Columbia Pictures is screaming bloody merde over a savage review of “The Doors.”
French critic Philippe Garnier described the Oliver Stone movie, which opened in France last week, as – among other things – gross merde, translated roughly as a “large piece of excrement.”
Columbia was mortified. “A film critic has the right to print what he wants,” noted Columbia’s French office publicity manager, Bruno Chatelin, “but to write gross merde goes over the limit. It is no longer a review but an outrageous abuse of the language.”
Columbia is planning to retaliate with its own brand of lavatory humor. “We’re going to take out an ad in Liberation. Our original idea was to quote the review in big letters and then say: ’120,000 spectators relieved, one still constipated.’ However, that would be too personal against the film critic. We’ll probably go with: ‘For such a big piece of merde, 120,000 are asking for more.’”
In addition, Columbia plans to run a spot announcement in a large Paris theater during which the text of the review will be read. Per Chatelin, “Anybody in the theater who hasn’t read the review and has complete confidence can leave the theater and we’ll reimburse the ticket.”
Liberation, a left-leaning daily, is France’s third-largest national paper. Its young adult, hip readers are the heart of “The Doors’” target audience.
Liberation film editor Gerard Lefort said L.A.-based Garnier’s review was “in the Liberation style: lively and instinctive. It is one of our great qualities, but it can be a fault.” He said he never questioned the reviewer’s use of the word. “Anyway, I can imagine it’s the type of language that Stone himself would use.”
However, Stone says since “Salvador,” Liberation had “gone after my films with a shotgun fully loaded for bear and guillotines finely sharpened.”
He added cryptically, “they are part of the problem not the solution.” Stone offered no comment on the “Doors” review.
Lefort noted that there is a “precedent to using that word.” Several years ago, the newspaper ran a headline substituting the word mort (death) in the title of Italian pic, “Chronique d’un mort announce,” with merde.
Chatelin said the problem goes beyond the words and reviews. “There is a personal vendetta that Lefort has against Stone.”
Lefort disagrees. “It’s Stone who has it out for us. Someone is spreading it all over that we systematically trash Stone, but this is totally false. We gave Wall Street’ a good review.”
According to Lefort, the controversy began in Berlin after “Platoon” was released. “I interviewed Stone, and he answered nearly every question with ‘you can’t understand this because you weren’t in Vietnam.’ I finally got mad and replied, ‘Okay, if I can’t understand anything, then I should just leave.’ I did.”
“The Doors” opened in Paris May 1 to boffo results, grabbing an 11% market share with 19,150 tickets sold in only 19 theaters. It got heavy print play, including cover stories. Tv also got into the act with a 90-minute docu on pay-tv channel Canal Plus. Local Paris cable channel, Premiere, ran a nonstop, overnight tribute to the Doors’ Jim Morrison, with live coverage from his tomb in the Pere-Lachaise cemetery. Morrison died in Paris.
In addition to a whopping 7 million franc ($1.2 milhon) ad campaign (4 million francs in expenditures and the rest in free exchanges), WEA re-released six Doors albums and CDs.