Tuesday, November 27

Bypassing Popcorn: Purple Violets

Sometimes history happens with a whisper. Purple Violets qualifies.

Sure, there was ample buzz over the first iTunes movie premiere, enough to make it the number two downloaded Apple iTunes offering, second only to Ratatouille. Yet this Edward Burns film, though likeable, is hardly the kind of popcorn munching cult flick needed to prove the power of new media.

Simply put, most of the attention is landing on iTunes over the film because Purple Violets is hard to classify. Many have tried to tie it to the label romantic comedy, but there is not enough funny to make it a comedy and not enough conflict to make it romantic.

The truth is that it is not much more than a nicely shot film about four former college loves, now in their thirties, attempting to rekindle what might have been. The acting, directing, and cinematography all measure up; but the script lacks any real direction or punch. And therein lies the reality of this release.

When films are hard to classify for marketing purposes, they are generally prohibited from any general release beyond the Tribeca Film Festival, where Violets first debuted. So yes, Burns might have picked iTunes, but only after a lukewarm reception from traditional distributors.

iTunes Might Open Doors For Underappreciated Films

Despite the hubbub that somehow this is the first feature film to somehow bypass theaters, there are hundreds of films made every year that receive no more attention than a limited release or sometimes go straight to DVD. Apple iTunes might give these films a chance to live. I think that is a grand idea because marketability isn’t the best measure for a great film, just one that promises blockbuster revenue.

But isn’t that what consumers and critics have been complaining about? Films that are marketable but disappointing. Or writers, directors, and producers always catering to the popcorn culture and somehow losing what used to matter. Certainly, worse films have made it further up the food chain.

The Film Enjoys Secretly Talking About Itself

If there is any irony to be found, this destined to be underappreciated slice-of-life indy think piece is really talking about itself in the classic struggle of art vs. audience appeal.

Burns’ main character, Brian Callahan, played by Patrick Wilson, is the author who publishes an underappreciated slice-of-life think book after a long and successful career as a pulp fiction detective novelist. Some of the story touches on whether the general public prefers popcorn pulp over literature.

Still, his fate is better than that of Patti Petalson, played by Selma Blair, who never followed up on her successful collection of short stories in college and opted instead to partake in what for her is a passionless career in real estate. In short, it’s a good film but not for everyone.

What It Represents For New Media

While traditional reviewers enjoy taking shots at the screen size, their focus on the viewing device, download times, etc. is misguided and even ignorant. The measure of this film will not provide any evidence of success or failure of the distribution platform.

With the major networks and studios balking at iTunes for love of money, Burns has done a great thing in demonstrating someone can bankroll a film and sell it direct to the public.

So even if iTunes does not deliver much more than a break even or modest profit for Purple Violets, it’s good to see that well-made independent films can be seen someplace other than film festivals and back alley theaters. It’s a good thing and may even show some promise in putting the magic back into Hollywood.

Digg!

1 comments:

Rich on 11/29/07, 4:38 PM said...

Famous Last Words:

"One trend I'm seeing throughout the media industry is the cutting out of the middle man. Call it dis-intermediation, call it democratization: content distribution is being transformed. You can sell a song, publish a book, or even distribute a movie, without ever talking to one of the big old media companies." — Julia Boorstin, CNBC

http://www.cnbc.com/id/22029710

Post a Comment

 

Blog Archive

Google+ Followers

by Rich Becker Copyright © 2010 Designed by Bie Blogger Template