by Josh Forward
Derek Cianfrance, the man who made cinema fans everyway sit bolt upright with excitement at his stunning debut Blue Valentine is about to release his third feature The Light Between Oceans. Both films, and his second, the multi-generation epic The Place Beyond the Pines, show his preoccupation with the dark intricacies of doomed romances and families pouring out into gripping cinema. His talent with actors is evident again: Reviews are mixed to positive for the film overall, but leads Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander, along with supporting player Rachel Weisz are all solidly praised.
Opening wide and based on a popular novel, this is Cianfrance's first dalliance with what could be considered a "mainstream" film. As much as his cinematic fascination with the mucky and the unflinching darkness in human nature can be mainstream at least. But it does have a more traditional narrative and sweeping landscapes to match. The words "sentimental" and "soap opera" are even being bandied around.
His next project, announced this week, may prove a progression of this trajectory. It's another literary adaptation, this time of S.C. Gwynne’s “Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History". The scale of the story is epic, and it could be his biggest movie yet. Although this is a story without tortured lovers (at least as its driving force), when Cianfrance discusses it, it still sounds firmly in his wheelhouse...
The passing of the torch, passing of pain, and decisions, and the ripple effect of decisions".
The same quote could easily be said about The Place Beyond the Pines.
This film has taken a long journey to screen. A screenplay based on the same book was developed in 2010 by Diana Ossana and Larry McMurtry, the Oscar winning screenwriters of Brokeback Mountain. This would have been their first film since that masterpiece in 2005, but this adaptation appears to have nothing to do with this development, with the script written by Cianfrance himself with his Pines co-writer Darius Marder over the last three years. It's a shame we won't see another script yet from current one hit wonders McMurty and Ossana, but Cianfrance has certainly earned his auteur stripes and screenwriting chops.
No actors have been attached yet, but cross all fingers and toes that some great Native American actors find representation on our screens.