When Hollywood Went To Europe

Christopher Fowler
brice_film_casse Europe has always gone to Hollywood and hired its talents out - but there was a brief period when the reverse happened. In the late 1990s Hollywood topped up finance for European movies that wouldn't otherwise be made, employing some great directors in the process. Europeans rarely replicated big action in their popular films, concentrating instead on human interaction, because they were less interested in blowing stuff up and anyway, they didn't have the budgets or the FX studios. (The UK has amazing FX studios; London's Framestore handled 'Gravity'.) However, when Time-Warner and other Hollywood companies started investing in European films, there came out of countries like France some excellent if decidedly odd action and comedy movies that, I can only presume, were intended to cross over. The experiment didn't last, but it was fun for a while. Take the 'OSS-117' movies, or comedies like 'Le Boulet' and 'Brice de Nice' - these films didn't travel well. In 'Le Boulet' Gerard Lanvin is about to get out of jail when he wins the lottery. Trouble is, the winning ticket is in his dim warden's wife's coat, and she's on a cross-country safari rally. Cue Lanvin being broken out of jail and chasing halfway across the globe to get it. The joke in 'Brice de Nice' is that a pre-'The Artist' Jean Dujardin is a surfer in Nice (which has the flattest water in the whole of the Cote D'Azur). His 'Casse' diagonal hand-slash trademark (indicating that you've been had) became the most imitated expression of the year. Although subtitled versions of films like 'Rust and Bone', 'Hors De Prix', 'Une Longue Dimanche de Fiancailles' and 'Holy Motors' eventually appeared, most French films now seem to remain at home, and are not translated for international audiences. The only films that surface are fluff like 'Populaire' and a few festival hits. The same is true of a number of outstanding German and Scandinavian successes. I loved 'Perfectly Happy', which I thought could be remade in Texas, and 'The Sea', about the most disastrous wedding of all time. Did companies like Time-Warner do it for world or remake rights? Did they eventually withdraw their money, realising that Europe could not create hybrid hits? Either way, it seems that European outposts are slashing staff and the fences are going back up. With the slow death of the DVD brought about by California's determination to make us stream movies online, we'll find more limitations about what we can see. Because it's about total system ownership, and when that happens, try to locate films like 'The Suicide Shop' on the Cloud.
Posted in
Film, Observatory & The Arts


snowy (not verified) Fri, 15/11/2013 - 18:22

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I'm slightly more optimistic, but with some hefty reservations. Once the film is freed from a physical DVD, it becomes just as economic to stream/download it from a French distrib. as it is from one US owned.

[But if studios refuse to add subs or a dub track then nothing is going to change.]

There do seem to be cycles of foreign language films becoming available.

A foreign director crosses over the Hollywood, has a hit and suddenly their entire back catalogue is released into the [mostly English speaking] market.

Hollywood ramps up prices for it's product and broadcasters start casting around for cheaper filler.

A sudden change in technology, the video cassette, satellite subscription and now streaming. All demand vast amounts of content at the lowest cost.

Or sometimes the media just fall back in love with one of our European neighbours and host a season of films which drives up demand.

The reservations, all those about not having a copy that is yours to do as you wish, to watch when you wish and to dispose of how you wish.

But consider the situation where you have a licence for a film you enjoy and that licence is suddenly revoked? [There will be a clause in the contract that allows it].

Or to get into the realms of fiction what if the film is changed, perhaps you had the original? But when you go to view it again, it has become a super-sized Directors cut, or more likely the new improved Studio cut, with a few new scenes added to smooth out the narrative and some more explosions just to ramp up the action.

You know the scene, where Trevor Howard rips off his shirt [to reveal his six pack], defeats an entire Nazi battalion [with nothing more than a pistol and stiff upper lip], to rescue Celia from the train crash at the end of 'Brief Encounter'. [She dies, but their unborn child is saved, and named 'Rosebud'.]

Helen Martin (not verified) Fri, 15/11/2013 - 22:24

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Can someone ensure that no one ever let's Snowy's mind loose in the film industry? Just thinking about that scene makes my skin crawl.

snowy (not verified) Fri, 15/11/2013 - 22:53

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Don't worry, I'm not allowed out unsupervised.

Ken Murray (not verified) Sun, 17/11/2013 - 08:52

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Loved the original French films Taxi and Taxi 2 but look what happed to the American version. Even Steve Martin and Queen Latifa couldn't save it.