The Guardian: New Elena Ferrante-inspired street art to be unveiled in Naples

On The Guardian 

Sophia Seymour – Dec 12, 2018

Elena Ferrante fever spread across the globe with the release of the author’s Neapolitan novels, but it took the success of the acclaimed TV adaptation, My Brilliant Friend, for the hype to come full circle back to Rione Luzzatti, the neighbourhood east of the city centre where the bildungsroman unfurls.

As the eight-episode series, which ended last night, gripped viewers, locals felt compelled to harness the attention Ferrante has brought to their once-disregarded corner of Naples. In keeping with the Neapolitan tradition of street art, a mural is to grace the walls of the neighbourhood’s fascist-era public library, Biblioteca Andreoli, behind the central station.

The mural is to be completed this week by Eduardo Castaldo, the photographer for the HBO and Rai Fiction adaptation. Castaldo uses blown-up cutouts of the photographs he took of the show’s stars on set, spliced into sections and pasted onto shadowy silhouettes on the library walls. Flanking the entrance to the library and below a painted “Biblioteca Popolare” sign, figures of the book’s two main characters, friends Lila Cerullo and Lenù Greco, their elementary school teacher, Maestra Oliviero, and the librarian, Maestro Ferraro, will decorate the otherwise austere building.

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Romper: When Is Season 2 Of ‘My Brilliant Friend’? Another Chapter Of The Neapolitan Novels Is Coming To HBO

On Romper

Becca Bleznak – Dec 12, 2018

A second season of the well-regarded series My Brilliant Friend has been ordered. The show, which airs on HBO in the U.S., was originally billed as an eight-episode miniseries based on the novel of the same name. However, as soon as word broke that the bestselling book was being made into a TV series, there was speculation that it could be expanded. Now that it’s official, when is Season 2 of My Brilliant Friend set to premiere?

The first season aired on HBO for consecutive days (Sunday and Monday) starting Nov. 18, with the final episode on Dec. 10. On Dec. 4, The Hollywood Reporter announced that Season 2 had been green lit, quoting the network’s president of programming, Casey Bloys, who said, “We’re thrilled that Elena Ferrante’s epic story has resonated so powerfully with viewers and critics, and we look forward to the continuing journey of Elena and Lila.”

As you’ll recall, Season 1 depicts the ever-changing friendship of two girls in a small town outside Naples, Italy, beginning with their first adventure as primary age children. Over the course of My Brilliant Friend, Elena and Lila compete when it comes to education, boys, and pretty much anything else that comes between them. But their bond is strong, though it’s tested in the first season finale.

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The Paris Review: Staff Picks: Whisky Priests, World’s End, and Brilliant Friends

On The Paris Review

Rhian Sasseen – Dec 7, 2018 

I tend to be suspicious of film and television adaptations of my favorite books. This might stem from a kind of jealousy—the slow unraveling of a narrative or the exact right word used for the exact right idea are part of the pleasures of literature, but sometimes, as a writer, I wish I could borrow from film the immediacy of a jump cut or image. So it was with some apprehension that I began to watch My Brilliant Friend, HBO’s new adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels. Would this first season—eight episodes in total, dedicated entirely to portraying the first novel in the series—water down the source material, with its unflinching portrayal of the violence and poverty of postwar Naples and the simultaneous terror and joy of girlhood and female friendship? After devouring the first few episodes this past weekend, I can assure you that, so far, it does not. Rather, this is the rare adaptation that both hews closely to its source material and yet manages to escape any stiltedness. And while Ferrante’s novels remain first in my heart, there are moments in the television series—the visual shock of a red menstrual stain amid the otherwise muted color palette—that might work even better on film.

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Vice: ‘My Brilliant Friend’ Is a Magical Book and a Mediocre HBO TV Show

It’s gorgeous and well-acted, but loses the emotional impact of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels.

