Kristen Stewart worked with French filmmaker Olivier Assayas in Clouds of Sils Maria in 2014, earning her a French César for the role. She’s back with the filmmaker in their latest collaboration, Personal Shopper, which IFC Films opens today.
The weekend has a number of new Specialty releases of various sizes. Paladin is going out with a fairly sizable initial run for The Ottoman Lieutenant featuring Michiel Huisman, Hera Hilmar, Josh Hartnett and Ben Kingsley in over two hundred locations. Drama The Sense Of an Ending is in New York and Los Angeles, as is Focus World’s thriller Raw. Magnolia Pictures is going day and date with doc My Scientology Movie.
Also opening this weekend in limited release is FIP’s Badrinath Ki Dulhania in over one hundred-fifty locations. The Film Collaborative is launching A Very Sordid Wedding, a sequel to the play, movie and television series Sordid Lives rooted in the Southern Baptist world of Winters, Texas, exploring the acceptance, conflict and bigotry following the weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage equality ruling. Strand is opening Greek romance Suntan and Breaking Glass Pictures is heading out with drama Actor Martinez.
Director-writer: Olivier Assayas
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Lars Edinger, Sigrid Bouaziz
Distributor: IFC Films
French filmmaker Olivier Assayas and Kristen Stewart team up again for Personal Shopper, which opens this weekend stateside. Assayas wrote the screenplay for Personal Shopper very quickly after making Clouds of Sils Maria (2014), in which Stewart starred opposite Juliette Binoche. The role won Stewart a César Award for best supporting actress.
In Personal Shopper, Kristen Stewart plays a high-fashion personal shopper to the stars who is also a spiritual medium. Grieving the recent death of her twin brother, she haunts his Paris home, determined to make contact with him.
“Olivier wanted to go further with Stewart [after Clouds of Sils Maria],” explained Personal Shopper producer Charles Gillibert. “[In that film], her character disappears, but this is, in my opinion, a continuation of where she goes. I remember when we did Summer Hours (2008), Juliette [Binoche] came back to Olivier to say that she thinks they could go deeper into her character. So, Olivier wrote Clouds of Sils Maria and after that we have Personal Shopper.”
Assayas wrote Personal Shopper in about two months in the first quarter of 2015 with Kristen Stewart in mind for the main character. Gillibert said that she read it immediately over a week after he finished it. The idea was to shoot the film quickly. The announcement that Stewart would star in his latest project was announced in Cannes.
“He felt the film should have spontaneity,” added Gillibert. “She was working, though, on the Woody Allen movie, so we waited for her. It was shot in November after spending three or four months in prep in November and December [of that year].”
Personal Shopper shot over seven weeks primarily in a studio in the Czech Republic in addition to Parisian street scenes. Stewart appears in every frame of the title and the role generally required a lot of the actress. “It was 12 hour days with difficult tasks,” said Gillibert. “It was a dance between Olivier and Kristen. She had some different points of view during [production], but Olivier loves that. He likes a movie that is ‘made in the moment.’ There was an indirect dialog that took place.”
IFC Films, which released Clouds of Sils Maria under its Sundance Selects label ($1.8M theatrical gross) and Summer Hours ($1.6M gross), picked up Personal Shopper in the script stage.
“This is one of the very few small films that is totally financed by the market because of cast [in Europe],” said Gillibert. “We had television channel support, but no subsidies.” The feature debuted in Cannes and played a slew of festivals including Toronto and New York.
IFC Films will open Personal Shopper at Lincoln Plaza and IFC Center in New York as well as in L.A. at the Landmark and Arclight Hollywood in a traditional roll-out. It will head to other markets over the coming weeks.
The Ottoman Lieutenant
Director: Joseph Ruben
Writer: Jeff Stockwell
Cast: Michiel Huisman, Hera Hilmar, Josh Hartnett, Ben Kingsley, Haluk Bilginer, Paul Barrett, Jessica Turner, Peter Hosking, Affif Ben Badra
CAA brought war drama-romance The Ottoman Lieutenant to Paladin head Mark Urman to handle its release. Urman said the scale of the film is different than what the company typically does, they’re engaged full tilt.
“It’s a bigger picture than we often do. It’s brought back fond memories of epics, romance set against historical events,” he explained. “It’s a movie not often made these days and when they are, they are angry. What I found refreshing with this is, it’s passionate, but not angry. The politics are in the background. It’s about three simple relatable ideas: Individual heroism; power of love to bring people together of different backgrounds; and of the ability of movies to bring a distant past and place alive.”
The film centers on a beautiful, strong-willed woman, who, frustrated by ongoing injustice at home, leaves the United States after meeting Jude, an American doctor who runs a remote medical mission within the Ottoman Empire – a world both exotic and dangerous, and on the brink of what is about to become the first World War. There, she finds her loyalty to Jude and the mission’s founder tested when she falls in love with their perceived enemy, a lieutenant in the Ottoman Imperial Army. Now, with invading army forces at their doorstep, and the world about to plunge into all-out war, she must make a decision if she wants to be what other people want her to be, or to be herself.
“It’s playing very well to a metropolitan, suburban and mature audience. It’s not an art film, but also not a studio release,” said Urman. “We’re clustered [this weekend] around major markets where it will be playing in a number of theaters. While we’re represented in upscale specialty theaters like Laemmle, we’re also in mainstream theaters.”
Urman said that there is a “muscular” advertising campaign including radio, television, print and digital in markets where the feature will open this weekend, including “top and second tier markets.”
