Films starring Clive Owen, Juliette Binoche, Michael C. Hall, Pierce Brosnan and Emma Thompson usher in this week’s Specialty newcomers. IFC Films has two of the weekend’s openers, including Cold In July which took years to complete. The late author/satirist Gore Vidal takes the spotlight in the distributor’s doc Gore Vidal: United States Of Amnesia which is chalk-full of the subject’s views on right vs left (the right has apparently won). Two films, The Love Punch from Ketchup Entertainment and Words And Pictures from Roadside Attractions will target older audiences providing counter-programming on this X-Men: Days Of Future Past holiday weekend. And New York is at the center of a story about an autistic boy in Oscilloscope’s Stand Clear Of The Closing Doors.
Cold In July
Director-writer: Jim Mickle
Writer: Nick Damici, Joe R. Lansdale (novel)
Cast: Michael C. Hall, Sam Shepard, Don Johnson, Vinessa Shaw, Wyatt Russell, Kristin Griffith
Distributor: IFC Films
A half-dozen years in the making, Cold In July‘s big screen turn began when filmmaker Jim Mickle read the novel in 2007. “We had to re-option the book three times. I think we even got to the point where we were optioning it month to month and I think the author was losing faith,” said director Jim Mickle. “And there was a moment at Sundance when I thought it was dead. The financing wasn’t there and the script was far off from where we wanted it to be. I was looking at it like it was a bad relationship with a girlfriend and thought it should go away.” But obviously a reconciliation did occur. The thriller-drama is set in the ’80s in East Texas about two fathers who are pitted against each other in revenge, but then must come together to uncover a dark truth. But at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, Mickle was introduced to actor Michael C. Hall. He had read the script and was interested. “After seeing what a normal good guy he is, there was a spark that got me interested in it again,” said Mickle. “[Then later in Cannes] the day we landed was the final meeting that brought financing together. I spoke with Michael C. Hall in earnest again and then we were in pre-production.” Originally, the plan was to shoot in Shreveport, TX but ultimately the production decided to head to upstate New York. “To do [the film] more easily and cheaply, we decided to stay near home,” said Mickle. “We doubled Kingston, NY for east Texas. Weirdly, it was the easiest shoot I’ve had.” Shooting took place over 25 days (5, five day weeks). Initially the filmmakers had hoped for a 3 – 5 million dollar project. “That was not big enough to attract actors and still too small to pull something off,” he added. “You have to go bigger or smaller, so we decided to go smaller, which was interesting because then the cast all came together after that.
IFC Films came on board the film at Sundance (it is also playing Directors’ Fortnight at the current Cannes Film Festival). “They were the first company to get behind it and get excited by it,” said Mickle. He noted that his previous project, We Are What We Are had played Sundance, then in Cannes before a couple more festivals in early fall and then finally rolling out theatrically in September, which he said drowned out some momentum. The feature will open in New York, L.A., Washington, D.C., Boston, Seattle and Dallas this weekend.
Filmmaker Nicholas Wrathall began following author satirist Gore Vidal’s writings after 9/11. He also had a connection with Vidal through a long friendship with his nephew who had shared stories. “I had Easter brunch with him in 2003 and so was lucky enough to meet him,” said Wrathall. “We had discussions and kept in touch.” Wrathall had the idea to start filming Vidal and found some initial backing, but the project went full throttle after Wrathall traveled to Italy to see Vidal. “When I heard he was closing his house in Italy I rushed out to see him. That was where it really started,” said Wrathall. “After we shot [Gore Vidal] closing his home in Italy, we were able to prove our access. With docs it’s all about access when talking to financiers. Gore was also excited about it.” Wrathall concentrated on politics and America in general through the eyes of Vidal. The documentary is unashamedly opinionated. Vidal sees that the right has already triumphed, leaving the values of liberalism in its wake. The film dramatizes Gore’s political views and his concern at the present state of American democracy via interviews and historical footage of his appearances on television and talk shows over the last fifty years. “He was angry how the country was going under the Bush Administration,” said Wrathall. “Gore is very media savvy and had this public persona so he knew what his message would be. On camera he knew what he wanted to say.” In 2008, the production lost a backer, so Wrathall and team had to spend time raising money. He took his footage and began editing back in Australia where he lives, assembling a rough cut with his own funds. “I started doing other [film jobs] to support myself, and eventually did more shooting with [Vidal’s sister] Nina. Eventually, they finished the rough cut and started showing it to festivals. “Once I got Tribeca interest, things changed,” said Wrathall. “[We] brought in some investors. Making independent film is a hard thing, but I knew we had a film there and just had to be persistent.” Wrathall added to some laughs, “Maybe it will be easier now that I’ve done one.”
