Friday, March 03, 2006

Lost in America

Here’s an interesting article about the dearth of wide theatrical distribution for foreign films here in the States and how our tastes have changed in contrast to the heyday of the 1960s thru the 1970s, when films from overseas didn’t just play in arthouse theaters or on college campuses. And it wasn’t just the foreign film behemoths—like Bergman, Kurosawa, Truffaut, Fellini, and Bunuel among others—which were being shown. Foreign genre fare, e.g. Spaghetti Westerns, Italian gothic horror and sword & sandal epics, Japanese kaiju eiga, and Hong Kong martial arts pictures were routinely flooding the market place—albeit in dubbed form—playing grindhouses and drive-in theaters all over. And they were also playing on television, which is how I first discovered them.

Yeah, times have changed and foreign films aren’t getting the theatrical distribution they once did. But there aren’t as many theaters around nowadays either. When I first read this article I got all indignant and sentimental. But it occurred to me that DVD has really helped in exposing individuals to the wild world of foreign films arguably more than ever before, especially if you own a multi-region player. Granted, most people simply don’t give a shit about quality domestic films let alone foreign ones, though occasionally the masses do seem to get out into the theaters to watch a subtitled picture, hence the successes of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Hero, and Kung Fu Hustle, all of which played wide and thankfully weren’t dubbed. And in regards to the Academy’s foreign film nominations this year . . . don’t get me started. Yeah, where was Cache, 2046 (probably my favorite film of the year), and Johnnie To’s Election?

The funniest and strangest part of the article, though, is reading Harvey Weinstein talk about how much he loves foreign films, blah, blah, blah. This is the man, remember, who bought up then shelved or edited a host of films when he ran Miramax. And it looks like his addiction to snipping down other people’s products hasn’t stopped, if his acquisition (though the Weinstein Co. has subsequently dropped the film) and cutting down of Chen Kaige’s The Promise from 122 minutes to 102 minutes is any indication. Luckily, if you’d rather watch the original version before the truncated version (courtesy of Warner Independent Pictures) plays theaters in May, you can simply watch the DVD.

Without further ado, here’s the Newsweek article:

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