Orson Welles once said (I can’t find the exact quote very quickly) that anybody who writes or talks about movies without writing or talking about money is a fool. Never has it been more obvious to me than what has happened to a couple of great movies that will probably never see a commercial release in the US because their distributor has financially collapsed.
Tartan Films shuttered its US video division last month and a few days ago it went into receivership itself. My interests have been the artistry and morality of the movies; the business of them not at all. But two of the films that Tartan had the rights to distribute were Carlos Reygadas’s SILENT LIGHT and Roy Andersson’s YOU THE LIVING.
I saw both films, and great ones they are, for the second time at FilmFestDC. SILENT LIGHT got even better and was upgraded to “10”; YOU THE LIVING not so much, but easily stayed a “9.” Both would be cinches for my year-end Top 10; neither are now on it because there is now essentially no chance that either will see the inside of a non-festival American theater. They will probably both go straight to video some time around 2010. That’s cruel to any great movie, but doubly cruel for these two, both of which create whole (very different) worlds and so need the sense of envelopment that being in a theater produces. In fact, SILENT LIGHT’s famous opening shot absolutely depends on being surrounded by the theater’s darkness. I am not a film-only purist and have often butted heads with them, but is any film ever NEEDED to be seen in a theater, it’s SILENT LIGHT. And now it won’t be.
Sitting in my draft folder now is a 80-percent-done lengthy appreciation of SILENT LIGHT that I worked on shortly after seeing it for the second time, at FilmFestDC this spring. And it’s been sitting there because I can’t find the wherewithal to convince myself that anything I have to say can be relevant to a film that can never be seen. And so finish it haunted by the knowledge that I am a fool.