Hollywood remakes – Good, bad, or ugly? (originally posted 22.10.08)

Reading an article over at VARIETY reminded me of a topic previously discussed here in the dark corridors of style. Hollywood remakes of Asian films (or any non-American film for that matter). This raised its head at Sitges this year as we read about the imminent re-make of LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, a film where we struggled to see the benefits a remake could bring, apart perhaps from exposing it to a wider audience. We remember how we shuddered at the rumours that Nicolas Cage (and his hair) had optioned the rights to remake the hallowed turf of OLD BOY a few years back.

While accepting the fact that subtitles are probably the kiss of death for a film’s box-office performance State-side, we wonder if the Dollars spent remaking a foreign film for U.S audiences couldn’t be put to better use trying to market and distribute the original film in a way that makes it more appealing to the masses. I’ve no doubt there are countless elements to the business side of show business that I couldn’t begin to fathom but I wonder if the numbers have a least been crunched to see if the alternative could be viable. How was CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON doing in terms of ticket sales before it garnered Oscar’s golden nod?

This subject has been discussed plenty before and there are numerous examples of remakes, good and bad, to argue the case for and against. From a purely personal perspective I was glad ABRE LOS OJOS was remade as VANILLA SKY as I liked the remake and it brought the original (which I also liked) to my attention. Ditto for INFERNAL AFFAIRS and THE DEPARTED, and THE SEVEN SAMURAI and THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN.

Somewhere there’s undoubtably a list of every such remake, not only the films that passed from foreign shores to crash on the rocks of La-La land but also those Hollywood films that have been internally recycled (sitges had its share recently with HALLOWEEN and THE WICKER MAN – starring Cage’s hair). Perhaps the studios would say they’re introducing material to a new audience, they may even admit that it helps their bottom line but that in turn allows them to support new and original projects. Is there only so much human experience that can be mined for silver screen material? I don’t know and I’ve no idea where I’m going with this. If the foreign films heading West are a representation of a migration of talent, there seems to be very little heading back in the opposite direction. And no, you can’t count Park Chan-wook’s I’M A CYBORG, BUT THAT’S OK as a remake of THE TERMINATOR.

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