Foreign films that should’ve stayed foreign

Well, if you agree with the above, then you’re a tool, but the truth of the matter is that bastardization of foreign films is a miserable reality, and, pretentious or not, it’s time to revolt against these remakes. Don’t get me wrong; I like Three Men and a Baby as much as the next person. But, when Vanilla Sky takes the entire plot and a cast member (the Cruz) from Abre Los Ojos, and then decidedly lowers the tone of the film, something needs to change. Also, the result of Vanilla Sky was a Cruz/Cruise 3yr relationship. I bet she rues the day she signed on.

The necessity of remaking a foreign film has always come under fire. Francis Veber, who wrote the original Birdcage, Cage Aux Folles (aka not the one with Robin Williams that’s set in Miami), points out the dangers inherent in the process: “it’s like putting whipped cream on top of foie gras.” This can be roughly translated from franco-speak as, it’s unnecessary. Speaking of unnecessary, let’s have a look at Taxi, shall we?

Taxi (2004) from Taxi (1998)

Taxi (1998) is a strange one, because it itself is an homage (one would argue, a far less superior homage) to Scorsese’s Taxi Driver. Yet, America felt the need to remake it…with Queen Latifah! Replacing the male protagonist with a woman could have been interesting (see: Salt) Yet, the desperate need to make it bumbling, by putting Jimmy Fallon in, and sexy, by putting supermodel Gisele in, turned a potentially good remake into a rubbish comedy.

A study of the credits on remakes which, more power to you l’officier, I would never be bothered to do, revealed most remakes worked from a sub-titled version of the original film. Some were true devotees, such as Jim McBride who claimed to have seen À Bout de Souffle “fifteen or more times” (and still put shar-pei lookalike Richard Gere in his remake of the French classic), but only five of the writers polled had more than a passing acquaintance with the language of the original movie.

You can bet David Fincher, due to direct the remake of the Swedish Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, has not a sprinkling of Swedish to his person. Yet, his calibre and previous titles (Zodiac, Fight Club, Se7en), as well as the fact he can adapt his screen play from the English language novel rather than subtitles, surely makes this remake ok? I’m not convinced.

Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) from Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2010)

Yes yes, Rooney Mara does look suitably pierced in ‘W’ magazine as Lisbeth Salander, but it’s just so unnecessary to remake. It’s not as if Girl with a Dragon Tattoo was released a long time ago …. it practically came out yesterday. Mikael Blomvkist (the pockmarked Michael Nyqvist, who I worryingly find very attractive) will be replaced by the conventionally sexier Daniel Craig, probably because of his Aryan features. Rape scenes will be cut, overweight hacker Plague will lose a couple of hundred pounds, and the whole thing will be moved to Jacksonville because it’s too grey in Sweden. Probably.

The supposed ‘problem’ of screening a subtitled film seems condescending to the English-speaking public. Do they think we can’t read and look at things at the same time? Remakes are also pretty dangerous in that they mostly fail to give credits to the original writers; either textually or financially. American writers enjoyed sole upfront screenplay credits, while the foreign writers’ ‘based on’ credits are pushed back to the end of the film. Such was the case with our next subject for discussion, Dinner for Schmucks.

Dinner for Schmucks (2010) Le Dîner de Cons (1998)

When I heard Steve Carrell was going to be taking on Jacques Villeret’s role as the village idiot in Le Dîner de Cons, a small, froggle-loving part of me died. The charmant Thierry L’hermitte is replaced by everyman Paul Rudd, and ‘cons’ is less rudely translated into ‘schmucks’ (if you want the proper translation, go and look it up on babelfish, cos I’m not saying cunt on here) The premise: whoever brings the biggest idiot to the office dinner party wins, should be knocked out of the ball park by Carrell – we all know he plays a good idiot. Yet, the characters are so stereotypical/absurd that one is left feeling that the real schmucks are the people behind this remake.

There is a way to remake without pissing off the original creators. David & Janet Peoples, whose film Twelve Monkeys was inspired by the experimental French short-feature La Jetée (which is a mad-fest), said, “We met with [original writer/director] Chris Marker before we started, sent him the drafts we submitted and talked with him throughout. We did not want Twelve Monkeys to embarrass him in any way because his film was a perfect movie. That he liked Twelve Monkeys made us very happy.” Now that’s the way to do it. Amongst the terrible remakes (And God Created Woman from Et Dieu… créa la femme), sub-par foreign films that became sub-par Hollywood films (The Tourist from Anthony Zimmer, The Next Three Days from Pour Elle), are a few gems that deserved to see the light of day.

Down And Out In Beverly Hills (1986) remake of Boudu Sauvé Des Eaux (1932)

Down and Out in Beverly Hills was a good remake of Boudu Sauvé Des Eaux (1932), because 30’s Renoir is all a bit too much, and the eighties version has Nick Nolte (he of the hilarious mugshot). I seriously thought Nick Nolte was only famous for his mugshot; I didn’t realize he calls himself an actor. This movie sort of proves that he shouldn’t, but overall the remake is funny and effective.

Paul Mazursky agrees with my analysis, and so he should; he wrote the darn thing. “I saw Boudu Sauvé des Eaux and then resaw it. I used what worked in it, and changed the rest to fit my film.” Apparently, what worked was homeless looking men, and what was needed to be changed was the lack of Bette Midler and flamingos.

So, to sum up: remakes = bad. Unless they’ve got flamingos in them.

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