|GUY MADDIN with delighted FORBIDDEN ROOM|
New York audience member, screen legend TAB HUNTER.
In other news, Paul Gross abomination HYENA ROAD is a
BIG FAT FLOP
Maddin Fêted in New York
with Fine Single-Screen Opening Weekend Numbers
Gross Multimillion Dollar Canadian Pro-War Film a FLOP
with Paltry Per-Screen Average
Report and Commentary By Greg Klymkiw
Millions upon millions of dollars towards the production and extensive marketing budget of the Paul Gross propaganda war film Hyena Road, much of it plucked from the purse-strings of Canadian taxpayers, opened this past long weekend on 174 screens across the Land of Beavers and Maple Syrup. Meanwhile, Guy Maddin's insane, brilliant, meagrely budgeted avant-garde contemporary classic The Forbidden Room, garnered numbers at the ticket-wicket to put its trough-gobbling Canuck big brother straight into a hand-shoveled latrine in Afghanistan.
On one screen in New York City, Maddin's movie collected an impressive 4-day long weekend tally of $7000 whilst Gross's Folly struggled to garner a mere $2500 per screen average during the same period. If one includes the admittedly soft Toronto numbers, Maddin's per-screen average grosses over the same period come out to $4200, still besting the gross-per-screeners of Hyena Road's $2500.
The bottom line is this, even if Hyena Road holds steady in Canada at these numbers, it will do so through the sheer force of will of all those responsible for backing this lame pony - more money in marketing, perchance, added screens, uh, more money - but given that the picture is a style-bereft slab of pro-war propaganda, mediocre to the max and an already out-of-date Middle-Eastern sand-and-turban slaughter-fest, one cannot see its theatrical life outside of Canada being all that impressive. Its home video prospects might prove somewhat better, but the reality is that this is the kind of ephemera which will have virtually no shelf-life where it counts - as a work of art, and certainly not even in a commercial sense.
For my fuller commentary about the moronic waste of promotional resources on Hyena Road entitled "The Unbearable Promotion of War: Buying Grosses for Wasteful Gross Film", click HERE.
In many ways, the best bet when it comes to taxpayer-supported culture in Canada (particularly English-Canada) is work like Guy Maddin's The Forbidden Room. His fans at the box-office (and critically) will always be there for his work and will usually not be too disappointed (save perhaps for the ambitious, but clunky Twilight of the Ice Nymphs). Given the sheer madness (or if you will, "Maddin-ness") of this latest fest-o-fetishes, I'm especially delighted how crazed the American critical scribes have been (even the normally staid New York Times had to succumb). Its shelf-life will last long beyond the traditional windows of exploitation.
Maddin's earliest work is well over one-quarter-of-a-century old and still shows no sign of abatement in terms of its long-time admirers who've become even more slavish in their devotion. Even now, the work is harvesting huge swaths of new fans every year. Maddin's art is celebrated and written about in a seemingly infinite number of prestigious books, magazines and journals. On that front, the accolades and scholarship for his films show no sign of ever easing up..
If a government is going to back film culture, especially film culture, shelf-life is everything. Immortality should be the goal. Art, TRUE art, delivers a much better bang for the buck. There are audiences out there for it too. Alas, our domestic exhibitors (not indies, but major chains, of which there is really only one, a monopoly allowed by the current Harper Conservative government), have the strength to show a real corporate responsibility to committing themselves to genuine Canadian culture of a lasting quality. To date, this has not happened in any significant manner.
The bottom line, is that the players who invested their time, money and elbow grease in films like Guy Maddin's (or Atom Egoyan's or Peter Mettler's or Albert Shin's or Igor Drljača's or Ingrid Veninger's or David Cronenberg's or . . . the list goes on and on) - these are the players who are investing in our cinematic equivalents to Da Vinci, Turner, Modigliani, Picasso and . . . the list goes on and on. The players investing in the likes of filmmakers like Paul Gross are doing little more than investing in the cinematic equivalents to velvet paintings.
The one good thing about Hyena Road is that it is responsible for apportioning a sliver of its grotesquely huge budget on the commissioned "making of" documentary by Guy Maddin and his collaborators Evan and Galen Johnson. Bring Me The Head of Tim Horton is not only a bonafide masterwork, it's probably one of the few, if not only "Making Of" doc that far exceeds its subject in terms of quality and lasting value. Feel free to read my review of Bring Me the Head of Tim Horton HERE. If you want to know why The Forbidden Room is a contemporary masterwork, read my review HERE.
If, you need to read about wise decisions to finance Canadian cinema during the past year, feel free to read my review of Hurt HERE, my review of of The Waiting Room HERE, my review of Sleeping Giant HERE, my review of The Rainbow Kid HERE, my review of Fire Song HERE and the list, go on, and on, and on.
If you want to read about the kind of overpriced, empty, overblown crap that should never be made in Canada (unless completely financed by the marketplace), feel free to read my review of Hyena Road HERE.
And I reiterate, TAB HUNTER, for God's Sake, came to see The Forbidden Room. Paul Gross can eat his heart out.
Hyena Road is playing on 174 screens across Canada. The Forbidden Room is playing at the Film Forum in New York and the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto.