Saturday, 13 June 2015

Drafthouse Films

I've been waiting for something to pop up and inspire me since I started this blog (last week) so that I can begin this section of the site. Well I just did, hit the jump to find out about one of the most incredible distribution companies ever...

So, essentially, I was lounging around one day thinking about some of the films I love deeply, and how I could include them in this site. By chance, one of them had an actor whose name eluded me so I looked it up. Of course, one of the first links that came up was the distributors film website: Drafthouse Films. In the top right hand corner they have a navigation bar documenting their releases which yielded something quite remarkable - 3/4 of the films I had been thinking about had been released by this company. A coincidence or what? Apparently not: some digging revealed that Drafthouse is a wholly unique company.

The Alamo Drafthouse
1997 Austin Texas: A group of cinephiles create the 'Alamo Drafthouse Cinema' - an institution that has now gone down in history and spawned a small chain. These theaters are unique: they specialize in cult, retro, and unusual movies; enforce proper old-fashioned cinema etiquette; and have seating laid out so that each seat has it's own table - allowing a dinner service to compliment the film. On top of this, the cinemas frequently run crazy and imaginative events that truly defy the mind.

Alas, the brand name grew exponentially beyond its own humble intentions and the business was in the ballpark of huge potential. In order to retain creative integrity, the original founders sold the brand name, but kept the rights to the few original theaters. Since then the commercialized section has brought in large income and become a household brand in the states, whereas the original cinemas have continued to diversify and surprise. In 2010, Tim League (one of the original creators) founded Drafthouse Films, whose mission statement is to release  "provocative, visionary and artfully unusual films new and old from around the world". 

Four Lions
In their first year, they handled the US release of 'Four Lions'. Here was a film so provocative that in the UK,  BBC and Channel 4 originally refused to release it. Coincidentally, it is also one of the funniest comedies and most biting satires of modern times. This was followed up by a string of hilarious, unique and incendiary titles such as 'The FP' (unique), 'Klown'(hilarious), and 'The Ambassador'(incendiary). Here, Drafthouse had already achieved a reputation for high quality films, but their next turn would be crucial in forming the company as it is now.

Awesome - Trailer War
In 2012, the company released a string of forgotten movies that have since achieved critical, or cult appreciation. First came 'Wake in Fright', which is an incredibly tense mashup of 'Straw Dogs' and 'Mad Max' (although it preceded either of these). Any critical acclaim that this created was swiftly eclipsed by the release of 'Miami Connection' - it's just one of those films that was released at the wrong time. Made in 1981 with a shoestring budget, but with great technical ambition,it received little attention, and was buried deep within the vault of the American Genre Film Archive. Drafthouse films have access to this, and resurrected it, creating a new cult classic for generations of cinema goers to enjoy. Next came an incredibly unique concept - 'Trailer War'. In the archive, there are many films with batshit premises (like, really batshit premises) that are hilarious. For three minutes. The films themselves are largely boring, but the trailers are dynamite. With this information, Drafthouse released a two hour compilation of the fantastical trash previews they found and in doing so became the most unique mainstream distributor on the planet. With each of these releases, Drafthouse put effort in remastering the audio and the video, creating buzz, and reviving each feature with specially commissioned artwork that just rocks.

Since then, there has been a stream of movies you just need to check out, so here are some of my picks:

'Wrong': The best film from the legendary Quentin Dupieux (you know, the dude that made the killer tire movie). Check it out for some of the most entertaining nonsensical shots and sequences known to man.

'The Act of Killing': Joshua Oppenheimer's documentary is fairly mainstream now due to a tidal wave of critical praise upon it's release. If you aren't aware of it, I believe it can be sold on premise alone: Oppenheimer asks killing squads to create mini films of their atrocities in whichever style they like most (as in, musical) in order for us to better understand the events. It's powerful and unique stuff.

'A Field in England': Ben Wheatley's psychedelic masterclass in monochrome which sees a group of civil war deserters who are heading for a beer get captured by a crazy wizard.... the only film I've ever seen that gives a strobe warning before the film begins, and trust me, it needs it.

'The Tribe': This silent, sexual, and violent film was the subject of one of my reviews recently. Check out my thoughts here : The Tribe review.

'Why don't you Play in Hell': Sion Sono's demented masterpiece in which a group of renegade filmmakers named 'the fuck bombers' decide to film the ultimate snuff film - a Yakuza fight has become a midnight movie staple. 

'Roar': a bit of a risky move this. Drafthouse resurrects a forgotten 1981 family comedy film, to portray it in a sinister light. The attacks and shots in the film are all real, making it the most crazy and dangerous picture in the history of cinema - who'd of thought...

So guys, I hope I've got you interested in this remarkable company. The above synopsis's are most certainly not reviews, and, in honor of Drafthouse, I will be doing a series of reviews for these films over the coming months.

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