Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Retakes & Remakes

Posted By on Tue, Nov 6, 2007 at 4:36 PM

I don't know if it is ingenious or insulting, the number of American films which are the remakes of a very recent foreign film incarnation. It became most obvious with all of the Asian horror films being adapted to English-speaking counterparts with Mega-movieplex stars such as Sarah Michelle Gellar (The Grudge, a remake of Ju-on) and Naomi Watts (The Ring, a remake of Ringu). Most of the time, the original foreign version had just made it to our local Blockbuster, even though it had been released at least a year before.

Two of the most recent recycled foreign films are The Eye (2008), which was on the shelves as 2002 release Gin Gwai, and Funny Games, an Austrian film which first came to the USA in 1998. The latter is now being remade by the same director, Michael Haneke, in 2008 with stars Naomi Watts, Tim Roth and Michael Pitt. Oh, by the way, the star of the remake of The Eye is Jessica Alba.

It is easy to see the economic advantages to remaking a strong script with recognizable (i.e. Movie Star) actors replacing the original "strangers" to Hollywood screens. However, it is hard to see how a director such as Haneke would remake Funny Games. Haneke is a director who constantly dabbles with the disturbing truths of human nature. One could not imagine any other actress replacing Isabelle Hubbert in The Piano Teacher, a film by Haneke which truly delves into female sexuality and its limitations, and just how far the fairer gender can be driven. Granted Isabelle Hubbert is an international star; it would be a shame to see Renee Zelleweger or Sandy Bullock replacing her in a remake. From the trailer for Funny Games (2008), it seems that the characters and story are ultimately the exact same as the 1998 version. I guess this is what leads me to ask: Is it that a director like Haneke is playing theater and taking his show on tour again? Film directors, unlike theater directors, rarely get a second chance to replace the lead. Or, is it that we English speaking folks may never bother to see the foreign version, and therefore the only way to get a story out there is to make it more accessible to the masses?

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