Blue Is The Warmest Color has had more press, public spats, anticipation, praise and momentum than any foreign-language film in memory. The latest flap involves New York’s IFC Center deciding not to honor the NC-17 MPAA voluntary rating, allowing young people under 18 to see the film. Now the Palme d’Or winner is heading out to theaters in the U.S. courtesy of Sundance Selects. The film has already grossed nearly a cool $4.5 million in France since opening October 9. The weekend’s roster of newcomers are far fewer than previous bows this fall. Among the new Specialties hitting theaters along with Blue Friday are The Film Arcade’s Spinning Plates by Food Network host Joseph Levy as well as fellow doc Not Yet Begun To Fight by Shasta Grenier and Sabrina Lee’s, which they will self-distribute, and Cohen Media Group’s Capital. And listed in last week’s Specialty Preview is Jehane Noujaim’s Toronto and NYFF debut, The Square, which will open at Film Forum in New York.
Blue Is The Warmest Color
Director-writer: Abdellatif Kechiche
Writers: Julie Maroh (story), Galia Lacroix (adaptation)
Cast: Adèle Exarchopoulos, Léa Seydoux, Salim Kechiouche, Aurélien Recoing, Catherine Salée, Benjamin Siksou
Distributor: Sundance Selects
Much has been talked about the 2013 Cannes Palme d’Or winner, Blue Is The Warmest Color. The festival, lead by festival juror Steven Spielberg even gave recognition to the film’s two leads, Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux with special Palme d’Ors of their own. The film centers on Adèle, a young woman who meets Emma, with whom she falls in love with as the pair embark on a passionate relationship.
The post-Cannes public spats between filmmaker Abdellatif Kechiche and his leads, especially Léa Seydoux, have kept the film in the news, even as its now famous sex scenes have been fodder for press attention at the film’s premieres at the Toronto and New York film festivals. In the lead-up to the film’s release, New York’s IFC Center told The New York Times that it would allow teenagers to buy tickets to the screening, going against the convention of banning under aged audiences from seeing an NC-17 rated feature. “This is not a movie for young children, but it is our judgment that it is not inappropriate for mature, inquiring teenagers who are looking ahead to the emotional challenges and opportunities that adulthood holds,” John Vanco, SVP and general manager of IFC Center said to NYT. High school age patrons will be welcome, at least at that venue. IFC Films’ sister label Sundance Selects picked up Blue out of Cannes, ahead of its Palme d’Or win. “We were with Abdellatif [Kechiche] for The Secret Of The Grain (2007) and we like continuing relationships with people we admire,” said IFC Films president Jonathan Sehring. “Quite frankly [those on our team] who saw it at the first screening had very diverse perspectives, but they all thought it was a masterpiece and we had to have it…They usually don’t agree on everything. It was by far and away the best film in the festival.” Sehring said they decided to take the NC-17 since some exhibitors won’t take an unrated film. The distributor also didn’t want to ask the filmmaker to cut the film. “Do I think the whole rating system is flawed? Absolutely… It’s a bit absurd, but that’s the rating,” said Sehring. “There are a lot of successful movies that have an NC-17 rating, but it seems absurd when it’s about first love and passion and nobody’s killing anybody. Two of the characters are high school students.” Sehring noted that the film received a U 12 in France, which is akin to a PG-13 in the U.S. (save a year). “I can pull together hundreds of examples of mayhem and murder and get R ratings,” added Sehring. “I don’t know what negative love and passion can have on anybody. There are times we won’t submit a movie for a rating, but on this one we thought it would be disingenuous.”
Sehring said the exhibition community has been “great” with this release, noting the “best set of theaters” are lined up for the theatrical rollout Stateside despite the competitive market. “It’s an incredibly competitive time,” he added. “We are encouraged by the critical response and the buzz around it. The movie is great and we’re confident the word of mouth will be extremely good. The performances are fantastic [and] I hope it will have a life in awards season but I’m not one to predict. As the French producers said it’s already won the Palme d’Or.” Blue Is The Warmest Color will open at IFC Center and Lincoln Plaza in New York as well as the Arclight and Landmark in Los Angeles. It will head to 5 to 7 additional markets the following weekend.
