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Notes from the Back Row

That European touch



I've met a lot of rude Europeans in my life (and by "met" I mean served food to) but the truth is there are lots of good ones too and Hollywood, more than ever, needs that Euro touch.

The way Hollywood operates is to go after sure things. That kind of makes sense with millions and potentially billions of dollars on the line, but it means they churn out sequels, remakes and franchises based on properties with built-in fanbases (comic books like Avengers, teenage-bodice-rippers like Twilight, literary phenoms like Harry Potter ).

Hollywood also loves dumbed down movies of recognizable shit they know is not too difficult for the foreign (non-English speaking) market to understand. For example - 2012 , the underwhelming apocalyptic movie that will never be cool unless the world does actually end next year; it made $166 million domestically and $603 million overseas! Transformers 3 ? Domestic gross is a decent $350 million (without Megan Fox it should be noted) while overseas it grossed another $765 million smackers. Even Avatar, the biggest movie ever, took $760 million at home and over $2 billion away. The sad truth is that Hollywood doesn't really need to worry about the domestic audience.

And why should they? The domestic audience is pretty useless anyhow - we are afraid to spend our money on anything we aren't familiar with (not you and I, dear reader, but almost everyone else living amongst us). We too, like to go with the perceived sure thing - and these days that means sequels, prequels and remakes.

Take The Hurt Locker . It wasn't mind-blowing but it won the Best Picture Oscar despite grossing a mere $17 million domestically, a quarter as much as Transformers 3 made (again, without Megan Fox).

After suffering through a summer of American movies as appealing as a prostate exam delivered by Andre the Giant (who was 7-foot-4 and had fingers the size of Japanese eggplants), Hollywood is in dire need of some fresh, cultured, intelligent blood. That same attitude that makes Euros poor tippers at the restaurant helps them make superior films in the cinema - they don't give a shit what we think, they do what they want and they make movies with that zest of creative passion.

Drive , directed by a Dane, Nicolas Winding Refn, opens Friday and stars Canadian Ryan Gosling ( The Notebook, Lars and the Real Girl) as "Driver" a lonely loner who drives for a shady living. He gets mixed up, thanks to love, in a foul scheme and it's all quiet, tonal awesomeness and balls-out bloody "F#ck Yeah" from there on in.

Refn brings am ultra-composed raw aesthetic that's stripped down, patient and quiet, like Beat Takeshi's Kids Return or Antonioni's Blow Up, but with big, sloppy exit wounds and gallons of sprayed blood - not to mention some doozy car chases. Drive isn't perfect; Carey Mulligan ( An Education) gets saddled with a weakfish love interest role, but for the most part it's damn entertaining and refreshing to see someone take a new (if hyper-violent) approach to a classic idea.

Fear not though, American film is not dead - watch Scorsese, Tarantino or the Coen Brothers for proof. And Canadians are also slowly on the rise - Michael Dowse's Fubar 1 and 2 belong in a time capsule to explain "Earth" to alien civilizations, and his latest, a hockey flick called Goon, was a huge hit last week at the Toronto International Film Festival.

But the beautiful continent of Europe, with directors like Joe Wright ( Hanna) Pedro Almodovar ( Bad Education) and Tomas Alfredson ( Let the Right One In) continue to breath new life into our broad-audience-appeal-based film industry. We colonialists could learn a thing or two and here's hoping the Euros keep sending their films our way.



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