Europe has produced many of the world's greatest movie talents, so why are most European co-productions flops? Christopher Tookey investigatesby Christopher Tookey / December 20, 1995 / Leave a comment
I keep coming across intelligent, educated people who say they no longer bother to attend European or “art-house” films. This personal impression is confirmed by distributors’ statistics which show that very few European films are viewed outside their country of origin, while American movies account for over 90 per cent of films shown in Europe.
This is a shame-especially when the most charming romantic comedy currently on release in Britain is Italian-Il Postino-and one of the most accomplished horror films for years-Nightwatch-is Danish.
Under closer interrogation, many deserters from the European cinema say they are reacting against a modern phenomenon-the “Europudding.” Il Postino, especially, because it has an English director (Michael Radford) and a French star (Philippe Noiret), has lost a large part of its potential audience because it is unjustly suspected, (despite excellent reviews) of being a “Europudding.”
“Europudding” first became part of critical vocabulary in 1990, thanks to two famously indigestible co-productions: Dr M (West Germany/ France/ Italy) and Mister Frost (UK/ France). Use of the word has now spread to describe practically any European co-production-which is unfair, because several, such as Land and Freedom (UK/ Spain/ Germany) and Orlando (UK/ France/ Netherlands/ Russia) have elicited a favourable response from some critics, if not enthusiasm from the movie-going masses. Five years on from the Europudding’s first appearance, the time is surely right to establish its proper ingredients-and who the people are behind it.
Like certain cheap wines, Europuddings ought to carry the warning label: “product of more than one country.” The finance usually comes from a job lot of national or (especially in Germany) provincial bureaucrats. These bureaucrats are not only uninterested in whether the films they commission find a mass audience; they are afraid of a hit-because if they were to be commercially successful, their subsidy for the next year would be cut.
The European script fund-an offshoot of the European Union’s media fund (which this year had its budget doubled by the European Commission, from ?160 million to ?320 million) is actually proud of the fact that it avoids making value judgments about projects submitted to it. If a film has enough finance in place and a promise of distribution, the fund usually rubber-stamps it.
This may help to answer the otherwise baffling question: how do film-makers manage to go into production with screenplays as atrocious as that of, say, the UK/ Belgium-produced porno flick…