After a feverish week of debate over the violence in Michael Winterbottom's difficult and provocative "The Killer Inside Me," the movie has been picked up by IFC, distributor of the difficult and the provocative (among other types of movies).
Few films have generated the love-hate relationship that "Killer" has (on this blog, Mark Olsen yesterday offered his reasons for loving it). Winterbottom, the director of "Wonderland" and "Welcome to Sarajevo" (as well as another film at this festival, the documentary "The Shock Doctrine"), adapted Jim Thompson's noirish novel, with Casey Affleck portraying a small-town West Texas sheriff with sociopathic urges (visited on, among other people, a prostitute he's sleeping with played by Jessica Alba).
The deal for North American rights marks IFC's first purchase of the festival, a place where it's typically very active. (The company was also in the running for "Blue Valentine," the Ryan Gosling-Michelle Williams marital drama just bought by the Weinstein Co.). IFC, which will probably buy at least one more film by the time all wraps up in Park City, has a penchant for taking art house films and employing a particular strategy that mixes a small theatrical release, a video on-demand push and exposure on other platforms, controlling its costs so that it can take on films with niche audiences. Expect the press over moviegoer reaction to be a key part of its publicity gambit.
It's the second time this year that IFC will work with Winterbottom, who produced the "Red Riding Trilogy" crime epic that the company will be distributing in the U.S. And it's the second time in the last year the distributor has taken the most polarizing movie of a festival and made a go of it. After Cannes, the firm bought "Antichrist," Lars Von Trier's bereaved-parents story that featured plenty of provocative violence of its own, and then worked the North American fall-festival circuit before putting it into release. "Killer" will go in the opposite direction on the circuit, heading to Berlin after premiering in the U.S. Can't wait to see how the Euros feel about it....
-- Steven Zeitchik
Photo: Kate Hudson and Casey Affleck in "The Killer Inside Me." Credit: The Sundance Film Festival.