On Vice

Nicole Clark – Dec 8, 2018

For years, Elena Ferrante’s true identity has remained a mystery, even as she wrote prolifically and gained international renown as the author of the Neapolitan novels—a series famous for its transcendent insight into lifelong female friendship. The quartet of books traces the relationship between Elena Greco and Lila Cerullo and is set in 1950s Naples, a city crawling with abuse of all forms: intimate partner violence, child abuse, sexual assault, and street beatings to name a few. By all accounts, it’s profoundly difficult for a young girl to flourish in that environment. This is what makes the perspective of the Neapolitan novels so powerful: They dare to center womanhood in a time period that was toxically misogynistic.

Today, the series is considered a masterpiece of contemporary literature, with more than 10 million copies sold in more than 40 countries. And Ferrante’s success has motivated a number of pointed attempts at uncovering who she really is. Most famously, in 2016, Italian journalist Claudio Gatti tried to pin her down as a Roman translator named Anita Raja. This rumor was never confirmed, but became a literary scandal that further propelled the books’ already flourishing sales. Ferrante’s identity is still known only by her publisher, Edizioni E/O. The rest of us only know her pen name. This mystery, paired with the incredible critical reception of her novels, has given Ferrante an almost godlike status among fans and in literary circles.

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Variety: IQIYI Snaps up Hit Drama ‘My Brilliant Friend’ for China

On Variety

Patrick Frater – Dec 6, 2018

Chinese streaming giant, iQIYI has snapped up China rights to acclaimed European drama series “My Brilliant Friend.”

The show is based on the first of a series of books by Elena Ferrante, set in a dangerous and fascinating Naples, and spanning a period over 60 years. It was presented by HBO(U.S.), and Italy’s Rai Fiction and Timvision, and began airing from Nov. 18.

The series is produced by Lorenzo Mieli and Mario Gianani for Wildside, and by Domenico Procacci for Fandango, in collaboration with Rai Fiction, Timvision and HBOEntertainment, in co-production with Umedia. All the episodes are directed by Saverio Costanzo. The story and screenplays are by Ferrante, Francesco Piccolo, Laura Paolucci and Costanzo. Paolo Sorrentino and Jennifer Schuur are the executive producers.

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Page Six: Maggie Gyllenhaal is ready to be a director

On Page Six

Dec 8, 2018

Maggie Gyllenhaal who stars in the hot Netflix film “The Kindergarten Teacher,” is working on her directing debut.

“I’m adapting an Elena Ferrante novel called ‘The Lost Daughter,’ ” she said during a “Kindergarten Teacher” Q&A at the Hotel Plaza Athenée.

“I actually just finished the second draft of the adaptation. I’m still working on it, but I’m just now starting to think about the elements of directing it.”

She admitted: “I feel actually sometimes terrified about the idea of directing. But I also think I have to.”

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WBUR: With ‘My Brilliant Friend,’ TV Advances Its Case For A New Form Of Brilliance


Erin Trahan – Nov 16, 2018

Women in movies rarely turn out to be Keyser Söze or craft the impossible diamond heist. If women do pop up as “masterminds” they tend to be demonized (“Misery,” “Fatal Attraction”) or come in second (“Ocean’s 8,” “Ghostbusters” round two). Occasionally women’s genius is used as a shocking plot twist. OMG, a woman spy? I never saw that coming!

Meanwhile, television has become a slightly more forgiving and fertile ground for brilliant women. Because the serial form favors character and relationship development, even leads in procedural crime dramas like “The Killing” or “The Fall” have the chance to craft memorable roles. Those characters play off male partners, like Claire Underwood does in “House of Cards,” but they’re among a growing rank of cunning women on TV.

Punishment for “craziness” still lingers (can we please cut Carrie Mathison some slack?) but an exciting trend that unites a slew of dissimilar shows has been emerging: Their lead characters’ braininess drives the plot. In “Damages” and “Revenge,” two shows from earlier in the decade, shrewd women exchange reins, while in the still-running “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” one woman attempts to harness her nimble mind on and off the comedic stage. (Fingers crossed she stays sane.)

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The New York Times: Searching for Love and Money in ‘My Brilliant Friend’

On The New York Times

Aisha HarrisJoshua Barone and Natalie Shutler – Dec 4, 2018

This conversation includes spoilers for the first six episodes of “My Brilliant Friend.”

