Tuesday, September 02, 2008

WHERE'S THE SEOUL, BABY? DON'T LEAVE OUT THE SEOUL!

I dig this poster for upcoming Korean import The Chaser, mainly for its sly little dig at Hollywood up top:

I'm not one that gets too irritated about remakes. Usually the big horror/action remakes are just products to regenerate income. True, 75% of the time they are inferior to the original, but, for the most part, the integrity of the original is held intact. (Will people really prefer Diane English's The Women to George Cukor's in 30 years??? Doubtful.)

However, remakes of foreign films, specifically those from Japan and Korea, get a different treatment. Because of language barriers and aesthetic differences, U.S. audiences may know that they are seeing a remake, but rarely will they seek out the original (Ask 10 people on the street today if they know that this weekend's Bangkok Dangerous was originally a smash in Korea).

Respectfully, directors like The Pang Brothers and Takeshi Shimizu have been given the chance to remake their own films with Hollywood backing,... but others aren't as lucky.

Finished or upcoming remakes of My Sassy Girl, The Lake House, A Tale of Two Sisters (which is being remade with new title The Uninvited, which happens to be the title of another Korean film on a totally different storyline... do these people check for this stuff???) and cult favorite Old Boy will be helmed by fresh faces.

I guess I just have a major beef to get off my chest. From the "WTF!?!" movies (Bad Guy), to the hilarious (Attack The Gas Station), to the action-packed (Nowhere To Hide), and the cute (My Wife is a Gangster), South Korea has been my favorite foreign film mecca of the last few years. I guess it just burns me to see so much artistic ingenuity possibly get brushed under the rug.

7 comments:

Rick Olson said...

Well, Fox. I love that line on the poster as well, but that's show biz. Unless we get an art-house or rep theater in every town (ha ha), and talk our friends and relatives into seeing the originals in them, this remake sort of thing is gonna
happen.

And whether you think a remake is inferior to its original, might depend on which one you've seen first, no? I saw Departed first, liked it a lot, then checked out "Infernal Affairs" based on it. Is "Infernal Affairs" superior? Not really, but you can see why somebody who loves the original might hate the remake, just on principal, and because they love the original so much.

Kind of like why somebody who's read a book first then seen the movie rarely thinks the movie is as good.

The good thing about "The Departed"/"Infernal Affairs" thing was that it got me started on Hong Kong gangster flicks. Johnny To lives!

Fox said...

Rick-

I'm more concerned about the films being sought out on DVD/Home Video. I don't expect many of these films to be seen in theaters because a majority of Americans live in cities with theaters that don't carry them.

Like I said, I'm not anti-remake at all. My concern is that a budding wave of filmmakers - in this case, Korean - will be lost, unappreciated.

Interesting point on the "which one is seen first" theory, and that may be true, though in most cases I truly think it comes down to quality. Scoreces' Cape Fear and Herzog's Nosferatu come to mind as remakes that were either superior (Cape Fear) or respectable (Nosferatu) companions to the original. To a lesser extent, I think Demme and Van Sant did that with their The Manchurian Candidate and Psycho remakes.

For the record, I think The Departed and Infernal Affairs are pretty subpar.

And people that complain about a movie not being honest to a book need to check themselves. It's like saying an apple pie isn't true to the apple.

Jonathan Lapper said...

Well I wasn't going to say anything but then I read both of your comments. I like Scorsese's Cape Fear enough but I think J. Lee Thompson's is superior. As for the other three you mention (Nosferatu, The Manchurian Candidate & Psycho) I think they're all subpar, especially The Manchurian Candidate.

And speaking of Demme, remember when everyone was all freaked out about Charade being remade ("How dare they! You can't remake a classic!") as The Truth about Charlie? Well it came and went and will stay gone because it stunk, stunk read bad-like.

That's why I don't care if someone wants to remake even a classic. I'm not worried that the original will be forgotten or marginalized if the original is in fact an excellent piece of work. If it is, it will always be watched and remembered. If the original is only so-so and someone manages to come along and make it better I say more power to you.

And as for books/movies remember this oft-quoted maxim which I've used before on Cinema Styles. I first read it years ago in an interview with Truffaut: The person who understands art will walk out of the cinema and exclaim, "I loved that movie. It was nothing like the book!"

The converse of course also applies ("I hated that movie, it was exactly like the book.") but the first version is better. As Truffaut was explaining when he used it, movies and books are two different mediums. Some characters and story threads work well in a book, some work better in a movie. Things are changed, excised or made into a pastiche to translate the story visually, rather than literally.

Fox said...

I agree that Nosferatu, The Manchurian Candidate, and Psycho are inferior to the orginals - I thought I made that clear in my comment. (Though I do think Herzog's Nosferatu is pretty darn great.)

My point was that they were remakes that did something "fresh" in their reimagining instead of a straight remake (yes, Psycho was indeed a straight remake, but SO straight that it was bent.)

However, I disagree with you on The Truth About Charlie. I found that movie to be a pleasure. A smooth, fun pleasure that gave paid back in visual tribute to the French New Wave in the way that the French New Wave visuallt gave tribute to Film Noir. Not great, perhaps, but I think it's one of Demme's more underrated efforts.

And I agree with you and Truffaut on the books-into-movies conflict. (It's a pet peeve of mine.) In fact, Truffaut might have taken that line from me when we used to steal milk together back in the day.

Rick Olson said...

Fox, Jonathan:

You're BOTH wrong. (not really, I've just wanted to say it for a while).

Great quote from Truffaut, Jonathan, I'm going to have to remember it, and steal it, and say I came up with it on my own.

I do like Herzog's version of "Nosferatu" better than Murnau's, fwiw (not much, I'm afraid), and I really like De Niro's over the top turn in "Cape Fear," but the rest of the movie, not so much.

I think that a lot of things, including which one you saw first, whether you love the original or not, and Jonathan's "How Dare they make remake that" affect how even the most careful critics' opinions. As an old literature prof of mine once said "there are no disinterested opinions" or "innocent bystanders" or something like that.

A film's a film, a book's a book, and never the twain shall meet, grasshopper.

Fox said...

I'm waiting for some smart-ass to make a movie out of Hitchcock/Truffaut. I mean, if retards like Aaron Sorkin are making movies about Facebook, and players like Brett Ratner are making movies about Guitar Hero... why not!?!

RC said...

that's pretty brazen.

the poster gives me the creeps too! yikes.