Foreign Film in the Face of Western Commercialism
Tuesday, 6 December 2022
Francesca gives a short exploration into the logistics of English-speaking Filmmaking in comparison to Foreign films
In a society that prioritises constant media consumption above all else, the cultural significance of foreign cinema is more important than ever.
A certain commercial element plagues the English-speaking films we consume so offhandedly. This is because for a film to be popular enough to be hosted by cinemas it must follow what is known as the four-quadrant system of film production.
That is, for a film to be deemed ‘worthy’ of having companies' money funnelled into it, it must appeal to at least two of the four quadrants: Males under 25’s, Females under 25’s, Males over 25, Females over 25. This fiscal phenomenon is at the epicentre of contemporary western films and acts as a major block in creating something with real artist autonomy and integrity.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is the leading example of this loveless disregard of the creative. Clark for Business Insider noted that “In total the MCU has earned more than 25 billion dollars worldwide, making it the biggest movie franchise.” Films amassing this level of wealth are never curated by the creative with experimental liberty, but rather via large corporations churning out the same formulaic, hero beats bad guy narrative that appeals to all four major quadrants.
This specifically western need to constantly align the narrative to the most stable path of revenue is also apparent within the western casting process. From nepotism babies to influencers, our film industry commonly casts actors, not on merit or talent, but rather on which celebrities can generate the highest revenue. A topical example of this is Harry Styles, who monopolised on his musical fame to push himself into the film industry. In Geoffrey Macnab’s review for The Independent of Don’t Worry Darling (2022. dir. Olivia Wilde) he claims that “Styles gives a surprisingly dull and low-wattage performance.” That is “Nowhere near as captivating as the tabloid frenzy surrounding it.”
The fiscal incentive is not completely alien to foreign film franchises, but it is a recognised truth that other film industries operate on a less capitalist ethic. It can be argued that foreign films have the space for more profound plots to be explored. Take, for example, Drive My Car (dir. Ryusuke Hamaguchi. 2021) and Decision to Leave (dir. Park Chan-Wook. 2022), both contemporary foreign films that rail against our formulaic plot and thus treat their audiences as people capable of dissecting intricacies that many of our films do not allow us to explore.
Time and time again foreign films are overshadowed by the release of something less authentic, but English.
In Bong Joon-Ho’s (Dir. ‘Parasite’ 2019) Oscar Speech he claimed that “Once you overcome the one-inch-tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.” By actively engaging with films outside the scope of western cinema you expose yourself to a wider range of perspectives, plots, and personalities. This is not to say that there is no enjoyability factor within our films, but more to suggest that a wider scope of artistic expression is stifled and not achieved under our current commercial system of filmmaking, and we should consider foreign films as something just as worthy of consumption.
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Being a bilingual family (French mother and British father,) living in France I thought your article was extremely interesting . Have you research on bilingualism ? It seems that when the mother is British and the father French and they both live in France their children seem to be more bilingual than when the mother is French and the father is British . This is what we called mother tongue , isn't it ?
Such an interesting article!