I have a love-hate relationship with Hollywood. On the one hand, Hollywood has brought us many cinematic classics we all treasure and love and to this day, still continues to manage to thrill and excite us with quite a few new classics. On the other hand, Hollywood is also a corporate entity and with a few exceptions, a real creative and artistic black hole filled with remakes, reboots, sequels and rip-offs. Don't get me wrong. I'm not some elitist hoity-toity film snob who only likes obscure avant-garde films from Eastern Europe. I enjoy a great popcorn flick and geek out when a great genre film comes out.
But Hollywood isn't the only place where great popcorn flicks, great genre pieces or even great films in general are produced. Lots of filmmakers and film industries all around the world are making great films. But I'm not just talking about the big art-house, auteur-driven film festival favorites. They're also great popcorn flicks, genre pieces and totally accessible films in general but only a few make any significant impact in the U.S. box-office or even the world box-office. Hollywood executives will tell you that your average Americans generally do not like to have to read subtitles and are generally not open to seeing films made by other countries. Others will tell you Hollywood simply made films the most number of people want to watch or that Hollywood simply made better movies. *snorts*
Actually, the REAL reason is that Hollywood is one big corporation and they've set up a system that is almost a monopoly that dominates the multiplexes leaving very little room for anything else to succeed. Hollywood Inc. is very clever in fostering the mindset of subtitled films are boring and only for film snobs and intellectuals. But how does one explain Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon? It's a subtitled film with female protagonists and made well over $100 million, unheard of for a foreign-language film! It's the exception, they will insist on saying. Yep, the "exception". Every time an unconventional, unexpected film succeeds, be it something quirky, a bit artsy, a bit cerebral or heaven forbid, a documentary or a subtitled/foreign-language film, the upper-echelons of the Hollywood elite will say "It's the exception!". To me, it's bullshit. I believe that they've really set up a system and a cultural mindset that dominates and favors the big mainstream studios to pretty much dominate. It's Hollywood imperialism.
Hollywood does this in two ways. First is what's called the buy-it-and-sit-on-it method. The Chinese epic wuxia film Hero almost fell victim to this. It was first released in China and the world on 2002. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is still fresh in the minds of many people. Here comes another martial arts epic from the East that has been a hit in several countries already and got an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. It should be a no-fucking-brainer, right? Wrong. Miramax bought it, they tried to "edit" it because they didn't feel it's "marketable" to Americans and postponed its U.S. theatrical release for two years. A similarly themed film just made a ton of money in the box-office just a couple of years before, how simple could it get? Clearly, there are people who will want to see this. It wasn't until a combination of a very vocal group of film buffs online and Quentin Tarantino who is a fan of the film said to just release it as "a Quentin Tarantino presents" film that Miramax broke down and released it. It opened at the Top 5 of the U.S. box-office. It would've made more had it been released sooner, I bet. How many films do people in Miramax have in their vaults?
The next one of course is the remake. Simply promoting and distributing potentially huge money-making breakout subtitled hits is not enough for the Hollywood studios. Remaking them will get them more money. That's not to say all remakes are pure cash-grabs devoid of creativity. Several Hollywood remakes of foreign films have turned out to be very good standalone films on their own, from The Magnificent Seven (the Western remake of Seven Samurai) to The Departed (remake of Infernal Affairs). The most offensive type of these are usually horror films. There's a Spanish horror film called [REC] which is a rather scary zombie thriller set almost entirely inside of an apartment building using the "found footage" technique. As it is, it could have been a hit State-side but the powers-that-be knew better. They remade it as Q uarantine and even stole the scary final shot of it.
During the '50s, '60s, and even the '70s, the films of Kurosawa, Bergman, Fellini and Truffaut were shown quite often side by side with the Hollywood films of Hitchcock, Ford, Wilder and Capra. What happened? I'm hypothesizing it's the combination of the invention of the blockbuster and the liberalization of film censorship laws. (Before that, Americans got their sex and nudity from foreign films so they flocked to it). Are Americans really that lazy to read subtitles? Perhaps. But I do believe that if Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon could make over $100 million, it's totally and completely possible that more foreign-language films a year could make that kind of money in the U.S. and the world as well. It's not an "exception". If it's a good film that is accessible to people, it will definitely have a market. A good film is a good film.