This week, it is was officially announced that Luca Guadagnino would direct an adaptation of Bob Dylan’s 1975 album “Blood on the Tracks.” The script, written by Richard LaGravenese (“The Fisher King”), is a drama based on the album’s themes that follows characters throughout the ’70s. In an interview with IndieWire, Guadagnino talked about what drew him to the project, and why he wasn’t worried about doing justice to the source material.
“It is an idea of Rodrigo Teixeira, one of the producers of ‘Call Me By Your Name,’ whom I started to have a great relationship with,” said Guadagnino. “He said to me, ‘You know, I have the rights to make a movie out of ‘Blood on the Tracks’ by Bob Dylan. What do you think?’ And I found this concept very good because, as I’ve said many times, I don’t believe in originality in filmmaking. I think filmmaking is really a question of point of view.”
Guadagnino, whose remake of Dario Argento’s “Suspiria” is hitting theaters on October 26, is no stranger to adapting pre-existing source material. The director finds the idea that any film’s story could be “original” to be foolish, noting that every narrative can be traced back a canonical work centuries ago. The concept that authorship in film is based on a director having written his or her own original script is one he finds equally misguided.
“Cinema became all about if you wanted to become an auteur [it meant] someone writing a story,” said Guadagnino. “So, if you had your name written on the script, that made you an auteur, but I grew up with Hitchcock being an auteur and I think he’s never written one single script his whole entire life.”
In adapting “Suspiria,” a film the director has worshipped for decades, Guadagnino’s version is actually based on what he found Argento’s version to be lacking. Whereas Argento’s film is a hermetically sealed cinematic world, Guadagnino’s version draws from, and is grounded in, the historical events of Germany in 1977, when the original was made, while also exploring psychological elements and feminist themes that are the antithesis of Argento’s version. For Guadagnino, adapting source material is actually a way for a director to better assert control and his or her unique point-of-view.
“Stanley Kubrick never made an original movie,” said Guadagnino. “He always made a movie from source, and in doing that he made some of the most strikingly personal and unique films of his generation.”
Guadagnino pointed to one of his favorite Kubrick films, “Barry Lyndon,” which is based on a book by William Makepeace Thackeray as an example. “I love the book, but the movie it’s Kubrick, it’s not an illustration of Thackeray,” said Guadagnino. “I understood that Kubrick was not interested in original stories [based on] the fact he needed control. And I think having that control in your hands, the possibly of really dealing with something that exists and working around it and really making something unsentimental about it, it frees you, instead of being bound by the originality of your story, which is a completely gratuitous element.”
That element of control, combined with having enough time to properly prepare, is even more important to Guadagnino than if he likes the source material. In the case of his 2015 film “A Bigger Splash,” it was a remake of Jacques Deray’s 1969 film “La Piscine” which he found to be “quite lame.”
“The movie came out [when] Godard, Truffaut and great filmmakers were dealing with life in the streets, and this guy came on board [to make] a little bourgeoisie story about [actors] Alain Delon and Romy Schneider,” said Guadagnino. “I said yes because I spoke to my friend at StudioCanal, I said, ‘I [will] do it only if it’s going to happen in Pantelleria [an Italian island and comune in the Strait of Sicily], it deals with rock ‘n roll people, I direct and produce.’ And they said yes to all three things, [so I] said, ‘cool, let’s do it.'”
In the case of “Blood on the Tracks,” the album means a great deal to the director, while Teixeira is a producer and collaborator who Guadagnino said he has come to implicitly trust. Nonetheless, Guadagnino still tested the limits of his ability to shape material with a fairly big request that, in all likelihood, could have torpedoed his chances of taking on the project.
“I had been granted by Rodrigo, who is a Renaissance Man, the freedom to say something [that] may have sounded provocative and gratuitous like, ‘I’ll do it only if Richard LaGravenese is eager to be the writer,'” said Guadagnino. “I didn’t know Richard, I knew him from his movies. I was wowed by his career, and he said, ‘Yes.’ So there was a real possibility the thing would never happen because maybe Richard was going to say, ‘No, I’m not interested.'”
“Suspiria” opens in New York and Los Angeles on October 26, then nationwide on November 2.