The Aspern Papers
Text Cesare Cunaccia
Julien Landais, a young French video and filmmaker born in Angers in 1981, who has also set up his own production company Princeps Film, is about to bring to the big screen a novella set in the decadent Venice of the nineteenth century that is as extraordinary as it is complex. Based on the 1888 volume by American writer Henry James, The Aspern Papers revolves around an intricate sequence of events imbued with dark psychological and emotional undertones punctuated by a relentless pace and set against a romantic, gloomy yet fascinating, mysterious and scheming La Serenissima. Julien has just wrapped on the film, which was shot during one of the hottest August on record and on locations directly linked to James’ plot, as in Palazzo Soranzo-Cappello in Rio Marin or the currently still inhabited aristocratic palaces such as Palazzo Donà dalle Rose on Fondamente Nove. Shot on sync sound, the film is currently in its editing phase in London. It features a stellar cast, from the legendary Vanessa Redgrave in the role of Grand Dame Juliana Bordereau to Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Morton Vint and Joely Richardson playing Miss Tina. The rest of the cast enlists such names as Alice Aufray, Jon Kortajarena, who portrays Jeffrey Aspern, Nicolas Hau, Lois Robbins, Barbara Meier and the eclectic Morgane Polanski in the role of Valentina Colonna. There is also quite a remarkable cameo of Daphne Guinness. Producer Gabriela Bacher is joined by executive producers James Ivory – the unforgettable director of A Room with a view – and Charles-Henri de Lobkovicz. In charge of costume is Brigit Hutter though, on this note, it is worth also mentioning two excellent collaborations with Bulgari and Dolce & Gabbana. Production designer is the Italian Livia Borgognoni. «The Aspern Papers – commented Julien Landais, who had an active role in the adaption of Henry James’ novel having co-written the screenplay with Jean Pavas and Hannah Bhuiya – follows a formidable and intricate plot. A concentric construct. It is a story where obsessions are intertwined with manipulation, the melancholic sense of lost grandeur, the yearning and the oneiric projections of Byronic adventures». Perhaps the truest protagonist of the plot is Venice, with its transformative and dramatic nature, its pictorial shaded light, its labyrinthine structure, the fog and the most deceiving reflections on the canals’ water. The ideal backdrop for plots of passion and intrigue. Indeed, more than a city, Venice is after all ‘an immense collective apartment’ as defined by Henry James himself, who elected it as the set of some of his novels and spent there long periods of time, in particular at Palazzo Barbaro-Curtis on Canal Grande.