Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Can Europeans Make Movies Without Subisdies?

The answer, it seems, is NO. Nor can they manage that situation without turning the work into state funded ideological Punch and Judy shows.

Among other entrants, Rodek had Polanski’s The Ghost Writer in mind. As he mentions, the film was largely shot at the fabled Babelsberg studios, outside Berlin, and at other German locations. What he does not mention is the more than €3.5 million in financing that the German Film Fund (DFFF) contributed to the making of the film. The exact figure is €3,540,944. The DFFF is directly attached to the German government’s Department of Culture and Media.

The Ghost Writer also received another €500,000 in financing from the Film Board (FFA), Germany’s other federal source of public support for cinema. The FFA is funded by a “fee” leveled on the ticket sales of German cinemas.

And that is not all. The Ghost Writer also received yet another €500,000 in public support from the joint “Media-Board” of the German states of Berlin and Brandenburg (source: Studio Babelsberg). Plus €200,000 from the Film Fund of Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein. Plus another €200,000 from the modest Film Fund of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, the poorest of Germany’s sixteen states. That makes for nearly €5 million in German public support in all — or nearly $7 million at current exchange rates. Plus, in January of this year the Media-Board Berlin-Brandenburg kicked in another €80,000 in subsidies to aid in the distribution of the film
So if all of these things are “blockbusters”, and if not, lauded otherwise as the most touching, intelligent, thoughtful things in the world, why do they need to be subsidized by half a dozen government funded bureaus, committees, and whatnots?

Knowing that their investment has to pay off, do you hear anyone calling any of the films funded this way the stinkers that most of them really are?

Nope. Never. Their poop don’t never stink, and it’s the rest of the world that’s artless and incapable. If there’s any doubt, you’ll be sure to get a lecture of comparisons using selected examples from the US, but never Egypt, India, or Brazil. The approach is, as always to compare what they deem to be their high culture to what they deem to be others’ low culture.

To take the that argument to other spheres of creative practice would require one to say that Rock may not be played publicly without being degenerated so long as symphonies exist, even if they are badly done.

Andrew O'Hehir writes in Salon:
Like most of Polanski's recent work, this is both a genre film and a literary adaptation, but it's infused with his distinctively bleak vision of social and sexual relationships. Furthermore, I can't resist noting that "The Ghost Writer" is partly about a man forced into foreign exile by his legal problems, a man who just happens to be a famous and charismatic international playboy with a buried secret in his 1970s past.
So it’s no surprise that 1/9th of the film’s development cost needed to come largely from the German taxpayer: it’s all about Polanski tweeting me-me-me-me-me, and it comes with a “you’ll eat it, and you’ll like it” air about its inception.

After all, wouldn’t the popularity of using Tony Blair as a pin-cushion be enough to pack ‘em into the house? Why leave such an important crypto-political message to chance, right? Otherwise where else could one spend €45,000,000 on what amounts to overdone TV production values:
Instead, Polanski crafts something like a devious four-hand chamber play, set largely inside the forbidding, modernist beach house -- the movie was mainly shot on a Berlin soundstage, using green screens for exterior backdrops -- and featuring McGregor as the dewy-eyed outsider who wanders unawares into a nest of vipers. Besides the vague but affable Lang, the denizens include his long-suffering wife, Ruth (Olivia Williams), who becomes the ghostwriter's confidante while nursing her own secrets, and Lang's coolly efficient assistant (Kim Cattrall), who may also be his lover.
I’m going to guess that Kim Cattrall and Tom Wilkinson didn’t break the budget, and that yet another shallow, forbidding, sun-lit modern Euro villa isn’t going to impress anyone who doesn’t already realize that the cold and distant feeling it gives you rather predictably is not a reflection of the characters in it, but of the empty creatures behind the film who think that they can force the public to pay for what they would like to think both popular and populist producing the film.

Were that really the case, NO board money would be required, unless there is some freak out there that get a lift out of seeing 6 or 7 “in cooperation with...” plates before the picture starts rolling.