Growing up in a violent Neapolitan neighborhood, Lila and Lenù weren’t afforded much childhood innocence, but any they had is definitely gone by the end of the sixth episode of HBO’s adaptation of “My Brilliant Friend.” This week’s episodes saw Lenù tormented by puberty and school before heading off for sun and new experiences on the island of Ischia. Lila, meanwhile, is embedding herself deeper into the neighborhood, designing shoes with her brother and juggling the advances of the aggressive Marcello Solara.

This week, Joshua Barone and Aisha Harris, editors on the Culture desk, and Natalie Shutler, an editor on the Styles desk, discuss the fifth and sixth episodes. You can read our discussion of the first two episodes here, the third and fourth here and the Times review of the show here.

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Vanity Fair: My Brilliant Friend: A Summer on the Beach—Without Lila

In Episode 6, Elena discovers herself by the sea.

On Vanity Fair

Sonia Saraiya – Dec 3, 2018

We’ll be recapping each episode of My Brilliant Friend. This recap is written by someone who has read (and loved) the original books, but there will be no spoilers for future plot points. New episodes are airing Sunday and Monday nights, through December 10.

The pages spent on Ischia in My Brilliant Friend, the book, are a bit tiresome. But on screen, the value of Elena’s (Margherita Mazzucco) time on the sunlit isle is immediately apparent. The claustrophobic rione, with its color-leached grays and browns, is a universe away from the turquoise water and verdant slopes of Ischia, an island within the city limits of Naples. Elena’s hair lightens; her acne disappears; her skin glows from the sun. In the time between when Elena first goes swimming and when the English visitors leave, presumably a few weeks later, Elena is so altered that at first I thought Mazzucco had been re-cast.

Maestra Oliviero (Dora Romano) presses Elena’s family to send her away to Ischia because of her prejudice against the neighborhood; the more promise Elena demonstrates at school, the more Oliviero feels the need to safeguard her from the “bad influences” of her childhood home. But although Ischia is a haven of sorts—a vacation from the claustrophobic power struggles of the neighborhood, as well as the judgmental eye of her mother—it’s still subject to the brutal hierarchies of Rione Luzzatti. Elena is glad to see the Sarratore family, and especially glad for the opportunity to spend time with Nino (Francesco Serpico). But her joy masks the awkwardness of her position—her role as both the hired help and a competent classmate, and her position as both a girl to be parented and one to be desired. The episode illuminates both the crystalline beauty of her first time living alone by the sea and the creeping dread of her vulnerability.

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Vulture: My Brilliant Friend and the Relatable Horror of Elena’s Zits

On Vulture

Hillary Kelly – Dec 5, 2018

The “pimple on prom night” trope in books and movies always struck me as absurd in its tiny scope. One pimple isn’t a cause for concern. A pustulent Pleiades roaming across your cheeks, on the other hand, is the stuff of a full-blown identity crisis, especially since — as anyone who has ever suffered, and I mean suffered, from acne knows — with every outbreak your hands will magnetically fly up to gently stroke the crusts and potboilers forming on your skin, thus spreading the contagion and drawing out the agony. A pimple is an annoyance. Acne is a curse.

Which is why when Elena Greco — perennial sidekick to her clear-faced best friend Lila, even in her own narrative — emerged onscreen in the third episode of My Brilliant Friend as a teenager with clusters of zits wandering across her jawline and forehead, I let out a small mental cheer. A heroine, onscreen, with acne and all its attendant anxieties. That’s one small step for pimples, one giant leap for teenage-kind.

The Elena of Ferrante’s novels is afflicted with zit parades as well. Her skin, she explains, was “spoiled: on my forehead, my chin, and around my jaws, archipelagos of reddish swellings multiplied, then turned purple, finally developed yellowish tips.” She tries, like we all do, to rid herself of the pimples by popping them, but her face is “only more inflamed.” More and more crowd her face. Until the magic of the Ischian sun clears her skin to the point where Elena doesn’t even mention its former state. “I looked at myself in the mirror and I also marveled: the sun had made me a shining blonde, but my face, my arms, my legs, were as if painted with deep gold.”

