The Song Remains the Same

I’ve been doing more apologizing than updating lately but, unfortunately, it’s been unavoidable. I will update on Thursday morning, however, with the list of Asian films that will be playing at AFI FEST here in Los Angeles. Hopefully I can provide some news on upcoming Hong Kong movies and DVDs within a reasonable time.

This Friday, of course, KILL BILL opens across the United States in wide release. Advance word ranges from “amazing” to “pointless” to “extremely violent.” Perhaps it’s all three of those things. The thornier issue is the company releasing it: Miramax.

Rather than attribute Evil to the company for the way it tends to acquire, shelve, and/or dub and cut Asian films for the International market, I prefer to think of it as Incompetence. Admittedly it’s not easy to market foreign-language films to the American public. Still, every Asian film fan on the Internet (including me!) thinks that he or she could do a better job than Miramax. That may be so.

On the other hand, Miramax has the money, and they are in the movie business to make money (as is every other company in the movie business, including every Asian-based company). They pay the fare, and they get to decide what to do with what they buy. It’s frustrating when they cut up or hold films off the market for an indefinite period of time. But you know what? When it comes to the Region 1 market, that happens to films from every corner of the world.

This past summer, I’ve watched some terrific films from Europe — films you’ve probably never heard of because they’ve never played in the US or Canada. And some of them are ones that Asian film fans would enjoy. But only a few will ever get released theatrically in North America. Most will never receive a Region 1 DVD release.

Taking the reverse position, I’ve also seen some good films from the US that will never be seen in Europe or Asia because they are not from a major studio and will barely be available in their native country.

The bottom line is that only the tip of the cinematic iceberg is ever available. All of us miss out on some very good films. It’s a rough business when you try to make money from art.

For consumers, it’s very frustrating when you see nothing but crap at the local multiplex, especially when you’re made aware of — or have already seen on video and long to see on the big screen — better and more exciting and more challenging fare.

It’s another reminder that life is unfair. Getting back to Miramax, I don’t agree with many of the decisions they’ve made in regard to Asian films. But I’m not sufficiently enraged to insist on a boycott of everything they do.

Your comments on this issue are most welcome. To my first commenter from last week, you have my gratitude and my confirmation that I saw the uncut version of ONG BAK. I ordered the Thai DVD from theDVDetective and received it promptly a couple of days later (excellent service — a recommended vendor; more details to come). But I want to see it again before posting further comments.

Thanks very much for visiting.

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