Is there a Japanese equivalent of Terminator Salvation?
March 7, 2012 9:47 AM   Subscribe

So, you know how Hollywood sometimes makes big stupid films that flop at home (at times not making enough money), but then they release the films abroad and they do well (enough to make more money and sometimes merit a sequel!)? Does the reverse happen as well? Are their foreign films that do well in the US (and I'll include critical success as much as popularity -- and popularity among people who go see foreign films), but in their home countries, they are considered silly or stupid or just not good?
posted by bluefly to Media & Arts (20 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Monty Python was far more popular in the U.S. than in Great Britain. (The theory was that to the British, it was just a bunch of guys doing silly things, but to USians they were hilarious what with their "proper British accents" and all.)
posted by Melismata at 9:54 AM on March 7, 2012

It's not a film, but Hundred Beast King Golion, knownst to us as Voltron, is barely remembered in Japan.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:23 AM on March 7, 2012

There are examples of well known directors who are not very popular at home, mostly because they are seen as making films for an international 'art film' audience. Two that come to mind are Abbas Kiarostami and Kim Ki-Duk.
posted by casaubon at 10:24 AM on March 7, 2012

I've heard people talk about newish foreign films - especially big-in-the-art-houses foreign films like Chungking Express or, more recently, Dogtooth or Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives or Certified Copy - being "festival films" (a friend's term, possibly not a general one). That is, films made with a mind toward impressing international film festival juries, and not to appeal to audiences in the countries where they were made.

I imagine there's been something interesting written on this subject — maybe someone else can come up with a cite!

(on preview, basically what casaubon says)
posted by bubukaba at 10:28 AM on March 7, 2012

Croupier was more popular in the US than the UK.
posted by biffa at 10:31 AM on March 7, 2012

It's a little unclear whether this is actually true or not, but the story goes that the Rank Organisation didn't have much faith in Powell and Pressburger's THE RED SHOES and only gave it a limited release with little promotion in the UK. A film with limited commercial success in its home country didn't inspire many other distributors to take it on -- at least initially.

TCM has a nice capsule version of the story, but the gist of it is that an astonishing 110-week run in a single New York cinema prompted Universal to give it a wide release in the U.S. The film was successful there, went on to become a worldwide success, and -- because of this -- eventually found an audience back in the U.K.
posted by orthicon halo at 10:33 AM on March 7, 2012

I had been thinking more of films that are considered mediocre on all levels in the home countries than art films (which perhaps may not attract the average moviegoer, but would not be considered stupid by the critics). Like Crouching Tiger -- the article says it was a relatively big budget film that did very well in the US, but Chinese moviegoers of all types, including critics/movie buffs, thought it was humdrum. But, casaubon, that's an interesting phenomenon -- making a film with a singular art film audience in mind that crosses international boundaries.

These are all neat examples -- keep posting more, if you have 'em!
posted by bluefly at 11:12 AM on March 7, 2012

Are their foreign films that do well in the US

Generally not, because foreign films very rarely get distribution in the US, since "Americans won't read subtitles."
posted by Rash at 11:16 AM on March 7, 2012

His Wikipedia article suggests that Luc Besson doesn't get much critical respect, especially in France, but I'd be willing to bet that an awful lot of Americans have seen a movie he's written/directed/produced (La Femme Nikita, Transporter, The Fifth Element), and that he's probably one of the few working French non-actors whose name might actually be recognized here in the U.S.
posted by soundguy99 at 11:50 AM on March 7, 2012

I remember in Craig Ferguson's memoir he talks about how his film Saving Grace did rather worse than expected in the UK (where it is set and where it was released first) and much better than expected in the US. From the wikipedia article: 'Dana Stevens from The New York Times called the film "this summer's bait for the Anglophiles," meaning "that they're English and elderly apparently makes their antics screamingly funny to people who would turn up their noses at similar humor in a film like Scary Movie."'
posted by mskyle at 12:54 PM on March 7, 2012

"Monty Python was far more popular in the U.S. than in Great Britain. (The theory was that to the British, it was just a bunch of guys doing silly things, but to USians they were hilarious what with their "proper British accents" and all.)"

