Text Vladimir Kozlov
Luring the TV audience to movie theaters is becoming one of the strongest trends in the domestic film industry as both of the major commercial hits at the beginning of this year cashed in on the successes of an old Soviet television movie and a recent TV comedy show.
Just a few days before the ten-day New Year vacation, The Irony of Fate: Continuation opened nationwide, grossing just under $50 million to date and breaking all previous domestic box-office records. Frankly, the artistic merits of this sequel to The Irony of Fate, the 1975 Soviet TV comedy based on a New Year theme, is questionable. The creators of the film should certainly be given credit for the idea itself. Generations of Soviet people have watched The Irony of Fate, which is shown on TV every December 31, and has become a natural part of the holiday, along with Russian salad and “Soviet” champagne, and they would be more than willing to see a continuation of that lovetriangle- centered romantic story.
Incidentally, First Channel, which produced the movie, has had some successful previous experience at producing theatrical movies, such as Night Watch and Day Watch, whose excellent box-office performance must have inspired First Channel to continue its big-screen venture. In addition, no other domestic film company could invest as much in production of a feature or organize such a massive advertising campaign for a movie, which gave the Channel another advantage. While the first Irony of Fate was directed by Eldar Ryazanov, one of the best comedy directors of Soviet times, this time around Timur Bekmambetov was brought in who was the director of both Watches, who incidentally, has had a rather successful career in Hollywood.
Another recent commercial hit, modestly titled as The Best Movie Ever, also targets a primarily TV audience, featuring several major actors from the extremely popular TV show Comedy Club. People were lining up to see nearly obscene jokes by their favorite TV show characters. Meanwhile, the TV channel TNT, which produced the movie, is facing court litigation because of unauthorized use of the popular cartoon character Cheburashka. But this only gives the movie additional publicity, pushing up its box office take.
Meanwhile, the trend of bringing TV audiences to movie theaters raises several questions. Will it be possible to create a major box-office film in Russia without support from television these days? How big is the potential audience of television-driven movie projects and will it be sufficient to make big-budget films profitable? The answers should come later this year as more widely anticipated films are released.
There Will Be Blood
Director Paul Thomas Anderson came to prominence about ten years ago with the movie Magnolia, an epic mosaic of several interrelated characters in search of happiness in the San Fernando Valley. Although the movie might have been underrated in the United States, where it got three Oscar nominations but no statuettes, it did well in Europe, winning a Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival. Anderson’s next movie, Punch-Drunk Love, brought him another major international award, the Best Director’s prize at the Cannes Film Festival.
No surprise, the director’s next feature, There Will Be Blood, which also collected a bevy of prizes and nominations, including a Golden Globe for the Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture, Daniel Day-Lewis, was widely awaited by audiences. Unlike the director’s two previous movies, this is a period piece set in 1898. In the New Mexico wilderness, Daniel Plainview (Lewis) works his silver mine. Unexpectedly, when the silver gives out, Plainview discovers oil in the mine and starts pumping it. What follows is a story about family, faith, greed, religion, and vengeance, centered on a small, turn-of-the-century, oil-extracting business. Some critics have already hailed this movie as Anderson’s best picture to date.