Joseph Levy’s Spinning Plates evolved out of his Food Network show Into The Fire, which looked behind the scenes at some of the country’s most renowned restaurants. Similarly, documentary Spinning Plates takes a look at three restaurants and their owners, including Chicago’s Alinea, Iowa’s Breitbach Country Dining and Tucson’s La Cocina de Gabby. The three are very different, but the doc spotlights the passion behind the food. “I wanted to go a little deeper [than the show],” said Levy. “I wasn’t sure how I wanted it to look until I saw a shot of breakfasts around the world [in a food magazine]. The images tied everything together and through that I had an idea to show three dissimilar restaurants.” Levy contacted Alinea – one of the country’s top restaurants – and later headed to Iowa. Fate stepped in after Levy’s father passed away, temporarily derailing the project, but he then returned and very determined. “I was hell bent on making it,” said Levy. “In November 2010, I shot Alinea and made a three-minute financing trailer.” Ambush Entertainment boarded the project after an exec saw the trailer. “I always thought it was important to have something to show,” added Levy. Several friends also contributed to the project in addition to Everybody Loves Raymond producer Philip Rosenthal, who also invests in restaurants. Noted Levy, “Phil also gave his advice on distribution…”
Levy shot the restaurant scenes over 18 days and included one day at California’s French Laundry. “I decided to edit myself and locked myself in a house in Palm Springs for three months,” said Levy. Principals in Ambush are also involved in The Film Arcade, which came on board as distributor ahead of the film’s premiere at the Austin Film Festival. “We had kept our eyes open to what might be better, but there was nothing better,” said Levy who added that a traditional theatrical release was important. The Film Arcade is teaming with Landmark as the exclusive exhibitor for the film’s initial release. It will open in three theaters in New York, L.A. and Chicago this weekend, followed by 10 added locations the following weekend. Digital/VOD will take place next year.
Writer: Karim Boukercha
Cast: Gad Elmaleh, Gabriel Byrne, Liya Kebede, Natacha Régnier, Céline Sallette, Liya Kebede, Hippolyte Girardot
Distributor: Cohen Media Group
Cohen Media Group first saw Costa-Gavras’ Capital in Cannes. The French and English-language drama follows a newly appointed CEO of a giant European investment bank who works to hold on to his power when an American hedge fund company tries to buy out his company. “We met with the sales company in Cannes and they had just taken on the film,” said Cohen Media Group founder Charles Cohen. “We are a very director-driven company and we’re interested in becoming involved with a world class director like Costa-Gavras. After seeing footage, we struck a deal quickly.” Veterans of several foreign-language films, the company has found a base audience among the older demographic, though not exclusively so, also grabbing audiences through social networking. “This is a classic release, not day and date with VOD,” noted Cohen. “We believe in that for certain films, but we didn’t think that was the way to go here. Instead, we are platforming theatrically in New York at the Paris and the Regal Union Square.” Capital will then roll out to 30-plus additional runs the following week with a digital VOD slated for later.
Filmmakers Shasta Grenier and Sabrina Lee began working on Not Yet Begun To Fight in 2009 when the U.S. still had troops in Iraq as well as Afghanistan. In the doc, a retired Marine Colonel reaches out to five newly returned soldiers from battle and brings them to a river to try fly fishing, which serves as a method of healing. “We knew a lot about the numbers in this war and didn’t know the faces of the stories,” said Grenier. “[Organization] Warriors in Quiet Waters gave us unique windows into the stories.” The filmmakers first asked for permission from the Department of Defense for access to a military hospital in San Diego, but only given permission the day before they were set to leave. “We didn’t know if we’d get this off the ground,” said Lee. “We were given a list of five vets who were injured, but we didn’t know much of the back story. We showed up with cameras and releases and they were apprehensive. But they agreed to be in the film because they thought it would help other vets. They were not eager to talk to us.” The filmmakers ditched the cameras once they met the subjects in Montana where their program began. “Over the next couple of days they relayed we were not there to exploit them,” said Lee. Loading camera and equipment on boats posed a challenge on water. Some equipment also hindered progress in other ways. “One soldier was troubled with the boom. The black object in his peripheral vision brought out anxiety related to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder,” added Lee.
Grenier noted that Roger Ebert saw the film in February and invited the title to be one of two docs at his Roger Ebert Film Festival in April. “We had a beautiful screening and got a standing ovation,” said Grenier. “We had this moment of recognition that people did want to see this film.” The filmmakers decided to self-distribute through their Ultra Violet Projects label. The film opens at the Quad this weekend followed by L.A. November 1 at the Laemmle Music Hall. A shorter version of Not Yet Begun To Fight will play on PBS later in November.