Success and failure in cinema

“Cinema is like cooking,» says film director Thanos Anastopoulos. «There’s a recipe, so you either follow your grandmother’s way or you take some liberties. Using more of one ingredient leads to a completely different flavor. But even if you execute the recipe by the book, you might still come up with something different. That means that you either don’t have the right touch or that your granny kept some secrets all to herself! Who knows…?» Indeed, what determines whether a movie goes straight to the top of box-office sales or is condemned to selling just a few tickets? This year has been particularly interesting: On the one hand, there was Tassos Boulmetis’s «A Touch of Spice,» with 1.5 million tickets sold. On the other, nearly all other local films (with the exception of two or three) have total sales in the 1,000- to 5,000-ticket range. Thanos Anastopoulos’s «Atlas,» screened at local cinemas last week, belongs to the «cinephile» category. This is a category that often – and sometimes unexpectedly – gets the public’s attention. Yet despite the film’s dynamics and originality, very few tickets were sold. And while the majority of film critics (including this journalist) disagreed with the result, they recognize that this first-time director has come up with a singular film. Meanwhile, another «peculiar» film, Korean Ki-duk Kim’s «Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring,» seems to have enthralled local audiences. We asked for Anastopoulos’s own take on these issues. What determines a film’s ticket sales at the end of the day? There are two different things: First of all, how the public reacts to a film, and, secondly, how the Greek public reacts toward a Greek film. These are entirely different issues. Works of art are based on the idea of persistence. If you believe there’s something worthwhile, you have to insist. There’s cinema as a product and there’s cinema as a work of aesthetics. They cannot be judged in the same way, like oranges and medlars (mouzmoula). Medlars grow for just two weeks every year. You either take care of them, if you’re interested in medlar growing, or you don’t. Oranges, on the other hand, are year-round. Do you consider your film to be in the hardcore cinephile category? Not at all. I thought it was a film that concerned everybody. Not a hermetic movie. Though it unfolds unconventionally, it remains a narrative. Personally, I’m bored of the conventional. Perhaps I didn’t let go and some people thought that was coldness, while others took it for arrogance. Do you think that a similar but foreign production would perform better at the box office? If a foreign production is bought by a local distributor, it means that it has already been tested somehow. The distributor has seen it at a festival and has already checked the public’s and other distributors’ reactions. This is not the case when it comes to Greek films. The ones that actually work are those in which the work of the interested parties is in tune with what the public wants. And then, again, you never know. Anyone who can foresee a film’s course has a sure career in Hollywood. Besides, that’s why art is so lovely, because it has the element of surprise, because it can change your life from one moment to the next, when you least expect it. But in order for this to happen, you have to be open and ready for change in your life. Art is all about this meeting. If it comes together, everything blossoms. The click between the film, the director, the public and time. How come this kind of click occurs with a Korean film, for instance, instead of a dozen Greek ones? What if the Korean film which we enjoyed went unnoticed in Korea? What if a Greek film fails miserably here but turns into a big blockbuster in Korea? Greek films are underestimated by local audiences, as are all other Greek products. This has always been the argument. It’s still valid. If negative comments on the lighting ceremony of the Olympic Flame in the local press are followed by praise in the foreign press, then our own attitude changes… It’s in our mentality; it has to do with our genes. In cinema, however, we need a change of policy that also has to do with distribution. It’s a chain of links and at the end of the day we all have a share in it.

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