DAILY NEWS: "Train of Life" Rolls Into U.S. Stations; New Italian Cinema; New Magazine Focusing On Young Women; 1st Craven Presentation For Dimension Has Fangs
by Maya Churi, with reports from Anthony Kaufman, and Carl Russo
>> Audience Favorite "Train" Rides into U.S.
At this year's Sundance Film Festival, French-Romanian director Radu
Mihaileanu premiered his second film to North American audiences, "Train of
Life," the tragic-comic telling of the inhabitants of a Jewish shtetl in 1941 who -- to avoid capture from the Nazis create their own deportation train -- with their own Nazis. "There's so many movies to see," lamented Mihaileanu from Park City. "Sometimes, we have problems to get the journalists into our screenings."
Nine months later, it seems that Mihaileanu and its U.S. distributor
Paramount Classics now face a similar challenge: at least 10 new films are
opening this week in New York, from Amer-indies ("American Movie," "Some Fish Can Fly") to foreign fare ("Rosetta," "Portrait Chinois") to Hollywood blockbusters ("The Bone Collector," "The Insider"). It's a familiar story for any small film trying to stake a claim in theaters today, and "Train of
Life" is typical of the none-too-easy-to-market quality foreign film that may vanish all too soon, if not for the positive buzz necessary to keep such a film alive. "Foreign films are a dying genre, but we're trying to keep them alive," says Paramount Classics Co-President David Dinerstein, who despite the uphill climb, adds, "You can't be frustrated. We believe we have a small gem with good word of mouth. . . . No one is going to give up."
"Would I like have to a 'Star Wars' on my hand?" Dinerstein jokes, "But
that's not what we do. We have to understand the expectations, we have to
be realistic about it." To avoid "the traffic" of the traditional Friday
release, the company opened the film yesterday in New York in the high-end
Lincoln Square theater, hoping for a mainstream crossover audience. They've
also continued a dedicated "grassroots marketing" campaign, says
Dinerstein, attempting to stoke the fire in the "Train of Life." Tactics
have included the 100,000 print run of a 4-page promotional newspaper
called the Shtetl Times distributed at delis, bagel shops, and restaurants,
an Opening Night kick-off screening Tuesday night at the 1st Annual Jewish
Film Festival in Los Angeles, an advanced screening sponsored by the
Village Voice in New York, and an advertising campaign that pushes the
film's many awards (Sundance 1999, Hamptons 1999, and Sao Paolo 1998
Audience Award Winner, FIPRESCI critics prize at Venice 1998 and Italy's Best Foreign Film Award for 1998.)
For Mihaileanu, his work is already done: creating a film that
affectionately invokes a way of life that no longer exists: "the little
Jewish village of the Eastern countries which disappeared because of the
war, because of the Holocaust," he says. "As a filmmaker, I said, one day I
will build it. I will do it for myself, for my kids, so I will give them
that memory, that image, and then they can give it to their children."
Problem is now, with the market so glutted, will there be anyone around to
see it? The Classics team is betting they will, opening the film in 25
other markets on November 12.
>> N.I.C.E. and Sexy: New Italian Cinema Courts U.S.
Italophiles in the States can get their fix with eight sizzling U.S. premieres and one classic at the upcoming annual New Italian Cinema Events (N.I.C.E.), running November 12 - 18 at New York's Quad Cinema. The festival will also play November 15 - 21 at San Francisco's AMC Kabuki Theatres. N.I.C.E. is being promoted by the General Consulate of Italy in an effort to secure U.S. distribution for each of the new films.
Topping the bill is the premiere of acclaimed director Marco Bellocchio's
"The Wet Nurse," which premiered in competition at Cannes this year. A
wealthy couple in turn-of-the-century Rome employ a peasant woman to nurse
their newborn in this sumptuous adaptation of a Pirandello story. The
mother's feelings of inadequacy and contempt for the wet nurse is keenly
echoed in the turbulent socialist revolt unfolding in the city's piazzas.
Pier Paolo Pasolini's explosive "Mamma Roma" closes the festival with the raging presence of Anna Magnani, the titular prostitute who tries to break
free of her plight after reuniting with her son. Fans of Kevin Smith's
"Dogma" will find resonance with the film's conflicted Catholic themes,
which caused riots during its original 1962 release.
Sex and more sex rounds out the program, highlighted by Massimo Martella's
emotionally complex drama "The First Time." Employing a "La Ronde"
storytelling device, we follow a chain of six teenagers in the throes of
first-time sex, often to disastrous ends. A lighter take on young sex comes
in Anna Negri's "In the Beginning There Was Underwear," featuring the
misadventures of a lovesick Genovese girl. The borderline sexploitation
comedy throws in the occasional musical number to tweak the absurdity
The other films swimming in amore are Rolando Stefanelli's "The Price," Gabriele Muccino's "That's It," Piergiorgio Gay's "Three Stories," Nina di Majo's "Autumn," and Giacomo Campiotti's "A Time to Love." Various new Italian shorts will screen before the features.
For information in New York call N.I.C.E. at (212) 468-2477; in San
Francisco call the San Francisco Film Society at (415) 931-FILM.
>> Alice Launches, Focusing On Young Women And Multicultural Entertainment
Alice, a new magazine being put together by the former executive editor of
Girlfriends Magazine, will be hitting the stands this December. The magazine, geared to young women, will combine investigative journalism with celebrity profiles (according to their prepared release, the profiles will be "ones you won't see anywhere else"). Coverage will include politics, current events and entertainment reviews.
Driven by the "hearts and desires" of their small readership, the executives hope to create a one-of-a-kind magazine "sort of like an international version of Puffy Combs' Notorious, just for women." The first issue will include articles about women and crime as well as a special feature on cool female filmmakers Sarah Jacobson and Renee Tajima-Pena.
Also in the first issue, a theory piece on why the Incredible Hulk was a
metaphor for female sexuality and a road test of the 10 best new nail
[For more info on Alice Magazine E-mail; email@example.com or look
for their web site in December: http://www.alicemagazine.com]
>> First Craven Presentation For Dimension Has Fangs
The first project under the "Wes Craven Presents" banner for Dimension
Films will be "Dracula 2000," an updated telling of the classic vampire
story. The project, to be produced by Wes Craven and Marianne Maddalena with Craven/Maddalena Films, was scripted by Joel Soisson and based on an idea by Patrick Lussier, who will direct the film. Andrew Rona, Dimension Senior VP of Production and Development will oversee the project for
Dimension and Rene Garcia will oversee for Craven Films. In a prepared
statement, Bob Weinstein said of the deal, "Patrick and Joel have delivered
for us over and over, and with Wes and Marianne Guiding them, this is going
to be a really fun film."