In the next month, U.S. audiences will be treated to a trio of comedies from directors who previously tackled large studio films. Branagh’s “A Midwinter’s Tale,” Spike Lee’s Girl 6″ and the Coen Brothers “Fargo” will open in the weeks ahead. These films are their respective follow-up efforts to Tristar’s “Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein,” Universal’s “Clockers” and Warner Bros.’ “Hudsucker Proxy.”
In his most recent film, Branagh has served up an Ealingesque comedy about a down-and-out troupe of actors putting up a local production of “Hamlet” in an English country church. The hero is a struggling actor-director whose moral crisis turns on whether to head to Hollywood to make a monster movie.
“Girl 6” is a comedy about a phone-sex girl, in which Lee gets back to the type of comic filmmaking his fans have not seen since “She’s Gotta Have It.”
“Fargo” is arguably the Coens most hilarious effort since “Raising Arizona.”
Next up are Frears and Iain Softley. The latter, who last directed MGM/UA’s “Hackers,” is currently helming Miramax’s adaptation of Henry James’ “Wings of a Dove.” Stephen Frears is putting the finishing touches on the Fox Searchlight-BBC Films production of Roddy Doyle’s “The Van,” the third installment in the comic novelist’s Barrytown trilogy. The ribald tale of two friends who open a fish-and-chips stand might have been the perfect tonic after directing Tristar’s Victorian horror tale “Mary Reilly.”
That ability to work in two worlds has also been a boon to Figgis. Two years ago in Cannes, when his Paramount remake of “The Browning Version” played in competition, the director huddled with Lumiere Films about financing a dark tale of boose and redemption that many of the studio executives working the Majestic Bar could not be bothered to produce. That little pic turned out to be “Leaving Las Vegas.”