Sunday, September 14, 2008


I saw my second truly worthwhile film this year; the first was "The Edge of Heaven". The second was the French film, "Tell No One", which still playing in some theaters. Both were foreign films.

The last few years I mostly touted foreign films in this blog: "Dirty Pretty Things", "Talk to Her", "Lives of Others", etc. Am I a snob? No. Most American films are beneath average; so it's relatively easy for good foreign films to transcend them.

If I may, let me recount to you the American history of distributing "Tell No One". It is instructive RE American versus foreign films.

"Tell No One" was made in France a few years ago, and did very, very well in Europe; in both critical and commercial terms. (Remember, a French film is a foreign film for most of Europe.) However, when the film was offered to major American distributors to market and put out to the US public, they declined. The response was, in so many words: Put out a plot-complicated thriller WITH NO DISCERNIBLE NAMES as drawing power? Forget it. No Penelope Cruz, Ben Kingsley, Peter O'Toole? The salient fact in the distributor decision making here was: good films are not held to be marketable in the US unless there is a NAME attached. (This year, a small Midwestern American distributor took a chance. My seeing the film was the result.)

Now I'm not knocking the US audiences desire to see well known actors in their films. Actors get to be well known because they're good (and fun to watch). But shouldn't there be room in the marketplace for film excellence WITHOUT NAMES? Have the distributors (and the producers) of film so fully decided that the cult of celebrity has so washed over the American mentality that excellence in and of itself has no allure?

Has that been the final result of the 'dumbing down' of America? Paris Hilton reigns supreme because she is a celebrity even though she is not a very attractive woman (notoriety trumps physical excellence)?

Have we Americans so lost our taste for excellence that that the sellers of films can decide that the US audiences can't appreciate excellence even when it presents itself? Have they rightly analyzed that the taste buds of our film appetite been so numbed/transformed by a steady diet of Amercan 'junk food' films that we can no longer be expected to appreciate a non-celebrity cast film?

"Tell No One" is brilliantly written, shot, edited, acted and musically scored film. See it if you can. Prove the majority of American distributors wrong; and the small Midwest distributor right? Prove that we Americans still have some appreciation for good things. Prove Paris Hilton is only a part of your life (the trashy part), but not all of it.


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