“We waited for the Oscar rush to subside,” he said. “There’s nothing of this sort coming out. We’re the only romance in the marketplace at the moment. This is our sweet spot. We got involved with the film at the start of the Toronto International Film Festival and we looked at the competitive landscape then and even at that moment, we knew it would open March 10.”
The Ottoman Lieutenant will open in about 215 theaters this weekend. Added Urman: “The film is a love story between an American Christian woman and a Muslim. It’s not Romeo and Juliette or about issues related to contemporary society, but it’s mostly a timeless film rather than timely — and that’s intentional.”
The Sense of an Ending
Director: Ritesh Batra
Writers: Nick Payne, Julian Barnes (novel)
Cast: Jim Broadbent, Harriet Walter, Michelle Dockery, Emily Mortimer, Billy Howle, Joe Alwyn, Freya Mavor, Matthew Goode, Charlotte Rampling
Distributor: CBS Films
CBS Films picked up The Sense of an Ending prior to filming. The company said its connection to FilmNation was itself a selling point and that the company had been fans of director Ritesh Batra’s The Lunchbox (2014), which grossed over $4.23M domestically.
The Sense of an Ending centers on Tony Webster (Broadbent) who leads a reclusive and quiet existence until long buried secrets from his past force him to face the flawed recollections of his younger self, the truth about his first love (Rampling) and the devastating consequences of decisions made a lifetime ago.
“We felt the film would appeal to a broad range of the upscale moviegoing audience, who had spent the last month watching many of the Academy Award nominees,” noted CBS Films’ EVP of distribution, Steven Friedlander. “So, we wanted to find a date after the awards but close enough to give them a fresh, new entertainment choice.”
Festival audiences in Palm Springs were the first to catch the title just as phase two of awards season was underway. CBS Films then took the film to a number of festivals and other events across the country. The distributor noted that Batra and cast have been “supportive going beyond standard publicity efforts and participating in numerous Q&As ahead of its release this weekend.”
“It’s also about coming at an art house title like The Sense of an Ending with the understanding that it’s a marathon, not a sprint,” a company spokesperson added. “Older adult audiences are not always opening weekend audiences, but we believe that the film will ultimately find an audience as word of mouth expands along with the theater count.”
The Sense of an Ending will bow in two locations each in New York and L.A. this weekend before adding other markets and locations in the coming weeks.
Director-writer: Julia Ducournau
Cast: Garance Marillier, Ella Rumpf, Rabah Nait Oufella, Laurent Lucas, Joana Preiss, Bouli Lanners
Distributor: Focus World
Focus World picked up French/Belgian feature Raw out of the 2016 Cannes Film Festival where it debuted in Critics Week, picking up a Fipresci prize. The distributor is targeting horror fans — primarily young adults, 17 – 25 — as well as art house and foreign film audiences 18 – 45 as it heads out with the feature this weekend. Raw played a number of international and domestic festivals, charging word of mouth including Toronto, Fantastic Fest, Chicago and Sundance in January.
Raw centers on Justin (Garance Marlier) and her family who are all veterans as well as vegetarians. At sixteen she’s a brilliant student starting out at veterinary school where she experiences a decadent, merciless and dangerously seductive world. Desperate to fit in, she strays from her family principles and eats raw meat for the first time. Justine will soon face the terrible and unexpected consequences as her true self begins to emerge.
Said Focus World touting the feature: ”Focus World acquired writer/director Julia Ducournau’s Raw out of Cannes where we fell in love with her bold and original voice and the genre-bending style; Raw is a film that both hard-core genre fans and art-house audiences will absolutely love.”
In addition to its festival play, Focus World screened the title various tastemaker groups leading up to its release this weekend. Its media buys have been 100 percent digital. The pic has also been featured in a number of publications, and Ducournau was named one of Variety’s “10 to Watch in 2017.”
Focus World opens Raw at the Nuart in L.A. and the Angelika Film Center in New York this weekend. The feature will expand to additional U.S. markets March 17 and 24. Ducournau will take part in Q&As in New York March 9 following the 8pm showing and March 10 following the 7:10 showing. On March 11 she’ll do the same in Los Angeles following the 7:30 showing.
My Scientology Movie
Director-writer: John Dower
Writer: Louis Theroux
Subjects: Louis Theroux, Rob Alter, Tom Cruise, Paz de la Huerta, Tom De Vocht, Jefferson Hawkins, Marc Headley
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures
Magnolia Pictures caught My Scientology Movie out of last year’s Tribeca Film Festival last year, according to the company. The distributor touted its strong showing in the United Kingdom where it debuted last fall, grossing over $1.35M.
An excerpt from Magnolia’s description of the film says: “Following a long fascination with [Scientology] and with much experience in dealing with eccentric, unpalatable and unexpected human behavior, the beguilingly unassuming Louis Theroux won’t take no for an answer when his quest to enter the Church’s headquarters is turned down. Inspired by the Church’s use of filming techniques, and aided by ex-members of the organization, Theroux uses actors to replay some incidents people claim they experienced as members in an attempt to better understand the way it operates. In a bizarre twist, it becomes clear that the Church is also making a film about Louis Theroux… My Scientology Movie is stranger than fiction.”
“The film has been a huge hit in the U.K. and Australia,” said Magnolia exec Matt Cowal. “Louis Theroux has a large following in those countries but he’s developed a sizable cult audience in the U.S. as well with his documentaries, and we’re optimistic that his fans will share our interest.”
Magnolia Pictures is opening My Scientology Movie day and date today. In theaters it will play at the Sunshine Cinema in New York as well as in L.A. at the Arclight Hollywood. The film will then head to additional select markets this month and in April.