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April 23, 2010


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This kind of romance goes both ways. I always remember hearing the story that the Japanese were so surprised at the American love for Kurosawa's Rashomon (they hated it) that their only conclusion was that Americans were really drawn to films with the word gate in the title. Which led to the production of a whole group of Japanese films made expressly for the American foreign market, like Teinosuke Kinugasa's Gate of Hell, which won the Oscar ever though the director himself didn't think it was very good...


Good to hear that some people haven't forgotten Rafelson's Mountains of the Moon. Great adventure film.

Also a big fan of Blood and Wine.


I like your collage, although I'm struck again, as I was when I read the book, by the Fujiwara quote, particularly the reference to the French general public's enthusiasm for Lewis's work. I've been fortunate enough to spend much time in France, with very cine-literate hosts, and in twenty-plus years of visits I've never once heard someone talk about Lewis (Preminger, sure, to speak of another Fujiwara project).

I've always had this sense that the "lazy and patronizing jokes" that Fujiwara so accurately skewers are vastly out of proportion to the actual French enthusiasm for Lewis, but it's hard to demonstrate that in more than anecdotal ways. I know that the format of the "Contemporary Film Directors" series isn't to provide comprehensive footnotes, but I'd be interested in how Fujiwara arrives at his conclusion, since it's so different from my own (anecdotal) experience.

I've also been trying to gather a bit more information on the box office performance of Lewis's film "Hardly Working," since Internet data is so unreliable: claims of $50,000,000 in North American rentals abound online, but there's no reliable documentation; the IMDB has the very round figure of $10,000,000. Fujiwara refers only to "considerable box-office success." Anyone know of a reliable source of information?

Michael Adams

Isn't the French enthusiasm for Lewis one of those things, like baseball as the American pastime, that people keep referring to as still true years after the fact? Meanwhile, the French reportedly disdain Patrice Leconte, who's made four or five very good films.


I lived in Paris for several years in the mid-1980s. While I was there, I had the occasion to see Jerry Lewis on French TV in his natural habitat - a telethon. This is too good to be true, I said to myself. Finally, I'll get to the bottom of this alleged mania the French have for Jerry Lewis. I watch impatiently for a while and at last the moment arrives. I'm expecting an introduction along the lines of "An artist, radiant as no other with the light of Vulcan's creative fire; Griffith, Eisenstein, Welles, Lewis - without him, cinema is nothing, with him, greater than all the world " and so forth. Nothing of the sort. The announcer says, in the most offhand way possible, "Here's Jerry Lewis." Polite applause follows. Jerry comes out, fake conducts the band in Rhapsody in Blue and finishes by pratfalling over the drum kit. The announcer manages a hearty forced laugh and does not go on to explain that Jerry's falls are far larger artistic achievements than the deep focus in Citizen Kane.


Nothing like answering my own question: looks like $10,000,000 is about right for "Hardly Working", although I can't track down a definitive final figure. It made something like $8,000,000 in its first weeks according to Variety, so my guess it was somewhere in the top 60-75 films of 1981. I think Chris Fujiwara's characterization is pretty much on the, well, money.

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