Dali, Film, and Exclusivity

Dali_on_the_Rocky_Steps2.JPGApparently there are now three, yes three, Dali biopics in the works. One has Al Pacino which is likely to be ridiculous. But the other has Antonio Banderas which seems just as absurd. These two films are about the end of Dali’s life. The third is about his youth. Given that Dali was a pop figure whose life and work arguably presaged Warhol (see e.g., melting Coke bottles in Dali), maybe a wild world of conflicting films about him fits his world view. He did after all write two life stories, so three films may be too few for all I know.

Still the Banderas film may surpass even Dali’s view of himself. The film will be directed by Simon West who directed Con Air. Yes, Con Air, Nick Cage and a host of miscreants on a plane enjoy a bumpy ride and some blow ups. Maybe the Banderas film which it is claimed “will blend music with CGI sequences in an effort to capture the inventiveness and color of the painter. Story will explore how Dali conquered America and the world with sex, sin and surrealism only to succumb later to worldwide scandal and misfortune” is a perfect match for Dali’s spirit.

If you loved Antonio Banderas in Desperado, you will love him as Dali. His passion was his art and so was his weapon.

I envison Banderas whipping out paint brushes. Oil flies. The blob of paint is a clock! It lands on someone’s head and melts! The bad guy is now captured in a most surreal way and ponders whether time in prison matters once clocks melt. And all of this with cool CGI and a hip Los Lobos/Ottmar Leibert soundtrack.

The funny IP part of having three films in the works is that all the claims about copyright is needed to alllow exclusive rights and protect the large investment in a film are undercut by these competing projects. And competing projects occur often enough that one has to wonder are the Hollywood execs stupid? Do they lack information (not likely given how fast people know who is in or out and what project if approved or not in Hollywood)? OR is it that exclusivity simply does not tell the full story. As you can guess, I suggest the last explanation is correct. More on that later.

Image: WikiCommons

Author: Max Buten

License: Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5 License

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3 Responses

  1. Bruce Boyden says:

    It’s a funny phenomenon, certainly. Other examples are the 2 or 3 Alexander pics (I lost count), the 3 Christopher Columbus movies, the 2 Wyatt Earp/Tombstone movies, and the 2 comet/asteroid hits the Earth movies.

    But I’m not sure what it tells us about exclusivity. Obviously no one has an exclusive right to tell a story about Christopher Columbus. And the two comet/asteroid movies were completely different in plot and tone. So were “Wyatt Earp” and “Tombstone.” Any argument that copyright’s justification is based on a need to protect exclusivity at such a high level of generality is a non-starter.

  2. Pete Aldous says:

    You seem to be saying that producers don’t need exclusivity to justify their investment in movies. That argument is misguided because it confuses exclusive control over an idea with exclusive control over the expression of that idea. A filmed biography of Salvador Dali is the idea that is being copied here. Each producer is willing to accept that they can’t control ideas at the idea level under the current law, but they still require exclusive control over their expression of that idea.

    This situation, with three simultaneous Dali movies, actually strengthens the argument for stronger copyright rather than weakening it. As you are fond of pointing out, in Hollywood “nobody knows anything.” There are three Dali biopics because no one knows beforehand which of the three concepts will make money. Hopefully one will be profitable, and will justify the investment the studios made in the unsuccessful films they bankrolled this year.

    If there was less copyright protection there wouldn’t be an incentive to produce any Dali films. The risk of spending millions of dollars on a film that will probably fail at the box office is scary enough. If producers were afraid that the profitability of their few successes would be reduced they wouldn’t invest at all.

    Your post does raise another issue, however, that of derivative works. Because the events that made up Dali’s life are facts they are not copyrightable. Anyone can make a movie about Dali based on those facts. Dali’s artwork, on the other hand, is copyrightable and is protected by copyright.

    Any movie producer who makes a Dali biography that incorporates his artwork will have to compensate Dali’s estate for use of any of his paintings in their film. It is highly unlikely that Dali considered this income when deciding whether he should spend time painting. The possibility of a payout was too remote.

    Dali’s incentives are different than the Hollywood studios. Derivative works are much more important to Hollywood, where the costs are so high, than they are to Dali, who only needed paint and canvas. Unfortunately there’s no easy way to distinguish the two situations from the law’s perspective.

  3. Max Buten says:

    I’m not the author, I’m the photographer.