Some interesting discussion has been generated by two of my recent film reviews. As both do in fact shed some additional light on the posts in question, I thought it worthwhile to share them with the reading public.
First, some further insight to my review for Daisuke Goto’s Mourning Wife is provided by Pink Eiga label cofounder Nadav Rechov, in relation to their move during the course of the last year to a full fledged streaming “VOD” (video on demand) service – my additions or edits in italics below:
“First off, thank you for the article. I always prefer to see our Pink Films in the center of an educated discussion about film and the medium, rather than a raunchy site in one of the darker corners of the internet…
I wanted to share a few of my thoughts regarding what you wrote. (In addition to our prior blog) radio interview with me a while back, I’m happy to share the below with you and your readers, if you’d like to publish this…
We share many of the same sentiments regarding physical media. It’s enough to take a glance at my CD and DVD collection to get that sense (you’d need a VERY wide angle lens).
For that reason, I had initially decided to release our films on DVD, and tried my best to populate each and every release with as many extras as possible – in an attempt to enhance the viewers’ experience and provide a more in-depth look into the Pinku world, providing extra insight on top of the “standard” movie release.
We’ve released 16 DVDs, some of them with very limited marketing and sales potential, simply because we wanted them to be on our shelves and give our fans the possibility of enjoying these diverse and wonderful films as much as we do.
The sad reality is that companies that release limited amounts of niche DVDs such as Pink Eiga Inc. don’t really have a spot in today’s world. On several of our 16 releases we haven’t even covered our production costs. The running joke around the office is that the only one who actually made money from Pink Eiga is the guy who replicates our discs…
From day one, the internet has been our main marketing tool, but also our killer. We sold less than 2,000 DVDs of S&M Hunter, gave out another 1,000 for free (yes, we are also very generous with our products) and I recently saw that on one of the leading torrent sites, the film has been downloaded over 40,000 times. At the bottom of the page is a request to all the torrent-users to “PLEASE SEED THIS” – so that it can spread illegally even faster. We don’t have the legal resources and patience to chase down this form of piracy, and have sadly learned to live with it over the years. Faced with the dilemma of raising our prices in order to absorb the piracy (are the “die hard” fans willing to pay $29.99 for a DVD that the main feature on it is only 65 mins. long?) or lower the price to $3 per view, we chose the option that offered our fans a cheaper price point.
We feel like some people out there appreciate the immeasurable time and effort we spend on selecting, translating, subtitling and releasing these films, and given the opportunity of “stealing” them or paying $3 in order to see them – would make the right choice. You must believe me that this was a very hard decision for me – I am the biggest fan of the DVD culture and I feel very bad to be a part of its slow demise. The move to VOD has alienated many of our dedicated fans, who, just like you and I, are DVD fans and don’t really want to watch a Pink Film on their computer screen. We know this because we’ve received lots of fan-mail to that effect, and it’s actually a bit frustrating to have to defend an opinion that we don’t truly believe in, but rather – are forced to have.
We haven’t yet given up on physical releases. Given the right circumstances, we might have the opportunity of doing some more in the near future. A film like Mourning Wife would make a great DVD, one that I’d put on my shelf with pride, right next to the other Goto films we’ve released. There are several others I’d love to release as well, such as Three Slave Women, Twitch, Coming Out, and the list goes on… The economic reality of this move is near-suicidal, but I am still hoping we’ll be able to pull it off… A lot actually depends on how many people watch our online releases.
During our DVD days, we profited approx. $5 per DVD, which is about a quarter of the retail price, and when someone views one of our films online, we net about half of the payment. True, the amounts are much smaller, and the total revenue of online viewing is about 6% of that of DVDs, but if there is a critical mass of viewers, we will have enough put aside to focus on what we love to do and do best: release more DVDs!
I don’t know if this makes sense from a business standpoint. I’m not a business-person and that might be why our company is still an independent, under-the-radar label with a mom-and-pop sort of feeling. The bottom-line truth is that we love what we do and take great pride in it, and approach it with a sense of commitment. We hope to be as loyal to our fans as they have been to us throughout these past years.
Lastly, I’d like to stress that we are still releasing films! Last year we’ve released 8 new films online, this year we have 12 more slated (3 new films headed your way in April). We would NOT [repeat: NOT] be able to pull this off if we had to pay the production costs of making a DVD for each of these releases, and would likely be able to afford to make only 1 release a year. Given the choice of introducing 12 films a year or 1, I would still prefer 12…
A film like Mourning Wife, which I see from your review that you appreciated, would still be sitting on our shelf and waiting for the right economic circumstances to be released. Because of its somber overtones (the whole death & tragedy aspect of the film) it could have, realistically, never seen the light of day outside of Japan. In that sense, I believe that we are still doing a big service to the fans of Pink Films and world cinema by moving forward and releasing more films, despite the economic hardships and questionable release platform.
Thank you again for your honesty and your great review. I’m glad you enjoyed Mourning Wife and am hoping to release many more great films for your viewing pleasure!!!
