Does National Society of Film Critics Pick of 'Amour' Show Audience Divide or Marketing Failure?

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Every year, the National Society of Film Critics pride themselves on "the truth" as they like to call it in honoring the best films of the year. And while you can't argue with "Amour" being an example of storytelling that mainstream Hollywood can't manage with even double the budget of this French film, the NSFC pick of the film as #1 seems to paint a huge populist and critic divide. Is it really easy to say that a brilliant economical movie such as "Amour" can't resonate with the mainstream public because it's too cerebral or without visceral action?

While some in America may feel that way without realizing it, we have enough popular sentiment in America pointing to the majority craving a movie with a thoughtful plot. If a substantial portion of the American people can find deeply emotional resonance in "Amour's" plot of aging individuals, why did it not do well at the box office here in the States? The simple answer is always because art films with foreign titles are now tantamount to automatic anathema for those looking to be quickly entertained by the Hollywood marketing machine.

Even if the film was retitled "Love" in American art houses, it perhaps would have painted an all too ambiguous title that sounds like something audiences have seen before. And yet many of the major box office hits in America since "Amour" released have been more than a little derivative, only with titles that give the illusion of originality. The marketing departments behind those titles undoubtedly received a healthy bonus this last holiday season.

No, the divide isn't between intellectual critics sitting on their cinematic pedestals and audiences with more middling tastes. The real problem is the divide of marketing understanding between America and Europe. How can a truly brilliant foreign film perform well here when the American people are automatically geared to respond favorably or unfavorably to a movie title meme?

This isn't to say that Tyler Perry should put his "Tyler Perry Presents" before a foreign film title as an auspice. If European cinema wants to compete in America, however, they have to start considering what "The Artist" did for France last year. Aforementioned film had one of the simplest and best titles in marketing a foreign film in history that arguably worked better than the word of mouth the film generated.

Going with an English title also helps when the American public likely cares less what wins a Palme d'Or at Cannes. When the "The Artist" won the same award in 2011 at Cannes, the U.S. populace didn't respond with anticipation of the film eventually playing in America. It was only later when the magic Harvey Weinstein marketing took place during "The Artist's" American premiere did it take off to become a household must see.

Why not a film such as "Amour" deserving the same treatment? There shouldn't be any doubt that if promo spots appeared on U.S. network television for "Amour", it would quickly become a high-caliber, French equivalent of "The Notebook." As well, it would prove that French filmmakers have claimed a new stake in Hollywood that touches a sociological nerve with most American filmgoers.

Unless the above happens with "Amour" after it receives more American movie award buzz, the French will have to try again with their next brilliantly observant film crossing the pond. Next time, the marketable American title will have to use a preferential "The" before the noun, verb, or adjective.

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