Critics invest in Euros

Crix choose pixs not typical of their countries' output

The figures go up and down, but the message remains the same: Europeans are watching their own films, and production, at around 700 features a year in West Europe, is still buoyant.

In some countries — the U.K., France, Denmark, Czech Republic, Italy and Sweden — local movies’ B.O. share last year was between 20% and 35%; in others — Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, Norway — it was well over 10%.

Partly because of language differences, many local hits don’t travel. But their ideas can. Women’s soccer comedy “FC Venus” — which closes this year’s Variety Critics’ Choice: Europe Now selection at the Karlovy Vary fest — sold German remake rights before it even opened at home in tiny Finland (population 5 million), where pic drew a muscular 220,000 admissions at the beginning of this year. In Germany, the remake, “FC Venus: Women With Balls,” was in theaters by April.

Intra-Europe remakes — rather than co-productions — is a business that’s barely been tapped, but it could prove fruitful in the future.

Meanwhile, young European filmers are still breaking down traditional genre barriers. Ever seen a Greek zombie movie? Well, this year’s Critics’ Choice has the first: “Evil,” a low-tech but high-corpuscle romp with the undead stalking the shadow of the Acropolis.

More than half of the pics in this year’s selection — the ninth year of collaboration with Karlovy Vary and European Film Promotion — are first-time works, ranging across all styles. As usual, we’ve tried to highlight movies that haven’t had wide festival distribution so far and aren’t typical of their countries’ usual production profile. The aim is to entertain and to surprise.

So, from Sweden, there’s “Baba’s Cars,” a kind of comically low-key Italian Western. From Spain, there’s no-budget comedy “Isolated.” Poland (a new member of EFP since February) is repped by the succulently shot modern fairy tale “I Am,” centered on a tyke living rough in a small town. And the U.K. and the Czech Republic team up on “Shut Up and Shoot Me,” a deadpan black comedy about a Brit gagging to get topped in Prague.

With our selections again drawn from the EFP’s 26 member countries (repped by 27 promo orgs), it becomes clearer every year that there’s really no such thing as a “European film.” French paranoia drama “Hotel Harabati” has more the flavor of a Central European movie, with a Middle Eastern soupcon; Hungary’s “Fresh Air” goes completely against the Magyar-realist grain; and “Schnitzel Paradise” proves that, yes, the Dutch can produce rollicking romantic comedies like anyone else.

And just as “Schniztel” spins on the eccentricities and cultural ping-ponging of a mixed Dutch-Maghrebi cast, so Germany’s “KussKuss” draws its strength from the romantic awkwardnesses between its German and Algerian leads. “Shut Up” was shot in English and Czech by an Anglo-Danish-Italian ad man/theater director based in Prague.

Local cooking, but fusion style — that’s Europe Now.

Variety Critics’ Choice

“Baba’s Cars” (Rafael Edholm, Sweden) — second feature

“Evil” (Yorgos Nousias, Greece) — first feature

“FC Venus” (Joona Tena, Finland) — first feature

“Fresh Air” (Agnes Kocsis, Hungary) — first feature

“Hotel Harabati” (Brice Cauvin, France) — first feature

“I Am” (Dorota Kedzierzawska, Poland) — fourth feature

“Isolated” (David Marques, Spain) — second feature

“KussKuss” (Soeren Senn, Germany) — first feature

“Schnitzel Paradise” (Martin Koolhoven, Netherlands) — fourth feature

“Shut Up and Shoot Me” (Steen Agro, U.K./Czech Republic) — first feature

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