Next, I present a far more heavily edited discussion I had online with a Facebook acquaintance with regards to my recent review of Enzo Castellari’s The Last Shark. While we both agreed on the merits of the film and the overall points being made, he (as I suspect many) questioned my take on the film that ostensibly started it all, Steven Spielberg’s Jaws. Most of what follows is a more in depth explanation and addendum to what I already stated in the article, but may help to clear up any misconceptions it may have stirred up in addition to what was actually stated and intended (which, as with all of my work, I fully stand behind)…
Outside Party Response (hereinafter abbreviated to “OP“)
“I cannot at all agree about Jaws and my mind is reeling at such blasphemy…Otherwise fun review!”
Third Eye: I knew there’d be some reaction. I DESPISE Spielberg and what he did to the entire film industry. The man almost singlehandedly destroyed the art film, the intellectually focused film, and the more consciousness raised, deeper thought sci fi, horror and action film we were seeing throughout the late 60’s and 70’s…Jaws really was his one shot, and probably his best…and John Williams, don’t even get me started…(all the same,) I knew there would be some reaction from the Jaws fans.
OP: “I really can’t agree. 70’s and 80’s Spielberg is really top notch for the most part – Jaws, Duel, E.T., (the) Indiana Jones series, those are some of my all time favorite movies, with Jaws…my #1 favorite. And even though it helped usher in the CGI trend that I hate so much, Jurassic Park is a pretty damned decent movie as well. Although his post JP movies are pretty lame, I’ll admit…
And as for John Williams, can’t agree there either. I don’t worship the guy or anything, but (he is) an effective composer – he made one piece of music that creeps the shit out of me to this day (and amazingly enough, I’m not talking about Jaws….)
If you want anyone to blame for Hollywood movies becoming the complete lame pieces of shit they’ve become today – look at the studio heads, who pretty much bought out all theater systems, video stores, and other media outlets. Whether Spielberg really had anything to do with that, I don’t know – but that’s the reason that movies these days rarely have a single ‘genuine’ aspect to them.”
oh, the blame ultimately resides with the guys who sign the checks, no question; and I don’t want it to come off like I have something personal against some guy on the street by the name of Steven Spielberg (who may very well be a nice guy, I don’t know the man).
(I’m) just saying he (and George Lucas, whose product and influence I feel similarly about, though with a bit less vehemence) ushered in the trend – most critics of a certain vintage or who study the zeitgeist of eras and decades in film have already noted this (I’m far from the first).
Feeling films were getting too heady and arty (or even pompous), he wanted to bring back the “little kid” in moviegoers and usher a return to the serials and pulp thrillers of an earlier era. Fine, agreed – I love cult cinema, SOV, Italian horror, of course I’m going to be onboard with the general idea (though I also love arthouse and the “great directors” of Italy, the French Nouvelle Vague, and the likes of Hitchcock, Hawks, the film noir crowd, et al). Which was fine, except:
1. His films kinda blow. Never cared for ET, (and) always thought Jaws, Close Encounters, Indiana Jones were very overhyped. I do recall enjoying Jurassic Park when it came out, but found it hard to watch and rather empty on a subsequent viewing – like Dreyfus in Jaws, Jeff Goldblum (who I like a lot) really saved the thing from being nothing more than a CG amusement park thrill ride.
2. His films made money. A lot of it. Which means the guys producing these things? They start paying attention, and copycatting. Not just the Italians – domestically. So they stop funding movies with any point, relevance, thematic depth, or real characterization (unless it’s a “prestige film” for the Oscars or a drama for the ladies), and start turning the entire output of US film into the “summer blockbuster”, which went from a yearly diet of summer month Schwarzenegger films and Bruce Willis pictures to a yearlong stream of superhero movies, CGI gore and monsterfests, and remakes that make the originals look like masterpieces and deeply thoughtful by comparison…which is pretty sad when the original is, say, a slasher film (LOL).
3. Everyone, critics included, seem to LOVE his stuff. Which (is something) I could never comprehend – as I pointed out in the article, from my rewatching of Jaws the other night, and my rewatching of Close Encounters a few months back, and all the other Spielberg trainwrecks I’ve sat through over the years,
he always works from the same template,
he tries and fails to imitate far superior and more well rounded directors of the past (Hitchcock and Hawks were both attempted and failed in Jaws, among others),
and his stuff is generally braindead, candy coated/ cotton candy/ marshmallow fluff empty calorie versions of what used to be far more heady.
Even lower budget horror stuff, much less the SF or crime/action films of the era he came up in carried weight, resonance, and food for thought that led to thoughtful debate and conversation in evenings after viewing – Wolfen and Altered States spring immediately to mind as “last gasps” for this sort of “deeper” take on genre film.
SF, across the board was the domain of the societal warning, the optimism of the futurist and indirect commentary on current political and social events in a SF trapping – you name one, Soylent Green, Westworld, Silent Running, the Omega Man, Planet of the Apes, Logan’s Run, the list goes on and on…UNTIL Spielberg changed the game. Then I dare you to name any!
OP: Well, fair points, and I certainly hate the state of mainstream movies – but I ultimately can’t agree… Like I said, Jaws and E.T. were childhood favorites of mine…along with Duel and the Indy movies. Absolutely love all of those…
Third Eye: Points well taken – that’s what this (and life) is all about, presenting each other with our case and stance on stuff, in the hopes that we understand each other better and maybe, just maybe, change the other person’s mind just a little thereby.
* thanks to Nadav Rechov and M.H. for their thoughtful input and discussion.