Thursday, 15 September 2011

The Secret in their Studios

Depending on who you ask, David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is one of the most anticipated films of the upcoming fall season. I rather imagine that because of the pedigree of Fincher, few have bothered to bat an eyelid at the oddity of a remake of a film coming one year after the original was released. I italicise the word remake, because I’m often wary of the title when the original work is an adaptation of a novel. Still, more significant than the fact that Fincher’s film is a remake is the fact that it’s a remake of a foreign language film. Today, the internet was faintly abuzz with the news that Denzel Washington has been attached to a remake of the 2010 Best Foreign Language Picture The Secret in their Eyes from Argentina.
I’ll lay my cards on the tables and admit that one of my favourite films of the past decade, Scorsese’s The Departed, was an adaptation of a foreign film four years after the original was released but now it occurs to me that that was the continuation of a significant issues with Hollywood cinema. I have nothing against remakes on their own. Rather, I’m quite fond of them because it gives us the chance to watch different directors do different things with a single theme, but what worries me is that this constant notion of updating foreign flicks only serves to undermine the necessity of the foreign films in the first place.
Let me explain. The general cinephile is aware that the market for foreign cinema is already in a fine predicament. I’m sure that we’ve all heard from at least one person who refuses to “read” a film. Only a few weeks ago I watched the astonishing Certified Copy (my favourite 2011 film, thus far) and as gorgeous as it is few have heard of it, and possibly even fewer would care to see it. It’s not the perceived lack of originality which bothers me about almost immediate foreign to English remakes, it’s the fact that audiences are being encouraged to be lazy and film distributors are being encouraged to support that laziness. There’s no need to worry about not distrusting the foreign film when in only a few years they’re probably going to be remade anyhow. Art already isn’t easy, and though Hollywood has a stringent history of remake foreign cinema (to sometimes excellent results) the trend worries me. It seems to only encourage the continued shrouding of foreign goodness keeping it a secret that the general populace aren’t privy to.
What do you think? Does the situation worry you, or am I overthinking the equation?


CrazyCris said...

You're definitely not overthinking the equation. I wish Hollywood would slow down on the remakes/sequels/prequels (much as I've enjoyed some of them) and try to develop the talent that comes up with fresh ideas!

As for the impact of remakes on the distribution of foreign language films... I can't comment since in my neck of the woods everything is dubbed (so subtitles sadly not an issue), and even so we get very little in terms of international (i.e. not Hollywood or Spanish) fare. Drives me nuts! :s

Nick Prigge said...

"...this constant notion of updating foreign flicks only serves to undermine the necessity of the foreign films in the first place."

Very, very thoughtful. This is a significant issue that never seems to be suitably addressed. At least in America, anyway, and probably for obvious reasons. Just off the top of my head, "Heartbreaker" & "The Valet" were 2 French comedies I adored and I know there has been talk of American remakes of both. And it's not just that America would ruin them, though they probably would, but, like you say, this prevents people from seeking out the originals.

Good post.

TomS said...

Today, movies from overseas are distributed only if they more closely resemble American films. Foreign movies now are like a marketing survey for the Hollywood "idea mill".

In their heyday, Foreign Films provided smarter audiences with ideas and characters that could not be found in American movies..and of course, things that got censored out of American films, namely, sex.

It is odd that today's foreign films (the ones Americans are able to see) are as devoid of sexual themes and expression as their American counterparts, although the violence factor has kept pace. At least, foreign films still have not had to rely on Special Effects, but adhere closely to human stories and characters.

Can anyone imagine American filmmakers of decades past trying to re-make a "Persona"? a "Satyricon"?

Simon said...

I'm only worries about not being able to access them, honestly. I mean, as long as there are foreign countries, there will be foreign movies (I mean, not everyone wants to sit through lazy translations of Bruce Willis movies, surely?), but if the market here goes, we'll all have to fly to the nearest North for such things. Which is depressing.

Paolo said...

I worried about that too, at first. Like, what's the American version of the corrupt and inept Argentine legal system in the 70's, LAPD (dammit I just helped them, didn't they)?

But then I remembered that the Academy probably preferred it over The White Ribbon and A Prophet is because the film's political stuff is less of a priority than the love story.

And Washington needs a more sympathetic role since he is hanging around with Tony Scott for too long (please don't direct the remake, Tony). But what he really needs to do is to get Fences on screen.