Probably not correct, seeing as they'd managed to make 4 series of Flying Circus and a movie - and be most of the way through making their second - in the UK before the first series was shown on American TV.

If you want to go back far enough, Sergei Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin was a flop in the USSR, a popular hit in Germany, banned in France, and a critical hit in the US (despite at least one state and the US Navy banning personnel from seeing it).
posted by Pinback at 1:14 PM on March 7, 2012

"March of the Penguins" was a mediocre hit in France, but really took off when they removed the French dubbing of the penguins(?) and added Morgan Freeman's "gentle narration".
posted by Melismata at 1:24 PM on March 7, 2012

Not Japanese equivalents of Terminator Salvation, but the Takeshi Kitano movies that win raves in Europe and America--IIRC, there've been one or two "Kinato Festivals" showcasing his movies in the States--barely register on the radar of most Japanese moviegoers.

Kitano is known as an ex-stand-up comic and TV celeb, with a checkered past of violent raids on media outlets and dumb incidents involving booze. People see him as a quick wit and a semi-intellectual, but the attitude to his art films seems to be "meh." He's not regarded as an auteur by any stretch of the imagination.

Korean dramas in Japan, on the other hand . . .
posted by Gordion Knott at 2:58 PM on March 7, 2012

Fellini owes his reknown to his success abroad (and notably in the US), whereas, though respected, he was never much of a crowd-puller at home.

On less of an art-house level, the success abroad of Sergio Leone, Dario Argento and Mario Bava was also instrumental to their cinematic relevance.
posted by progosk at 3:03 PM on March 7, 2012

his renown, even.
posted by progosk at 3:04 PM on March 7, 2012

Dil Se (1998) had BW's biggest star, Shah Rukh Khan, the auteur director Mani Ratnam, and (Oscar and many Filmfare Award-winning) musical director AR Rahman. It was a flop at release, despite some critical success, and you won't see it on Indians' best movies lists -- but Westerners looove this movie.

See? You do too.
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 3:06 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

"Monty Python was far more popular in the U.S. than in Great Britain" : Definitely not true. Monty Python was very popular in the UK. You may be confusing units sold with relative popularity (you can be a quarter as popular in the US, say, expressed as a percentage, but make more money because the US population is 5 times bigger).
posted by w0mbat at 4:58 PM on March 7, 2012

This is not the same thing, but it is sort of related and very interesting . . .

Check out this recent article from Slate. Basically, many Chinese movies in the West are marketed with the whole 'Banned in China!' thing -- supposedly to make them seem more 'authentic' and dangerous to westerners, and thus more interesting. The article mentions that this whole banning thing is actually frequently false -- many of the movies are never even submitted for approval, or are not approved based on permit issues, etc. Basically, a company makes a low-budget movie and figures they can make more money from selling it to the West as a 'political film' instead of to audiences in China.

A movie which is kind of the reverse of this is Lust, Caution, which, while a 'Chinese' movie (shot in China, Taiwan and the US), was sort of more of an international movie -- it debuted at the Venice film festival and so to international audiences before Chinese/Chinese diaspora nations. Lust, Caution got pretty tepid reviews in the US, but was very popular in China. A Chinese friend of mine said that people loved it because it was a 'very Chinese movie'. Not sure what she meant by that exactly, and obviously she's just one Chinese person (out of a billion!) -- but I do find it interesting that this film was first marketed to the West but ended up being much more popular in the home country, where people could only see the full, unedited version on bootlegs (though that's true of most movies in China!).
posted by imalaowai at 9:24 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Assault on Precinct 13 (the original one released in 1976) was not received well in the US, but received wide acclaim in the UK. It then went on to become one of the most acclaimed action movies back in the US (Rotten tomatoes has 96% rating for this).

A classic example for the type of movies you asked.
posted by theobserver at 8:03 AM on March 8, 2012

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