Thursday, April 14, 2011

COLCOA - French Film Fest In LA

COL*COA, the french film festival in Los Angeles is going on now and showing some really good work. If you are in LA, check it out before it ends in 2 days -

I had the pleasure of sitting in on one of their free Happy Hour chats yesterday. It was about the distribution and exhibition of foreign films, which of course, became a discussion about the over-all state of distribution and exhibition - especially in terms of foreign, indie and arthouse films. The panel was composed of a bunch of smart guys (not a lot of women in this world, interestingly) who've been working in this world for some time. There was Ed Arentz of Music Box Films, Richard Lorber of Lorber Films, Greg Laemmle of Laemmle Theaters and Frederic Demey of NeoClassics Films. It was nicely and smartly moderated by John Kochman of Unifrance USA.

I won't go into all that was discussed, but here were the main points I came away with:
  • These guys clearly love film. It may be neither here nor there, but it's still nice to know.
  • Competition for dwindling screen space and the cost of promotion are the death knell for theatrical presentation of low-budget indies without the muscle of an established distributor. No news flash there, but important to hear again so that indie filmmakers can get it into their thick heads.
  • Although the discussion was a very sad reminder of the state of theatrical distribution for anything foreign, intimate or challenging, it's clear that seeing a film in a theater is still not quite dead for people with an appetite for non-Hollywood fare.
  • It's also clear that movie promotion in the internet age of social networks continues to confound even the experts.
Not much more than that other than some specific info about why this or that film was bought or not bought. And why this or that film plays in this or that theater on this or that side of town. That kind of stuff. But I must say, as I re-read what I've written about the discussion, it doesn't seem like it was all that enlightening, but it truly was. And I liked the speakers, too. Perhaps I've lost something in translation.

That same evening, I saw the Claude Lelouch ("A Man And A Woman") documentary/diary "From One Film To Another", which is a slightly over-long overview and explanation of his body of work that is in turns inspiring and confounding. It does, however, provide some pretty clear insight into his up and down career/aesthetic achievements. His exuberant joy of cinema is dampened by a subsequent propensity for excess and lack of aesthetic discipline. He seems to overload his films with all kinds of stuff and goes to the well once to often when he does hit on a "miracle". Nonetheless, I couldn't help admiring his passion and exuberance. I also love that he openly admits that most of his films are "first drafts" - that they are less a finished film than experiments/explorations. There is a certain courage in that approach, especially in light of the cost of filmmaking. And a number of emerging filmmakers have definitely benefitted from his reckless cinematic spelunking. Unfortunately, along with courage, there is no small bit of hubris and ego, as well.

It's all summed up in the most compelling part of the film - the opening - a 1976 short film he made in which he strapped a camera to the front of his noisy sports car and guns it across all of Paris, dangerously stopping for nothing and no one. Lelouch narrates over the short toward the end of film, using it as a metaphor for his career -- breaking all rules, taking smart and silly risks alike and often failing.....but once in awhile creating a miracle.

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