Louis C.K.’s Film Release Plan Is Cynical in the Worst Possible Way

The comedian directed an independent film, "Fourth of July"

Louis C.K. attends FX and Vanity Fair Emmy Celebration at Craft on September 16, 2017 in Century City, California. The comedian secretly directed a new film.
Louis C.K. attends FX and Vanity Fair Emmy Celebration at Craft on September 16, 2017 in Century City, California.
Rich Fury/Getty Images

There was once a time when the announcement of a previously secret project from comedian Louis C.K. was grounds for relatively unambiguous celebration in the world of comedy. The 2016 television series Horace and Pete comes to mind, which earned plenty of critical acclaim. That was before its auteur’s public downfall — and before he made a, shall we say, controversial comeback that seemed to mock the idea that he should ever apologize for what he did.

For those wondering where things would go from here, we now have an answer: a new article in The Hollywood Reporter revealing that Louis directed an independent film, titled Fourth of July, in secret. This, in and of itself, isn’t all that surprising — him working on projects in secret is hardly a new maneuver on his part. Nor is him making a foray into filmmaking — it was in the lead-up to his previous film as director, I Love You, Daddy, that his penchant for masturbating in front of women who hadn’t consented went from rumored about to a matter of record.

What stands out most from The Hollywood Reporter‘s article is Louis’s approach to getting the film distributed. (Remember that this is someone who built out his own distribution network for comedy specials and the aforementioned Horace and Pete.) The article quotes an open letter that Louis C.K. wrote about the film and where it might end up playing.

“We are still compiling and constantly adding to the list of theaters which I will post on the web page for the movie which is on my website. Also if you would like Fourth of July to play at a theater near you, please contact the theater directly and ask for it,” he wrote.

The Hollywood Reporter’s James Hibberd describes the film as about “a recovering alcoholic and jazz pianist in NYC who confronts his acerbic family during their annual Fourth of July vacation.” The pianist is played by Joe List, who co-wrote the film; Louis C.K has a supporting role, as do several comedians, including Nick Di Paolo, Sarah Tollemache and Lynne Koplitz.

Even without the baggage Louis brings to the project, this does not exactly sound like the sort of project audiences are exactly rushing into theaters to see in 2022. But it’s hard not to think that that might not be the point. If the film does end up with a solid theatrical run, its director will have further evidence that a substantial audience still exists for his work. If theaters balk at the film — either for its director’s history or for its less-than-commercial premise — he can harp on being “canceled” all over again. It’s a win-win for him and a much less pleasant outcome for the rest of us.

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