Festival, which is set for February 6 to 9, 2014.

— Tad Wilkes, tad.wilkes@hottytoddy.com

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