“Least marketable movie” doesn’t necessarily mean “worst film.” Far from it: challenging features, whether they be chat-fests or thinly plotted spectacles, usually don’t lend themselves to Instagram-ready campaigns or Twitter-fueled debates. That said, sometimes a challenging film—from proven talents, and starring acclaimed actors—is really just a turkey. Then again, some people love to eat turkey!
Here’s hoping this collection of titles can land the right distributor who can find that just-so marketing angle to attract audiences. These films proudly work at their own rhythms to tell their singular brand of stories.
That said, here are this year’s least marketable movies:
1. “Matthias & Maxine”
How do you solve a problem like Xavier Dolan? The young-turk French-Canadian actor-turned-director who Cannes loves to support has, in his short but prolific career, reliably run hot and cold when it comes to quality. Here he delivers a dishwater-dull look at two men whose lifelong friendship gets tested when a buddy asks them to kiss on camera for a film project. The moment stirs up latent feelings, which the two take turns addressing and deflecting. Meanwhile, Dolan’s directing style is far more interested in their chatty, catty social circle. It’s a talkathon that thinks it’s far more visually arresting and dramatically charming than it is. Hard to see a marketing plan that might make this appealing to a wide audience—or even a niche gay one.
2. “On A Magical Night”
Christophe Honoré has an impressive resumé of unconventional romances both straight and gay, whether they be musicals, comedies, or dramas. But this strangely self-referential and oddly stagey reflection on affairs of the heart is a baffling nonstarter. Chiara Mastroianni’s award for Best Performance in Cannes might burnish the film’s prospects in France, but it’s hard to see U.S. audiences being smitten by such an odd and oddly tedious, whimsically didactic, time-shifting dramedy. A hard pitch and an even harder watch.
3. “Lux Aeterna”
Gaspar Noé fans will certainly line up for anything he does, including this hourlong reflection on the masochism that women actors must shoulder during oft-abusive film shoots. But those who aren’t familiar with the French punk-provocateur will roll their eyes and shrug at what looks to be supreme pomposity. I actually found it visually ravishing and thematically solid. But will ticket buyers? Arresting visual images of Beatrice Dalle and Charlotte Gainsbourg might entice the curious, but even a non-narrative teaser-trailer would be a tricky sell.
4. “Family Romance, LLC”
Werner Herzog’s unquenchable thirst to make uncharacterizable films means that, every so often, he makes a ruminative study of human behavior that is way too conceptual to really stick the landing. The German director takes non-professional Japanese actors to chronicle a man who works at a rent-a-family agency. He’ll play a missing dad, he’ll fill in for an employee about to be fired, he’ll re-create someone’s lottery win. Huh? The premise is too obscure, the culture clash too jarring. A daunting movie to market successfully.
Quentin Dupieux’s insane look at an insane man’s downward spiral is a silly, savage, surreal hoot. All the more reason that viewers really shouldn’t know anything at all about what they’re about to watch. Its singular lunacy is best served cold, so that the deadpan direction delivers maximum joy. A trailer and poster are essential these days. But honestly: the less you know, the better.
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