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DAILY NEWS: New Indies This Week; Lipsky Letter

DAILY NEWS: New Indies This Week; Lipsky Letter

DAILY NEWS: New Indies This Week; Lipsky Letter

by Anthony Kaufman/indieWIRE and a letter from Jeff Lipsky,
Co-president, Lot 47 Films

>> New This Week: Indies Use Comedy to Fight “Apes”

(indieWIRE/07.25.01) — While “Planet of the Apes” will be released this
weekend unrivaled by studio competitors, the indie release slate is crowded
with a number of alternatives. From lesbian detective drama to campy camp
comedy, this week’s mix of independent film releases are counter-programmed
to offer summertime relief from exploding dinosaurs and angry apes.

First out of the gate this Wednesday is the exclusive New York run of
Baltasar Kormakur‘s “101 Reykjavik,” a witty Icelandic story about a
20-something guy who has an affair with his mother’s girlfriend (played by
Pedro Almodovar favorite Victoria Abril) scored to the minimalist whimsy of Blur‘s Damon Albarn and The SugarcubesEinar Orn Benediktsson. Winner of a Discovery Award at Toronto 2000, “Reykjavik” has had an admirable festival run, winning praise from Thessaloniki to Locarno, and has launched Kormakur’s career as a director; he acted in several films previously,
including compatriot Fridrik Thor Fridriksson‘s “Angels of the Universe” and Hal Hartley‘s latest “No Such Thing” (see indieWIRE’s interview with the filmmaker today).

Regretfully, “Reykjavik” has yet to be acquired by a distributor, but
devoted producer’s rep Neil Friedman has temporarily taken up the domestic
distribution mantle himself, booking the film in several theaters throughout
the states. After a stint at the Film Forum, the movie will travel next to
the Nuart in Los Angeles on August 24.

The other indie comedies being released this weekend make “Reykjavik”‘s
comedic smarts look like Bergman. If summer is the time for light
entertainment, you don’t get more airy than new films like American director
Joel Hershman‘s British carbon copy crowd-pleaser “Greenfingers,” Italy’s
domestic hit “Bread and Tulips,” and David Wain‘s camp film send-up “Wet Hot American Summer.”

The synopsis of “Greenfingers” reads like an amalgam of successful British
imports “The Full Monty,” “Waking Ned Devine” and “Saving Grave“: a prisoner (“Croupier‘s” Clive Owen) discovers a talent for horticulture and competes in a major flower show. (Gee, wonder if he wins a prize?) Proceeds from the film’s New York premiere last week, which hosted such musicians as Bruce
— who contributes a song on the soundtrack — and Sheryl Crowe,
went to benefit the Horticultural Society of New York‘s prison gardening
program at Riker’s Island. Distributed by IDP in New York and Los Angeles,
“Greenfingers” may have its heart in the right place, but how many of these
cutesy films can the market take?

Winner of nine of Italy’s national film awards, including best picture,
director, actor and actress, “Bread and Tulips,” by Silvio Soldini, is
another feel-good import. The film tells the tale of a woman who ventures to
the romantic waterways of Venice and falls in with a group of amenable
eccentrics. “Bread and Tulips” will be released through First Look (who
recently had success with “Chopper“).

For fans of less traditional humor, there’s Wain’s “Wet Hot American
.” The State, who had their own “Monty Python“-type program on MTV, lend their oddball talents to this camp film parody, sending up the likes of
Meatballs,” and other camp counselor comedies. Likely shooting for the kind
of summer crowd looking for mindless fun, USA Films bought the film
post-Sundance 2001.

Also up for Friday are Aussie director Samantha Lang‘s lesbian romantic
detective drama “Monkey’s Mask” with Kelly McGillis (from Strand Releasing) and the Polish brothers‘ “Jackpot,” their Hi-Def 24p offering, following their moody debut “Twin Falls Idaho” (being released by Sony Pictures Classics). On Friday, indieWIRE will publish an interview with the Polish
brothers about their landmark use of 24p — they’ll beat out Brad Anderson‘s
Session 9” by about three weeks as the first theatrically released film
made in the new digital format.

So with six independent releases striving to nab the already small piece of
specialized ticket-sales, how many can survive? Many have their niche:
“Greenfingers” and “Bread and Tulips” (safe overseas comedy); Wet Hot
American Summer” (silly teen comedy); “Monkey’s Mask” (gay/lesbian);
“Jackpot” (Amer-indie road movie), except for perhaps “101 Reykjavik,” which
really doesn’t fit into a pre-determined category. Is it a surprise, then,
that “101 Reykjavik” is probably the best of the lot? And that it is also
the only one of the batch without a U.S. distributor? [Anthony Kaufman]

>> LETTER TO THE EDITOR: In Response to — The Scarlet Box: Solondz Alters “Storytelling” to Secure “R” Rating

Dear Editor:

For Todd Solondz to proclaim “I just didn’t want to be a victim of
censorship” in response to his having, yet again, to take it up the ass by
Jack Valenti and the MPAA by cutting his film is delusional and a sure-fire
sign he is sucking up to Hollywood, the majors, and commercial cinema (not
that there’s anything wrong with that — as long as you face up to it). In
fact, twenty years from now he’ll no doubt be Fox’s first choice to remake
Tim Burton’s “Planet of the Apes!”

Todd, obfuscating sections of the graphic shot in your new film is the same
as deleting it, shortening it, attenuating it, “cubing” it, and/or blurring
it. You might as well have placed big digital dollar signs in front of the
offending portions of the shot and do some ADR so your character says “Say,
‘show me the money, nigger!’ ” You were censored Todd! You signed a
contract with AOL guaranteeing to deliver an “R,” knowing you’d written an
“NC-17.” That’s de facto censorship, buddy! “I’d rather take it by the
cajones and say this is what it is,” says Solondz. But instead you’re
saying, ‘this is what it isn’t.’ Whatever.

At Lot 47 Films we don’t censor filmmakers. We didn’t cut “L.I.E.” and we
won’t touch a frame of Claire Denis’ upcoming controversial and graphic
masterpiece “Trouble Every Day,” with Vincent Gallo. In fact, we give our
directors final cut. That’s having “cajones.” Hey, Todd, “Welcome to the
Mainstream!” (Cue music.)

Jeff Lipsky
Co-president, Lot 47 Films

>> YESTERDAY in indieWIRE DAILY NEWS: Solondz Changes New Film; Outfest Winners; Jackson Heads to USA

(indieWIRE/07.24.01) — Director Todd Solondz, no stranger to ratings and
distribution controversy, has taken steps to avert the alteration of his
latest film, “Storytelling” in order to receive an R rating for the film’s
U.S. release by covering a scene the MPAA finds unacceptable with a scarlet
box; Outfest‘s “Outies” were presented over the weekend in Hollywood’s
outdoor John Anson Ford Amphitheatre with “L.I.E.“, “Princesa” and “Trembling Before G-D” among the top winners. Finally, the Chief Executive of
Channel Four Television, Michael Jackson, is leaving the British broadcaster to head USA Entertainment.”


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