In this week's column, we ask: Blame it on Rio? What is The Future? And other burning questions.
New Distribution Deals
Rio Sex Comedy is coming to your bedroom! (Or to your living room, basement, garage, etc.) FilmBuff has announced it will be distributing Jonathan Nossiter's Rio Sex Comedy, starring Bill Pullman, Charlotte Rampling, Irene Jacob, and Fisher Stevens. The film will be available via cable and broadband video-on-demand platforms starting on August 30, ahead of a DVD release on November 15.
Though the title sounds like it documents the antics of drunken girls in and out of their bikinis, Rio Sex Comedy instead follows a mixed group of expatriates living in Brazil; through their comic misadventures, different aspects of the city are revealed, from "high society to favelas," according to a prepared statement. Writer/director Nossiter has made a variety of documentaries and features (Mondovino, Sunday) and knows a thing or two about Americans living in Brazil, since that's where he's lived with his family for a number of years.
As Peter Hall reported for Movies.com on Monday, Drafthouse Films snared The FP for its fledgling label, and plans a limited theatrical release in the first quarter of 2012. The FP is a noisy "dance-fight" flick, filled with neon-clad gangs engaged in battles via a very competitive video game, and appears to be an ideal fit for Drafthouse Films.
Indie Box Office
Opening in one theater in New York, Miranda July's The Future earned $27,137, the highest per-screen average last weekend, according to Box Office Mojo. The film's critical reaction has been generally favorable. Our own Dave White identified possible factors for negative word of mouth in his review, starting with a talking cat named Paw-Paw, "precious-scratchy-baby-voiced by Miranda July in a way that--be warned--will cause teeth-grinding hate in some audience members." Yet, on the very positive side, he praised the way that July "doesn't protect her characters or you, so get ready to be totally bummed out. And I mean that in the best way possible."
The Devil's Double and The Guard scored per-screen averages of $19,283 and $19,209, respectively. The Devil's Double, directed by Lee Tamahori, stars Dominic Cooper in a dual performance as the ruthless son of Saddam Hussein -- and his body double. The Guard teams an Irish cop (Brendan Gleason) with an FBI agent (Don Cheadle), which may sound like the premise for a ho-hum TV show, but the film, written and directed by John Michael McDonough, has earned very good reviews. Both films are following traditional specialty release patterns, opening in a handful of theaters, and then expanding as reviews hit and word of mouth spreads.
Creature feature Attack the Block took a different tack. The indie film from the UK rode a wave of goodwill after it debuted at SXSW in March without a distributor. That was remedied in relatively short order when Screen Gems acquired it; since then, the company has endeavored to expand the established goodwill by screening the film aggressively and often -- up to eight times in some markets -- and for free. Social media has also played an important role in spreading positive reactions. Of course, as with many word of mouth campaigns, some people end up seduced by the hype and then disappointed when the film doesn't live up to their own preconceptions.
In this case, however, the campaign appears to be working; Attack the Block ended up with an average of $17,198 at 8 theaters. Considering that Attack the Block is an unusual mixture of horror, action, comedy, and social commentary, it will be interesting to see how far the marketing can go in scaring up business. Not too many genre films get play outside multiplexes; right off the bat, I'm thinking of 13 Assassins and Hobo With a Shotgun, which were both opened in limited release by Magnolia this spring after they were made available via video-on-demand platforms, and precious few others. Screen Gems specializes in genre films, but usually only those they can push out in wide release, so kudos to them for trying a different strategy for a very special film that deserves special care and consideration.
Bellflower, one of the more divisive films of the year, blazes to life in very limited release (2 theaters) on Friday. Directed by Evan Glodell, Bellflower revolves around best friends, one of them played by Glodell, who build flamethrowers and modify automobiles while waiting for the end of the world. New relationships prove disruptive on a personal and cinematic level, as the film spirals into madness.
Some critics have praised it as one of the year's best, while others, including myself, question their sanity. The first half of Bellflower is arrestingly rough and unpolished, but the dramatic excesses wear out their welcome rather quickly as the narrative thread is burned to ashes. Bellflower should provoke some heated post-screening discussions. (See Alison Nastasi's interview with Glodell for much more.)
Other new releases (click link for theaters and showtimes):
Gun Hill Road, a drama about an ex-con who returns to the Bronx to discover his family in turmoil. With Esai Morales, Judy Reyes, and Isiah Whitlock Jr.
Magic Trip, a documentary on the fabled road trip of Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters in the 1960s.
The Perfect Age of Rock 'n' Roll, a drama about a rock star who returns home to reconnect with his estranged best friend. With Kevin Zegers, Jason Ritter, Taryn Manning, Peter Fonda.
The Whistleblower, a drama about a police officer who becomes a peacekeeper in post-war Bosnia, only to discover corruption and cover-ups. With Rachel Weisz.
Trailer of the Week
And now for something completely different. Raúl Ruiz has made dozens of films and received wide recognition on the international film scene, though he is known today more by film festival regulars than by art house habitués. This Friday, Mysteries of Lisbon will open at two theaters in Manhattan, courtesy of Music Box Films, before reaching other select markets in the weeks to come.
Based on a Portuguese novel, Mysteries of Lisbon revolves around "the bastard child of an ill-fated romance between members of the aristocracy who are forbidden to marry, and his quest to discover the truth of his parentage," per the official description. The story follows "a multitude of characters" and covers three decades in Portugal, Spain, France, and Italy. But it's "not your usual prestige costume drama," says film scholar and critic David Bordwell. "The long takes cling to characters as they flirt their way across a ballroom, and the camera slips through walls in the manner of old-fashioned cinema. … The film remains calm and lustrous, culminating in a slow tread into pure light."
One other thing we should note: Mysteries of Lisbon runs 257 minutes. (Yes, that's 4 1/2 hours.) So your plans for the weekend are set! If you can't make it to New York City, check out the luminous trailer, embedded below for your viewing pleasure.