"It's not of this world. It's Sadako's fury. And she's put a curse on us."
June 28, 2008 8:20 AM   Subscribe

RIP Tartan Films. The UK-based film distribution company has gone into administration, laying off it's entire staff.

With the help of their American arm (Tartan USA, the closure of which had already been announced at this years' Cannes Festival), they were responsible for bringing some of the best recent foreign cinema, especially from Japan and Korea to the West, including Infernal Affairs (remade as The Departed), Oldboy (currently being remade), A Tale of Two Sisters and the original Ring series, virtually single-handed launching the J-Horror / K-Horror phenomenon. Other notable films they backed include Primer, Red Road (Pos NSFW, brief nudity) and Funny Games.
posted by fearfulsymmetry (28 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
That is a huge shame. Tartan bring a huge amount of good films out on DVD, stuff that'd probably never ever get released over here otherwise. I think about a third of all the DVDs I own are Tartan ones
posted by ZippityBuddha at 8:28 AM on June 28, 2008

More than half of my DVD collection is probably Tartan. They released Bergman's films in the UK. I'm not surprised they've gone out of business because everything about their DVD's was pretty poor. Still, I'm grateful that they managed to bring some of these films to the market, better than nothing.
posted by fire&wings at 8:30 AM on June 28, 2008

Still, I'm grateful that they managed to bring some of these films to the market, better than nothing.

Do UK people ever order from YesAsia? Because lots of the far east copies seem to come with English subtitles, and they're often a lot cheaper than the UK releases.

I've often wondered about the extent to which this cuts into UK distributer's sales.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:47 AM on June 28, 2008

Tartan have done a heroic job in the past. RIP.
posted by zemblamatic at 8:54 AM on June 28, 2008


ermm, I mean


In other pointless news that's only of interest to a small number of people, NEW buildings have been confirmed for the proposed academy at Holy Trinity Senior School.

I know. You're asking why I've not made this a front page post. Really, I was tempted.
posted by seanyboy at 8:55 AM on June 28, 2008

This is a terrible blow to UK film consumers. For a brief time I was a cultural stringer for an obscure fashion magazine and used to go to Tartan's screenings. I saw some great films in that summer - The Last Mitterand and Guy X spring to mind.
posted by WPW at 8:56 AM on June 28, 2008

That's a shame. I'll be grateful to them for my copy of Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (ACE) if nothing else.

Employees of the London based film company Tartan arrived to work yesterday only to learn the true meaning of the lyrics to Semisonic’s seminal 1998 pop anthem "Closing Time".

A peculiar way to open an article, that.
posted by eponymouse at 9:01 AM on June 28, 2008

Employees of the London based film company Tartan arrived to work yesterday only to learn the true meaning of the lyrics to Semisonic’s seminal 1998 pop anthem "Closing Time".

That it's...time to close?

This is a shame, and it's baffling. Tartan sure put out a lot of movies that I own. I'm sure the official reasoning is something along the lines of internet downloading = bad, but I have a feeling some serious managerial incompetence is more likely...this company should've been a cash cow.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 9:13 AM on June 28, 2008

My two cents sez that with all the PC crap going on against violent horror. Many stores wouldn't sell them, and then you have those who just want to download for free.
posted by doctorschlock at 9:26 AM on June 28, 2008

Thank goodness someone finally figured out the meaning to Closing Time! I've been baffled by its complexities and eccentricities for years...
posted by nosila at 9:30 AM on June 28, 2008

The other day I was wondering why I hadn't bumped into any of the Tartan gang at the Edinburgh Film Festival (which is unusual because you can normally hear them coming from a mile off). Guess this explains it. Very sad.
posted by jack_mo at 9:40 AM on June 28, 2008

posted by Pope Guilty at 9:43 AM on June 28, 2008

Damn, that's a shame. Tartan was responsible for bringing some of the best/worst movies to my attention.
posted by lekvar at 9:45 AM on June 28, 2008


The words "Tartan Asia Extreme" were a sure sign that I would be entertained.
posted by naju at 10:38 AM on June 28, 2008

Crap. The world just got a little dumber and more parochial.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 10:40 AM on June 28, 2008

I've only got a couple of Tartan DVDs, but they're among my favorites. This is sad news indeed.

