18 novembre 2009

Where the Sun doesn't shine

Manhola Dargis (NYT, 18 Nov 2009) : "First shown at the Berlin Film Festival four years ago, “The Sun” [Aleksandr Sokurov's Solntse] is finally receiving its welcome American theatrical release, which means that one of the best movies of 2005 is now also one of the best of 2009"
Why does it take almost 5 years (Berlinale 2005 première: 17 Feb 2005) before a major film d'auteur gets distributed on the American market? A film featuring a (glorifying) moment of American history (not the nasty part of WW2), with General MacArthur in a positive, self-aggrandising light... And it opens on a single screen in NYC (Film Forum)?
The New York Times at least acknowledges this gap, but doesn't even bother pondering on the causes of this delay. Is it not worth investigating for the NYT? I understand that a boring foreign art film will never be released worldwide within a week, like your typical Hollywood blockbuster... that a privilege of the universal mainstream entertainment. But 4 years before someone finds an available slot in the release schedule to show this great film on commercial screens is a lot of time in the film industry cycle. 1 year is a normal waiting period after its festival première. 2 years is already quite long for the major markets. Usually the smaller countries have to wait the longest to get access to films and have to watch them after everyone else. Now, why would America want to be ranked at the bottom of the release list, like if they didn't have the money to buy the rights, or the screens to show it, like it is often the issue in tiny countries? It's as if on the cultural level, the USA is an underdeveloped country, before industrialisation, before globalisation, before the instantness of the internet; while it is supposed to be the frontrunner technologically and culturally wise, a model to look up to, a leading force to show the rest of the world how to grasp the future... How can the leading economical empire on the planet be so backward, a-critical, self-indulgent, isolationistic culturally?
The access to American culture is a long tough road. And Americans are happy the way it is. So it's not going to change anytime soon.

6 commentaires:

Anonyme a dit…

Really sad. And Melville's Army of Shadows got a theatrical release in the US just... 37 years later!

HarryTuttle a dit…

Within 1 week of the official première (when it's not before it) a pirate version is available online and on the DVD black market. 4 months, and the movie is officially released on DVD (because the theatrical exploitation never last that long! unfortunately), even if it is usually restricted locally by the absurd DVD region market segmentation. Absurd because it assumes that movie lovers don't have access to multi-region players, and international online imports. 6 months to 1 year and the film is broadcast on TV.
So 5 years is against the paranoid principle of the industry to make sure to exploit a film theatrically before anyone gets to watch it elsewhere.
I would understand if the point was to wait until the distributor could find a down time in the release schedule, to make sure a small art film like that wouldn't face up with heavy BO competition, to give it a decent wider release... but it is not even released nationwide! How does it matter if this film is released at Film Forum, on one screen, today, last week or last year? There is no actual competition to fear that would keep the seats empty when there is only 1 theatre showing this one film... If you only have 1 screen to offer to that film, there is no excuse to make wait that long!
By then, every cinephile who wanted to watch it, already has seen it, one way or the other.
I'm not sure I understand the distribution policy on the USA market.

HarryTuttle a dit…

Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You, 2009 (MoMA NYC):

"The five nominees represent this year's best American independent films on the festival circuit that have yet to be picked up for theatrical distribution. Past nominees include Nina Paley’s Sita Sings the Blues, Chris Fuller’s Loren Cass, So Yong Kim's In Between Days, and Ronald Bronstein's Frownland."

Send your donations to Hollywood, there aren't enough screens in the USA (but at museums) to show the finished films by poor American independent filmmakers!

HarryTuttle a dit…

Take Two! the movie show (KCBX-NPR)
discussion on new movie distribution practices (MP3-1h each) 1 (9-Nov-2009) & 2 (16-Nov-2009)

HarryTuttle a dit…

Here is Daniel Kasman's critical commentary about such an important film taking nearly 5 years to make it to a single public American screen :

"This article was originally published as coverage of the New York Film Festival in 2005, but is being re-posted due to The Sun finally achieving a theatrical release in the U.S." (The Auteurs)

reposting an old review, and no comment on its insulting "limited" release. That's what they call "auteurist criticism" over there...

HarryTuttle a dit…

Lisandro Alonso's La Libertad, opens on commercial screens in America (limited release) 9 years after its Cannes première!