Gore Vidal: United States Of Amnesia debuted at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival, eventually also screening at festivals in the U.S. and abroad. “We had a lot of interest,” said Wrathall. “IFC Films didn’t get involved until the beginning if this year, but once they did, they pushed to [release] it early. It has a theatrical release which is what I always wanted.” Gore Vidal died in July 2012, so didn’t get to see the final result. “He saw the rushes and a lot of his family have seen it,” added Wrathall. “When the film stalled he’d ask what was going on, but I didn’t ask him to get involved editorially, so I didn’t get into that discussion with him. I had always imagined him coming to the premiere so it was a shame that didn’t happen.” The documentary opens at IFC Center and Lincoln Plaza in New York Friday. It heads to L.A. June 6 before heading to about a dozen other cities.
Ketchup first had a taste of The Love Punch at the 2012 AFM. The comedy revolves around a divorced couple who scheme to recover the retirement money that was stolen from them. “Even at the promo stage, it had great chemistry,” said Ketchup’s Stephen Stanley. “It then premiered in Toronto and we closed the deal.” Stanley said that the older demographs are the natural fit for The Love Punch, though, they hope it will break out. “The film had the elements we like. It’s a commercial film with great actors,” added Stanley. “We don’t see it just for older people, but they are the core. We will grow it from there.” Ketchup brought on veteran distribution exec Bob Berney of Picturehouse to oversee the film’s marketing. “His team have developed a great strategy,” commented Stanley. Ketchup said The Love Punch is a broad comedy and it is opening it on a comparatively large 120 screens this weekend in ten markets. Ketchup is doing a round of TV spots and radio in the lead-up to the roll out in addition to the regular press rounds. The Love Punch opened in the UK, grossing 2.5M GBP (about $4.25M USD). “It is a broad fun comedy and we want to give it that chance. We want to see how it plays as a wider release,” said Stanley. “Then we’ll look at results and start expanding.”
Roadside picked up Words And Pictures out of last year’s Toronto International Film Festival. The comedy-drama-romance centers on an art instructor and an English teacher who form a rivalry that ends up with a competition at their school in which students decide whether words or pictures are more important. “This movie is for an older audience, specifically for older women,” said Roadside co-president Howard Cohen. Roadside said it has received positive word of mouth out of subsequent festivals in Palm Springs, Dallas and San Francisco and is capitalizing on that heading into its theatrical run this weekend. The New York Times featured Juliette Binoche in its Sunday Arts & Leisure section. Binoche, who plays the art teacher, created art featured in the film. She picked up painting as a child and her images were also seen in Leos Carax’s 1991 film The Lovers On The Bridge. The NYT article noted that director Fred Schepisi realized Binoche’s talent after she showed him some of her work during a Skype conversation. “She was in Cannes for her new film which is in competition, but she took part in promoting the film ahead of that,” said Cohen. “Clive Owen is doing the talk show circuit including the Today show. Cohen noted that The Love Punch, also opening this weekend, appeals to a similar demographic but that the film will be good counter-programming to this weekend’s blockbuster roll out X-Men: Days Of Future Past. “This is a traditional window,” said Cohen. “We’re hoping to go to a couple of hundred theaters in a couple weeks. We’re hopeful. It is playing at the Paris theater in Manhattan which is great. It’s in prime theaters for our audience.”
Stand Clear Of The Closing Doors
Director: Sam Fleischner
Writers: Rose Lichter-Marck, Micah Bloomberg
Cast: Jesus Sanchez-Velez, Andrea Suarez Paz, Azul Zorrilla, Tenoch Huerta, Marsha Stephanie Blake
Oscilloscope picked up drama Stand Clear Of The Closing Doors out of last year’s Tribeca Film Festival. It centers on an autistic youth named Ricky who escapes into the city’s subways after a bad day at school. He begins an unreal journey of discovery, while his mom frantically searches for him. “We loved it from the first moment we saw it; it’s moving, original, smart, and showcases New York–in particular the vibrant and chaotic world of the subways–like no other film we’ve seen before,” said Oscilloscope’s David Laub. “Sam is a major up and coming talent, and we were excited to be involved with him and bring this incredibly unique movie out into the world.” Oscilloscope is targeting a few potential core audiences with Stand Clear Of The Closing Doors, including, naturally, the traditional specialty audience. “[They] should be attracted to exceptional reviews and the strong word of mouth the film has received,” said Laub. “In particular, New York audiences should be very responsive to the film, as it’s such a quintessential New York movie.” Oscilloscope has also been targeting Latino viewers and people who are involved with autism. “Both communities figure prominently into the story of the film, and we’ve seen great responses from [them],” added Laub. Oscilloscope will open the film exclusively at New York’s Cinema Village this weekend. It will expand the film nationally in addition to a digital roll out later this summer.