World genre cinema is alive and well in Minneapolis with the opening of Tomas Alfredson’s Let the Right One In at the Lagoon Cinema. The film, which has won several awards at film festivals around the world and carries a 97% critical approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, is the first in Magnet’s Six Shooter Film Series, a showcase of six of the best films from the vanguard of international genre cinema.
According to Senior Vice President and Head of Acquisitions Tom Quinn, the series is a labor of love at Magnet, the now two-year-old genre arm of distribution company Magnolia Pictures specializing in films from the vanguard of horror, action, comedy, and Asian cinema. Magnet was launched to bring world genre titles to American audiences. Quinn says, “The stereotypical definition of a genre film whether it be action, Asian, a gun ballet, horror or sci-fi. However you want to define that, we felt that those movies needed their own home.” It’s an eclectic grab bag of films, some of which include Ong Bok, the original Japanese Pulse, The Host, Dead Man’s Shoes, Exiled, and The Pusher Trilogy.
After planning the slate of films to be released in 2008 and 2009 by Magnet, Quinn had a realization. “I thought, my God, we’ve landed on some really incredible benchmark movies,” he says. “They’re working within their genre, pushing the envelope, doing something more intelligent than what you would expect from most genre films, more intelligent than what you get out of Hollywood. We felt this group is like the vanguard of the best the world has to offer.” The decision was made to package them together in the Six Shooter Series, and Quinn hopes that filmgoers who like one will go to see all six. “We thought they could work as an A-team of B-films,” says Quinn, who admits the series was named arbitrarily. “I guess if we only had five cool films, I probably would’ve wanted to call it a Fist Full of Fantastic, or Five Fingers of Celluloid.”
Quinn speaks positively of the Twin Cities film scene; people in Minneapolis and St. Paul, he says, will support good films. The remaining five films will be released in various stages at Landmark Theatres. Hugh Wronski, senior regional publicist for Landmark Theatres, said the only other film in the series currently set for release is the Spanish time-travel flick Timecrimes, which will open on December 19. That film had its premiere screening as part of the Midnight Series at this year’s Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival.
The only American release in the series—Special, starring Michael Rapaport as a man who thinks he’s gained super powers after participating in a clinical drug trial—is currently available via Video On Demand (VOD) sites. The final three of the series are scheduled for early 2009 VOD releases. British horror film Donkey Punch—a movie Quinn says is like Dead Calm on crack, as much an art film as a slasher film, and the debut of an important young director (Oliver Blackburn). It will also be available on VOD. If Werner Herzog were to make a French science-fiction film, Quinn says, it would be Eden Log. Lastly is Big Man Japan, which Quinn calls the “most unique film” of the series—and that’s saying something in this group. Specific dates for those three are forthcoming.
Once you’ve hit all six of these, says Quinn, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what world genre cinema has to offer. “Together I feel they complement each other pretty well; they’re each doing something different. We’re curating quality films.
“I’m a genre fan,” he continues, “but I’m also an art fan: I love Godard, I love Truffaut, but I also love Guillermo del Toro. I also love Mad Max. I reach high and reach low. I feel like our company appreciates good films. We’re not film snobs. All these films are intelligent. We feel these genre films have more to offer than the big, wide-variety releases out of Hollywood.”
The series is in service of the films, Quinn says. He doesn’t know if there will be another Six Shooter Series, but he hopes Magnet can do it again. It would depend, he says, on finding more films of this quality. “I can’t guarantee we’d be able to replicate this. This isn’t Eight Films to Die For. I feel like these are six films to live for.”
Erik McClanahan is a freelance film journalist and critic in Minneapolis. He is also co-host of KFAI’s Movie Talk.