Friday, February 15, 2008

Indie Directors who Make Crappy Mainstream Films: Part One - SendMeRSS

For every Coen brother who starts with a small budget and ends up making mainstream masterpieces, for every Tarantino who begins on the cheap and eventually creates Kill Bill, there are those indie directors who just can't handle mainstream money. As adored as they might be with a shoestring budget and limited release, and as well as artistically efficient as they might be on a smaller scale, some indie auteurs just can't seem to hack it in the world of multi-million flicks and major Hollywood stars. Over the next week, we'll highlight six of them. 

 

Sofia Coppola – Marie Antoinette

 

Despite being a shameless ripoff of any number of Wong Kar-Wai films, Lost in Translation was pretty damned good. Moody, understated, and elegant, it talked about adulthood and platonic love in an intelligent and interesting manner.

Marie Antoinette, on the other hand, talked about teenage-hood with a level of maturity only slightly superior to that of The OC. This incredibly irritating period piece - which was actually booed at the Cannes Film Festival -- removed essentially all the historical importance from Antoinette's life in favor of turning her into a 18th-century Mischa Barton. The film almost idolizes Antoinette's flaky, indifferent attitude to morality and decency, completely ignoring the fact that Marie was later tried and killed for being what historians refer to as a huge bitch.

Coppola had an unforeseen amount of access to the real Palace of Versailles, contributing to the biopic's $40 million budget. In the end, however, it made less than half that number domestically and remains Sofia Coppola's worst-reviewed film to date.

 

Neil LaButte – The Wicker Man

 

When Neil LaButte made In the Company of Men, several critics accused him of being a misogynist. Indeed, the film (about two men who simultaneously woo a deaf woman just for the sake of breaking her heart) did include a lot of sexist jokes and insults made by the protagonists, but hey -- that was the point of the movie. The men who called women evil and then treated them like dirt were, in fact, evil themselves.

There is, however, no excuse for the inherent sexism in The Wicker Man. In remaking one of the best British films ever made, LaButte inexplicably chose to alter the original film's conflict of religion versus culthood to -- of all things -- man versus woman. All the villains in Wicker Man are female, and instead of pointing out the protagonist's religious hypocrisy through their joyful-but-savage religious ceremonies (as they do in the first film), they serve no purpose other than to be weird and creepy and evil. In addition to radically simplifying the film's thematic message, LaButte makes it pointlessly chauvinistic: women, if left to their own devices, are cunning and evil bitches who will eventually destroy righteous men. Through his interpretation of The Wicker Man, it seems that the initial accusations of sexism made toward LaButte were right on the money. 

Also, there's this:

Honestly, LaButte does seem to get a little too much satisfaction out of showing Nicholas Cage beating the shit out of old ladies. Just saying.

 

Karyn Kusama – Aeon Flux

 

Imagine you're an indie director. You've just completed Girlfight, the Girl Power movie to end all Girl Power movies. You're riding high on your indie success. You've essentially created whatever career Michelle Rodriguez had before people realized she couldn't actually act. The indie world thinks you're hot shit and the mainstream film industry has taken notice. What do you do next?

If you answered "make a pointless and simplistic adaptation of a deeply philosophical American cartoon while ignoring everything that made said cartoon special," then congratulations: you've just made the exact same mistake Karyn Kusama did. 

Just like Neil LaButte's soulless remake of Wicker Man, Karyn Kusama's Aeon Flux takes all the stuff that made the original animation aesthetically cool -- gunfights, a futuristic world, a superhot protagonist -- but ditches everything complex or philosophical. Peter Chung, creator of the original series, called the film "a travesty" and most critics had a very hard time disagreeing. Costing $62 million and raking in less than half that domestically, Aeon Flux was both a critical and commercial flop for Kusama.

Though, admittedly, I didn't even think Girlfight was very good in the first place.

Link - Fri, 15 Feb 2008 01:00:00 GMT - Feed (1 subs)

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