Friday, June 13, 2014
One Leviathan two Leviathan three Leviathan
There are certain movie titles you expect to see over, and over, and over again.
In fact, a while ago I was even prepping a post where I'd compare those movies I'd seen with the same name, but different subject matter. I got as far as coming up with a list of titles, which included some pretty generic ones, such as Last Night and Mother. Titles that have a certain universality that make them logical candidates to be reused. One such title is being reused in a movie coming out later this year, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg's The Interview. I saw a 1998 film called The Interview and did not see a 2007 film called just Interview.
Anyway, Leviathan would not seem to be one of those generic titles. Yet it reared its head, so to speak, for at least the third time at this year's Cannes film festival.
When I heard Filmspotting co-host Josh Larsen champion a 2012 documentary (with a 2013 theatrical release date) called Leviathan last year, the first thing I thought was "Wait, isn't that that Greg Evigan movie from 1989?" Greg Evigan being one of the two dads in My Two Dads. And Greg Evigan not actually being in the 1989 film Leviathan, but rather the similarly underwater-themed 1989 film DeepStar Six. But I digress.
Now the title Leviathan is coming up again on Filmspotting as a recommendation by guest host (and Chicago Tribune critic) Michael Phillips, who saw the film at Cannes, where the 2014 Russian film won an award for its screenplay.
The first one is about a deep sea creature, and therefore closest in spirit to the popularized usage of the term in the Old Testament and Moby Dick (which I read last year). The next is a doco about the fishing industry, done in the trademark style of director Lucien Castaing-Taylor (who also directed the similarly abstract film Sweetgrass). And the newest is a Russian sociopolitical drama about a man who struggles against the corrupt mayor who wants a piece of his land.
You can even throw in an obscure sci-fi French film named Leviathan, also from 2012, whose poster I came across while researching the topic.
Three Leviathans? Four Leviathans?
What interests me most about this is the thought process that goes into coming up with a title for a movie. I'd say you're ahead of the game if your title can do the following three things: 1) be memorable, 2) speak to whatever the movie is actually about, and 3) make viewers think of this movie and this movie only.
Leviathan is certainly a memorable title, and if the poster above is to be believed, it has something to do with the movie. What it doesn't do is belong exclusively to this film. With another Leviathan just having come out a year or two before, you are introducing the possibility of ambiguity every time you mention it. And that is a possibly unimportant, but nonetheless mildly negative reality.
I'm sure Greg Evigan would have handled things differently.