CATEGORIES IFC, Paramount Classics, Box Office, New on DVD, The Weinstein Co., Cinematical Indie, DVDs, UK Box Office, Cinematical, UK Box OfficeA Taiwanese filmmaker's tribute to a celebrated French short soared easily to the top of the indie charts this weekend. Flight of the Red Balloon (IFC Films), directed by Hou Hsiao-hsien, averaged $17,450 at the two screens where it played in Manhattan, according to estimates compiled by Leonard Klady at Movie City News. Jeffrey M. Anderson wrote: "Like Hou's more recent work, Flight of the Red Balloon moves a little more toward international accessibility and away from his early, uniquely Taiwanese stories." Juliette Binoche stars as a frazzled writer and performer with a troupe of puppeteers who hires a Taiwanese film student as a nanny for her young son.
Surprisingly, My Blueberry Nights (The Weinstein Co.) finished #2 for the weekend, grossing an average of $11,380 per screen at six locations. Wong Kar Wai's first English-language film met with lukewarm reaction at Cannes last year; the director tinkered with the editing, but the end result is still not very satisfying, according to Nick Schager. He wrote that the "lovelorn dilemmas [of the female characters] ... consistently come off as precious and trifling, which is dispiriting considering that Wong and [director of photography Darius] Khondji make everything look and feel so rapturous and enticing that one wants to believe the proceedings are of consequence." Nora Jones, Jude Law, Rachel Weisz and Natalie Portman are featured.
Ensemble comedy/drama Jellyfish (Zeitgeist) averaged $7,450 per screen at three locations. Directed by real-life married couple Etgar Keret (a popular Israeli writer) and Shira Geffen (a children's book author and playwright), the film "has an emotional resonance beyond its controlled slapstick and deadpan sight gags," in the words of The Village Voice's J. Hoberman. "It manages to touch on all of life's passages." Jellyfish will roll out through the US over the next two and a half months.
Shine a Light (Paramount Classics), the heavily-advertised collaboration between Martin Scorsese and The Rolling stones, opened on 276 screens and earned $5,180 per location. Mr. Klady says that the film "scored best from 93 large format engagements. Those venues accounted for 34% of the play dates but 79% of the box office." As I noted in my SXSW review, I was impressed by the experience of watching it on a huge IMAX screen, but was disappointed overall, especially with Scorsese's name attached: "If you're looking for something a little different, look elsewhere."
Sex doesn't sell as automatically as we've been led to believe. Set in the world of synchronized swimming, Water Lilies (Koch Lorber) a French film about three 15-year-old girls discovering their feelings for one another, earned $3,400. That's not terrible, considering it opened at one theater in New York against the better-known competition noted above, but I would have thought that the subject matter alone would have helped Water Lilies to make a bigger splash.
Similarly, Sex and Death 101 (Anchor Bay) made just $2,820 per-screen at five locations, despite the presence of Winona Ryder, Leslie Bibb, Julie Bowen, and Sophie Monk. (Oh, and Simon Baker.) Veteran screenwriter Daniel Waters wrote and directed; when it played at Fantastic Fest last fall, Scott Weinberg wrote that his "latest represents his very best work in a very long time ... The movie juggles romantic comedy, dark humor, sex farce and slight slapstick with seldom a misstep, resulting in a surprisingly unpredictable flick that works on a small variety of levels."