Sunday 2 December 2018

On remakes

1/ Generally speaking, the majority of remakes are unnecessary and/or bad. However, I’m not against remakes per se. 
2/ I am, as a principle, against remakes that are unnecessary and offer nothing new. What does David Lee Fisher offer in his 2005 remake of The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, except sound? Even the visual style is the same. And what after all is the point of Gus van Sant’s shot-for-shot remake of Psycho—with colour? Everyone I know, and perhaps everyone, associates Psycho with Anthony Perkins, not Vince Vaughn. 

It’s because of this reason that I embrace the new Suspiria (which I intend to watch) and don’t understand some people’s complaint that Luca Guadagnino doesn’t want the same style and colour style of Dario Argento’s film.
Faithfulness may be a good thing for a film adaptation of a book (though it depends), but what do we need a remake for, if it offers nothing new? For filmgoers who only watch new films and refuse to watch B&W films and silent films? It is their problem that they deny history and the legacy of cinema, and miss out on masterpieces. 
3/ As a principle, I’m also against remakes of films that are already regarded as among the greatest films ever made.
For example, I keep hearing rumours about a Gone with the Wind remake. Why would you remake a film that got 10 Oscars? I can’t think of any reason. 
I’ve just discovered, though, that there’s a 2016 Ben-Hur. To be a precise, it’s not really a remake, but a 5th adaptation of the novel—however, the other adaptations are a silent short film, a silent film, and an animation, so this new film by Timur Bekmambetov would be directly compared to the William Wyler film, which got 11 Oscars. 
Even the 1995 TV version of A Streetcar Named Desire is not a wise idea, in my opinion. Glenn Jordan’s take on the play is different from Elia Kazan’s—closer to Tennessee Williams’s play, if I remember correctly, so in a sense it does offer something new. At the same time, how can you compare to the cast of the 1951 film, especially Vivien Leigh and Marlon Brando? Alec Baldwin was very brave to take on one of Marlon Brando’s best roles, and Jessica Lange looked more like she was playing Vivien Leigh as Blanche DuBois.  
4/ For some reason, all American remakes of Asian films I have seen are terrible. That includes The Departed, an acclaimed film which got Martin Scorsese an Oscar—the Hong Kong original Infernal Affairs is much better. 
Spike Lee’s remake of Oldboy I haven’t seen, but it looks like a big mistake, judging by the cast. The story is also, in some sense, very Asian. 
5/ However, I’m not against remakes in another language, country, and culture. In fact, when they’re good, I love them even more than standard remakes. 

The best remakes of this type that I can think of are The Handmaiden and Untold Scandal, South Korean remakes or adaptations of Western material—Fingersmith and Dangerous Liaisons respectively. They are excellent films on their own. As remakes/ adaptations, they retain the spirit of the original whilst adapting the story to the culture and traditions in South Korea, so they don’t feel foreign.
I haven’t seen A Fistful of Dollars, but I like the idea of it as a Western remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo. Same with The Magnificent Seven and The Seven Samurai
I suppose the question here is whether the remake in another culture offers anything new (as in the case of The Handmaiden) or just takes good material and makes it in English for filmgoers who are too lazy to watch films with subtitles. In the latter case, those people should watch dubbed films instead, and I’m saying that despite being against dubbing. 
6/ Here’s an unpopular opinion: I think David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is better than the Swedish version.


  1. The point of the Psycho remake was to study Hitchcock in depth. That was the point for Gus van Sant - think how much he learned! Think how much fun he had! The point for the viewer, or for the suckers who put up the money, I do not know.

    1. I know, you said that before.
      The other day I searched for what he said about doing it though, and he talked at length about it.


Be not afraid, gentle readers! Share your thoughts!
(Make sure to save your text before hitting publish, in case your comment gets buried in the attic, never to be seen again).