Sunday, 12 August 2012

Like for like remakes...why?!?

I’m clearly not the first person to talk about this, but there is still an issue with original thought and creativity in Hollywood. Not only are they still churning out remake after remake (I tremble when I think of the up-and-coming attempts at the “Verhoeven Three”: Robocop, Total Recall and Starship Troopers!) but still we keep seeing like-for-like remakes of excellent foreign films, re-shot nearly frame-by-frame in the US to capitalise on the original’s brilliance.

Tomas Alfredson excellent Let The Right One In
Take, for example Quarantine: at face value, a decent, found-footage zombie film…in reality, it’s a carbon copy of the fantastic Spanish original, [Rec]. And Let Me In is just an impostor to Let The Right OneIn, all draped in the garbs of Tinseltown. In fact, horror seems to be a favourite when doing over great world cinema…Ringu became The Ring (only saved by the fact that a subtle storyline change meant they had to draught a brand new movie for the US sequel, bringing in Ringu’s director Hideo Nakata to craft it), Ju-On became The Grudge, and even para-normally brilliant The Eye and the moody Dark Water also got re-fitted (to be fair, this last one isn’t too bad!).

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Vanilla Sky's twin, Abre Los Ojos
Personally, I was most frustrated about what I thought was the amazing “Vanilla Sky”. After watching the DVD extras it gave the impression that Cameron Crowe had crafted a masterpiece, including covering an entire room’s floor with script pages…complex as it appears to construct. Then, I was pointed towards a film that somehow passed under my radar (by the only person who’s a bigger fan of film than me…my mum!), the beautiful Abre Los Ojos. Not only is the film superior to Vanilla Sky, but they are almost identical in very way…even casting Penélope Cruz in the same role in the remake was a brave move (she is ever so slightly better in the original) but didn’t make up for the fact that it was a blatant exploitation of an unique Spanish movie.

Look…I can understand that some people can get annoyed by subtitles, but I always try to re-assure people that this frustration fades over time. “Well, try watching Night Watch”, I say, “as the on-screen text is placed strategically around the screen to draw your eyes to points of interest…there are even funky effects on some of the subtitles!” Do they watch it after my suggestion? Of course not! But they’ll find no injustice to watching a shoddy, badly cast reproduction of the original print just so it’s in their native tongue.

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The insanely brilliant Infernal Affairs
I have to admit, I’m not totally against the principle of remakes in general. If they are creatively re-approaching subject matter and aim to stand on their own two feet, then it’s a worthy artistic endeavour. For example, this works when you think of such incredible films like The Thing and The Fly. This has been perfectly demonstrated with world cinema too, especially in the Westerns genre with The Magnificent Seven (Seven Samurai) and A Fistful Of Dollars (Yojimbo), but it rarely happens in modern cinema. One movie that managed it well is Martin Scorsese’s first Oscar win, The Departed, based one of Hong Kong cinema’s best films of recent years, Infernal Affairs. Scorsese's version never shied away from for the fact that it was a remake, but it still carried a touch of class and identity that proved that it can be done with style. In fairness, David Fincher’s version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is a decent output, with great performances and a different vibe (plus some of the best open credit sequences ever committed to film…watch out Bond!). Some of these are even in my Top 10 Decent Remakes post here, so the overall premise is a sound one, as long creativity still thrives.

But I still have fear for the future…it’s been announced that there will be English speaking version of both OldBoy and The Orphanage. Two amazing movies that, in the wrong hands, could fail in their re-birth. Is it right that Hollywood should continue in this facade? Maybe world cinema re-do’s in future should vastly promote the original foreign version out of respect (but I can’t see that happening unless it’s built into the contract)? Should there be more investment in new writing talent to allow the industry to produce some unique content? 

What do you think? Let the whingeing commence!!!

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