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Vulture: My Brilliant Friend Recap: La Isla Bonita

On Vulture

Hillary Kelly – Dec 3, 2018

Finally, the sun! For five long episodes Elena’s skin appeared naturally pallid — like a life spent in a dusty Neapolitan apartment complex, head stuck in a book, was only coincidental to her face’s grayish tinge and the slashes of red under her eyes. But, if you’ll pardon about a dozen fashion-magazine cliches, Elena’s new tan gives her a fresh-faced glow. Her eyes suddenly pop. Her pimple-bedeviled skin clears right up. She’s really nailing that whole no-makeup makeup look.

The charm of Ischia is evident from the first moments we see it. It’s a place that was designed to take up residence on bucket lists. Towering stone houses are built right into the cliffs. Water laps right up against the streets leading to the port. Seemingly every window offers a view of the azure Mediterranean, and if there’s ever crappy weather, well, it’s taken its own vacation. There are already Elena Ferrante tours that circle through the island; after the TV series, they should expect a boom.

But the biggest change to Elena during her summer with the sweet, charming Nella — a woman who embodies so many of my own Italian nonna’s characteristics that I wanted to reach through the screen and wrap my arms around her bright, florid smock of a housedress — isn’t simply brought on by the sun. The sun surely shines just as frequently on Naples, which is just a short ferry-ride away from Ischia. It’s the independence, the remove from the grubby halls of her apartment building and the vicious neighborhood feuds, the distance from her mother’s looming presence and, especially, Lila’s towering brilliance and magnetism. It’s apparent from the first moments (can you imagine most 14-year-olds today being permitted to leave their hometown for the first time ever, alone, and make their way to a stranger’s house?) as she climbs the hill to Nella’s pensione, suitcase in hand, that Ischia will work as a tonic on Elena’s young but harried nerves.

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The AV Club: If only the sting of young love was My Brilliant Friend’s sole source of pain

On The AV Club

Allison Shoemaker – Dec 5, 2018

Lenú sits alone on the beach, in the dark. The air is warm, the breeze off the ocean cool and sweet. The sand has cooled down, slightly damp to the touch; she burrows her heels and wiggles her fingers, and the grains make room. The waves crash, soft but relentless, a welcome hum that ensures, just as the darkness does, that she feels properly alone, unobserved, unheard. She’s free to cry as though no one will ever know, and in fact, no one will. The breeze whips her hair and the hem of her skirt, and she cries, and the cry is a relief, a blessing. Her 15-year-old heart is a powerful muscle, and it aches beautifully. It stirs up a longing, terrible and marvelous.

The sand was cold, gray-black in the moonlight, the sea scarcely breathed. There was not a living soul and I began to weep with loneliness…. What signs did I carry, what fate? I thought of the neighborhood as a whirlpool from which any attempt at escape was an illusion. Then I heard the rustle of sand, I turned, I saw the shadow of Nino.

In a better world, this review would center on how acutely Saverio Costanzo, Elena Ferrante, and Margherita Mazzucco communicate the almost unbearable teenaged pang of loving someone who doesn’t love you back. It would praise that scene, and see all else through the lens of gorgeous, dreadful young love. That it cannot do so is not a failing on the part of My Brilliant Friend. It’s a failing of the way things are. That scene, with Lenú on the beach, rings so true that it makes hearts much older than 15 wring with just a touch of that same kind of longing. But that’s only one scene. There are others, and they’re every bit as honest as that cry on the beach.

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Bustle: The Sexual Violence In ‘My Brilliant Friend’ Is True-To-Life & The Novels, But It’s Not Easy To Stomach Week To Week

On Bustle

Rebecca Patton – Dec 4, 2018

Spoilers ahead for My Brilliant Friend Episodes 5 and 6. Elena (Margherita Mazzucco) and Lila (Gaia Girace) are growing up, and with that comes attention from men. And while it’s been obvious from the beginning that women don’t have much agency in the adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s Neopolitan novels, the sexual assault in My Brilliant Friend Episodes 6 is still difficult to stomach. The show’s realistic depiction of 1950s Naples — especially when it comes to what women can and cannot do — is impressively executed.

