Tuesday, April 3, 2007

The Week that Was - One

Sorry to be out of contact. I could claim that I have been in mourning for Freddie Francis who died recently and whose obituary was included in the Sydney Morning Herald, again republished from the Guardian. Freddie may not have appreciated the headline ‘Even his bad films were good’ but would have appreciated the glowing tribute to his work as a cinematographer which garnered him Oscars for Sons and Lovers in 1960 and Glory in 1989. Freddie may have been amused to know that the couple of dozen cheap horror flicks he also directed are now regarded as ‘always stylish and usually successful’. He may have been even more amused to know that ‘several have become cult classics such as Paranoiac(1963), The Evil of Frankenstein (1964), The Skull (1965), Dr Terror’s House of Horrors (1965) Torture Garden (1967) Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1968) and Legend of the Werewolf (1975). I didn’t know that. Stuart Rosenberg also died after a long career of mostly modest success. But he did contribute a now iconic moment in Cool Hand Luke with the resonating line “What we have got here is a failure of communication”…. The Film Finance Corporation announced its final funding approvals for the 2006/07 financial year. It has now approved funding for 15 feature films. More than likely in this new age of low budget digital film-making there will be double that number made with funds obtained from such sources as the state film bodies, friends and relatives, credit card debts, and new fountains like the Adelaide and Melbourne Film Festivals, each of which now has a small bin full of money to hand out to projects which will premiere at their events. The FFC funded films should all have the privilege of having a distributor on board and thus will be the ones that get a shot at success in the cinemas. The others will try to find a way through festival screenings, one offs and whatever else the producers can think of to get them before the punters. It’s possible that one or two may just find their way through to a wider audience. After all as far as I’m aware Kenny had no FFC funding and it went on to do better than any other movie of the last year. The problem used to be getting your film made. Now its getting your film shown. Maybe the Cinemtheque has to take some steps in this regard. Surely it has the capacity to put new films as well as old on the screen and put film-makers before at least one audience. With all these movies being made there is going to be some very pent-up supply and it will emphasise just how laggard our film exhibition has become. … ABC Radio’s Australia Talks Movies devoted an hour or so to a discussion of the so called ‘French Film Festival’ now touring the country and tried to tease out some lessons for Australia from France’s unique film production output and its unique methods of funding it. The discussion included comment from the curator, a diplomat at the French Embassy, who spoke English with an accent that made Maurice Chevalier sound like he’d been to Oxford, and from the ubiquitous James Hewison who mentioned inter alia that in France film is referred to as the 7th art, that when the Nazis occupied France they took over the French film studios and that it was Charles De Gaulle who had introduced the still extant ticket levy which caused all cinema patrons to pay for those continuing handsome levels of production. Also aired were a couple of phoners who rang in to say how much they had once enjoyed such treasures as M Hulot’s Holiday and Les Enfants du Paradis. Julie Rigg’s absence through indisposition was sadly felt as presenter Paul Barclay tried to keep things going. Nobody actually got to the same nub I mentioned before. With ana avergae of five French films a week opening in Paris, its distribution and exhibition hell for all but the most robust and no end of support from the quality French press saves important films by important film-makers from tanking and then being shot out the door. Back in 2004 during our stay in France Eric Rohmer's Triple Agent opened and closed within a couple of weeks. The investors who backed the film's success in cinemas, the distributors and exhbitors got burned. On the other hand, theatrical success is an ever more dubious measure of a film's worth even with the public. In a paper that Bruce Hodsdon and I submitted to the Federal Government's review we made this point quite strongly. Needless to say our thoughts were ignored and I wouldn't hold out any hope that any future government might have any major rethink on such matters either. You can read the paper by going to the website mentioned on the side of the blog…The Sydney Film Festival has launched its new website for the 2007 festival at http://www.sydneyfilmfestival.org/and alerted us early to the prospect of seeing Jia Zhangke’s Still Life, Manoel De Oliverira’s Belle Toujours and Andre Techine’s The Witnesses among others. ...In the meantime the box office is being dazzled by, of all things Bra Boys.... says a lotin a small number of letters.

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