By Sherrie Li
By Falling James
By Amanda Lewis
By Amy Nicholson
By Amy Nicholson
By Jennifer Swann
By Scott Foundas
By Sherrie Li
After Strand bought the rights for the film, it took the unusual and risky approach of avoiding the New York market at first. In this instance, the strategy paid off. With a strong review from Kevin Thomas in the L.A. Times, Wild Reeds opened to solid numbers here. Strand then rolled out the film in other major cities -- with the help of exhibitors such as Landmark -- and by the time it finally backed into New York, it was already on its way to becoming one of Strand’s biggest hits.
Another of Strand‘s recent successes is indicative of the positive changes afoot in the foreign-language market: its re-release of Jean-Luc Godard’s 1963 masterpiece Contempt. Lauded by critics eager once again to champion a legendary auteur, the film also drew a much younger audience than Hu expected.
“Reissues like Nights of Cabiria and Grand Illusion have a built-in audience,” says Michael McClellan, vice president of booking at Landmark Theaters. “But they‘re also very much about introducing older films to a new generation. They’re very much a part of the ongoing revitalization of foreign-language films -- they whet the appetite of younger audiences for the newer films. Run Lola Run only reinforces that idea.”
Just how great this appetite is, at this point, is anybody‘s guess. As Hu says, “I don’t think any of us can predict when a movie‘s going to hit or not.” The year ahead offers some more than worthy test cases, including Claire Denis’ Beau Travail, Dogma 95 cofounder Lars von Trier‘s The Idiots and Takeshi “Beat” Kitano’s Kikujiro. But beyond the success of any single release, a larger shift in thinking has to take place if the daunting obstacles of the marketplace are to be overcome.
As the gleam fades from the American independent scene -- as much the result of Hollywood‘s influence as of the sheer glut of indie films -- there is what McClellan calls a “golden opportunity” for foreign-language film to regain its cachet as a real alternative to studio product. (While no one believes that Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami could ever be as big as Quentin Tarantino, you can’t get much further from Hollywood than Tehran.) But if even fans of foreign-language film continue to be satisfied with imports such as Life Is Beautiful, and critics fail to support new directors such as Taiwan‘s Tsai Ming-Liang while still mourning the passing of Truffaut, it will be an opportunity lost. In other words, to get the thriving and diverse film culture we claim we want, those of us who care about movies have to open our eyes, take a chance and care about foreign-language films again.
This is the second of two parts.
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