World Cinema: Remakes part two

In a second look at world cinema remakes, we check out what happens when Hollywood movies are made in other countries, often for very little money…

So, here we are again. Last week I took a brief look at the remake (linked below), and barely scratched the surface. It’s a massive topic, and one worthy of a thesis, let alone a column. The comments made by you good people only served to highlight this fact, and also show that there are many separate arguments to make while trying to understand the wider picture.

Undeterred, this week I’m trying again, but to show that it doesn’t all have to be one-way traffic, I present a list of awesome/interesting/shit remakes of American films!

To preface this, I would just like to add that Hollywood may not be the largest producer of films, but it certainly has the largest cultural impact of any film industry. To believe that World Cinema exists in isolation from it is foolish, as there is a constant ongoing dialogue between all cinemas, regardless of culture. Therefore, while this list represents the most obvious homages (aka rip-offs) of Hollywood, they are no by no means the only ones to tip the hat.

Anyway, without further ado, let’s get going.

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Heading back to India again, the Bollywood remake of a Hollywood film is almost a subgenre in itself. Amongst the many, many to choose from, is Chachi 420, a remake of Mrs Doubtfire. Kamal Hassan takes the Robin Williams role, and the scene where he is first transformed is bizarre and amazing. Of particular note is the chef (I think), who is so overcome with lust at the sight of a towering 50ish lady sashaying about and smiling at him, that he inexplicably throws a bundle of rupee notes at him/her as she descends the stairs.

Kaante tells the story of six criminals holding up a bank in LA, but discovering one of them is an undercover cop. Yes, it is Reservoir Dogs. My favourite scene is probably the one where they stand on top of a building inthe downtown district and fire guns to the apparent obliviousness of all and sundry. Epic. However, none of this can quite match up to the song and dance routines of the Bollywood remake of Fight Club. See for yourself below. Go Go Fight Club, indeed.

Sticking in Asia, Japan is also the home of several remakes. First up is the obvious choice of Sideways. I’ve always dreamed of remaking this film with Japanese people instead, so I was delighted to discover it had already been done. In the same vein, Paramount Japan struck upon the perfect remake to combat decreasing numbers for Hollywood fare. Japanese audiences have recently turned to manga-inspired properties and local films, so to combat this they have decided upon Ghost as their secret weapon. Apparently, and I quote Paramount Japan marketing director Hisamichi Kinomoto, “We have this great property… we should use it to attract new audiences.” Yes, those were my thoughts exactly.

However, it’s not all song and dance versions, or pointless endeavours designed to win over cultures oversaturated with American films. Sometimes the films are of a quality not far below the original, and made for good reasons. The Russian 12 (a remake of 12 Angry Men) shines an intentional light on both Russian and American culture, and their relationship and perceptions of each other. It also lays issues central to Russian identity on the line, as it expands beyond the initial concept of the jurors. Well worth checking out for a decent example of a remake, regardless of context.

However, during the course of my research, one country has been revealed as the undisputed champion of the reverse Hollywood remake. And that, my friends, is Turkey. Yes, that hithero unknown powerhouse of film has been pumping out Hollywood remixes for decades. The justly famed remake of Star Wars is perhaps best summed up in this brilliant fan made montage:

Then there are the following gems. There is this absolutely terrifying Turkish version of E.T:

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Then there’s a Turkish Rambo (not invited to be in The Expendables):

There’s also a Turkish Exorcist, Turkish Batman, Turkish Superman, Turkish Saw and a surprisingly comparable version of Original Series Star Trek:

I can only imagine the conversation held at Turkish Film HQ:

Boss: Let’s create a national cinema which can critically and commercially challenge the best of the world! This will be our triumphant legacy!

Underling: Umm, we don’t really have any money or original concepts right now…

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Boss: Fuck it, let’s just remake a bunch of Hollywood films and hope no one notices.

To return further to my point, cinema is a constant and ongoing dialogue between individuals, audiences and entire cultures. It is what makes the entire concept of remakes problematic. What one person sees as a theft of cultural identity, another may see as the sharing of ideas and the pervasion of influence.

Cinema was the dominant social form of the 20th Century, and allowed people access to thoughts and ideas that they may probably had never come across before, regardless of their education. It is only natural, therefore, that the recycling of these ideas should come under such scrutiny, especially as the high profile remakes originate from Hollywood, and the  20th Century was also the American century.

It is not always a bad thing for a film to be remade, although it is often to the detriment of the original. I guess it really depends on how highly we value the context of the original, whether we can accept a shift of time and space and not allow it to affect our understanding of the film(s).

It is also a highly personal point of view, as some films that are sacred to me and would have me outraged (if not a little curious) may provoke a more ambiguous attitude in others. It is these contradictions which keep the subject so engrossing, and yet, so unresolved…

Looking Forward

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As we exit summer and begin the slow descent into autumn, the cinemas gradually fill with somewhat more highbrow product than the blockbusters. This means that, over the next few months, there is a relative glut of world cinema being released. I say glut. I mean slightly better than the usual trickle. Although it is no longer just confined to London.

This week has me excited by the return to fiction cinema of Abbas Kiarostami. This Iranian legend (whose Palme d’or winning Taste Of Cherry is required viewing for anyone interested in film) has been up to some unusual work recently, but now comes back into the acceptable art house fold with his first film made outside of Iran, Certified Copy.

Starring Juliette Binoche and British opera singer, William Shimmell (in his debut), it tells the story of a man and a woman who pretend to be a long term married couple, despite their having just met. As the title implies, the film deals with the theme of what is real and what is not, with regards to the relationship, the communication between the two, and what ultimately is true in regards to human interaction.

To further illuminate what Kiarostami is attempting to achieve, apparently he told Binoche the story of the film as a true anecdote. Her reaction to what she believed to be the truth then played a key role in how the final film developed.