However, in these most recent episodes, My Brilliant Friend‘s heavy subject matterbecomes weightier still — subject matter like sexual assault, violence against women, and men’s inability to take no for an answer. With such heavy themes, it’s puzzling how anyone is watching the episodes back to back the way HBO is releasing them, rather than allow audiences to chew on each installment for longer.

Up until this point in the series, Lila and Elena have both been confined to their neighborhood; however, the Greco girl finally gets to see the world outside of their dusty, suffocating walls in Episode 6. Her former teacher, Maestra Oliviero, gives her the opportunity to stay with her cousin in Ischia, an island off the coast of Naples. There, Lenu passes a blissful summer on the beach, swimming, reading books, and writing unreturned letters to Lila. To make things even more exciting, Elena’s old crush, Nino Sarratore (Francesco Serpico), shows up with his family, and they begin spending time together. It soon becomes clear that Nino hates his father, Donato Sarratore, although he’s both charismatic and kind.

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Paste Magazine: My Brilliant Friend’s Mastery of Perspective

On Paste Magazine

 Matt Brennan – Dec 5, 2018

In the eyes of a child, still learning to see—or the memories of a grown woman, still fighting to see differently—the tenement’s warring factions are as important as the mafioso at the funeral Mass, or the shooting of fireworks on a Neapolitan rooftop. So it is in My Brilliant Friend’s most striking sequence, set in an apartment block’s dusty courtyard. As our narrator, Lenù (Margherita Mazzucco), and her co-conspirator/co-protagonist, Lila (Ludovica Nasti), look on, Lidia Sarratore and her husband’s mad mistress, Melina Cappuccio, perform their private drama for the groundlings below. The neighbors gossip and snipe from balconies strung with fresh laundry, and between cuts, the camera turns, following their voices; occasionally, the image returns to the girls on the street clutching their dolls, heads swiveling to hear the chorus. By the time the dispute erupts in a brutal staircase fight, its chaos of pleas, insults, and awful blows finally causing Lenù to faint, director Saverio Costanzo has constructed a sequence worthy of Rear Window: Elena Greco is our L.B. Jefferies, her eyes our telephoto lens.

Unsurprisingly, the response to HBO’s adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s sublime novel, the first of four in her “Neapolitan cycle,” has been rather muted. After all, the lives of two girls in midcentury Naples, poor strivers hoping to escape the fates of Lidia, Melina, their maestra, their mothers, are not the raw materials of the Internet’s next obsession. Even critics’ largely positive reception of the series reads as restrained, often reluctant, whether born of ardor for Ferrante’s writing or an exceedingly narrow definition of “enthralling” direction: In the most telling of the “favorable” reviews I consulted, a Russian nesting doll of barbed criticism and faint praiseThe New Yorker’s Troy Patterson describes the “humble tenderness” “beneath the show’s heavy coats of operatic varnish and prestige-TV enamel,” like an archeologist dusting off bones at Pompeii.

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Variety: ‘My Brilliant Friend’ Renewed for Season 2 at HBO, RAI

On Variety

Joe Otterson – Dec 4, 2018

HBO and Italian broadcaster RAI have renewed “My Brilliant Friend” for a second season ahead of the Season 1 finale.

The eight-episode first season of the show is based on Elena Ferrante’s best-selling book of the same name, which is the first of her four-part series published in the U.S. by Europa Editions. Season 2 will be based on “The Story of a New Name,” her second book in the series.

“We’re thrilled that Elena Ferrante’s epic story has resonated so powerfully with viewers and critics, and we look forward to the continuing journey of Elena and Lila,” said Casey Bloys, president of HBO Programming.

The series is the tale of Elena Greco and the most important friend in her life. She met Raffaella Cerullo, whom she has always called Lila, in the first year of primary school in 1950. Set in Naples, their story goes on to cover more than 60 years of their lives and explores the mystery of Lila, Elena’s brilliant friend and – in a way – both her best friend and her worst enemy.

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