And seanyboy's just mad 'cuz his mom won't let him stay up late to watch them.
posted by katillathehun at 10:41 AM on June 28, 2008

Shame, shame, shame.

On the other hand, BluRay discs of Spiderman 14 sell like hotcakes

posted by matteo at 10:49 AM on June 28, 2008

Information wants to be free.

posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:02 AM on June 28, 2008

Oh! They did "12:08 East Of Bucharest" and "The Death Of Mr Lazerescu," two wonderful recent Romanian movies which I would recommend to any film lover.

posted by Dee Xtrovert at 12:24 PM on June 28, 2008

Gah, this is really sad.

Tartan will always be inextricably linked with my adolescent discovery of films outside the mainstream. They allowed me to watch Bergman, Kieslowski, Haneke, Truffaut, then via tia the specialist Asian labels, John Woo, Wong Kar-Wai, Miike, and more recently some pretty amazing horror movies. So many significant moments in my discovery of film came with that little black, white and yellow logo attached.

Despite (as with others here) a sizable number of my DVDs being Tartan, it's their VHS releases that were of greatest consequence to me (happily, I still have even a few lying around -- Shindo's Kuroneko and Onibaba, Kobayashi's Kwaidan, The Double Life of Veronique). Those old VHS tapes used to have a trailer for their catalogue which was soundtracked with music which I assume to be African in origin, languid and melancholy with beautiful crisp guitar, that seemed to suit the montage of images on screen perfectly. I heard it again recently for the first time in many years, and it just floored me, I had built such an association between it and the films I came to adore.

Despite never approaching the degree of quality of the likes of Criterion, I credit Tartan more than any other label for providing me with an interesting alternative for nigh on 20 years, and will miss them greatly. I'm curious to see how they (and others) explain their demise.

fire&wings: Just wondering what you found lacking in particular? Prints? Dearth of features?

PeterMcDermott: agreed, but I've had experiences with such DVDs where the translation has been far from satisfactory.
posted by palimpsest at 4:25 PM on June 28, 2008

Palimpsest - features mainly, cheap menus, lack of extras, artwork not particularly impressive. As I said, I wouldn't complain because I would take some of the films I have seen via Tartan on a scratched CD-R if it came to the crunch.

PeterMcDermott - never heard of YesAsia but I've bought plenty of Asian DVD's from eBay and I don't have a single complaint. ~98p each for the likes of Bicycle Thief, Diary of a Country Priest etc. Films either not available in the UK or excessively expensive due to them being out of print.
posted by fire&wings at 5:52 PM on June 28, 2008

Sad. That's many, many nights of entertainment there.
posted by Artw at 7:57 PM on June 28, 2008

(Excellent title BTW)
posted by Artw at 9:17 PM on June 28, 2008

Filmbrain: Tartan Films, RIP
posted by muckster at 5:12 PM on June 29, 2008

Whew, I'm glad I got my copy of Ichi the Killer while the gettin' was good. With the possible exception of Heath Ledger (we'll see in a couple of weeks), the truest and best portrayal of the Joker on film belongs to Tadanobu Asano. Seriously, watch Ichi as a twisted Japanese take on the Batman mythos and see if you don't agree.
posted by Strange Interlude at 6:17 PM on June 29, 2008

That's an interesting comparison, Strange Interlude.

It's too bad about Tartan- I'm eternally grateful to them for providing a Tetsuo the Iron Man DVD that wasn't a shoddy HK bootleg.
posted by Dr-Baa at 7:02 AM on June 30, 2008

More from GreenCine Daily.
posted by muckster at 9:41 PM on June 30, 2008

Death of a salesman - story in the Guardian
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:46 AM on July 4, 2008

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