Tuesday

BADaptation, MADaptation, SADaptation.



Do it again... just with
more, oh I dunno...use
of product placement, maybe?.
Is nothing sacred any more?


Film is an art form about expression. It’s a way of shredding your demons on family, death, society, mortality, humanity. But this expression, this personal honesty, is completely lost if the work is not your own, or does not speak strongly to you. 

You can not express yourself through expressing someone else’s work.


There is a certain amount of leeway granted in terms of adaptations. Stanley Kubrick worked closely with adaptations with all but one of his films coming from novels, but to say he did not put his own stamp on and bear his own soul in A Clockwork Orange or 2001: A Space Odyssey (or any others) is beyond sense.

But the commodity of remakes has got my panties in a bit of a twist. 

The primary role of remaking films is to improve upon the original; iron out any creases, cast them better, direct them differently. Instead it’s used as a cash cow to extort what’s known to have a strong fan base. 

Anything for another dollar.

There are countless examples; giving box office flop John Moore the reigns of The Omen and Flight of the Phoenix, Let the Right One in being horribly America’d, Colin Farrell taking over for Arnie in the remake of Total Recall.

Next thing you know we’ll be remaking Citizen Kane, starring Dennis Quaid, directed by Baz Luhrman. Or The Last Picture Show featuring Shia La Boeuf and Seth Rogan. Or the fetish master Zach Snyder’s Bonnie and Clyde, complete with leather and masks.

We see the brilliant cult classic The Wicker Man being botched by Neil LaBute, who has Nicholas Cage doing his regular squint and ramble routine. And this time he’s punching women in bear costumes. What has the world come to?

I’m sorry to say that one of my favourite modern filmmakers is guilty of bad remaking. Gus Van Sant - most renowned for Good Will Hunting and Milk, but who deserves more credit for Elephant and My Own Private Idaho - decided that the best project to pursue in 1998 was to remake the classic Hitchcock thriller Psycho. Not only that, he decided to do a shot-for-shot remake. Why would anyone try to one-up the master of suspense?

Reinvent. If you’re not reinventing, you’re not inventing, and if you’re not inventing, what’s the point? This is an art form. You are filming to create and inspire. Not try to copy a master to test yourself.

Another favourite of mine, the Coen brothers, are also guilty of this, opting to make a weak Ladykillers, and a sub-par True Grit, instead of their usually well-measured and evocative films.

I can’t help but ask why Michael Haneke would remake his daring Belgian film Funny Games shot-for-shot in English. Making it shot-for-shot eleven years later would suggest that in that time he still thought he made a perfect film. He didn’t want to change a thing. And what release can come from a film you’ve already made? Surely in the time passed Haneke grew and changed as a person and had something different to say. (He certainly did soon after with The White Ribbon.)

So why spend this time on rehashing your previous work? To penetrate an English-speaking audience? Then make an English-speaking film. A new one. For your first English film, is it overly difficult to just pen it in English? Job done. Instead we get Naomi Watts in on the action, and release another remake.

As much as I like Naomi Watts, I wonder how her skills as a script reader are, since all but two of her roles have been remakes or adaptations.

There were strong attempts to remake The Birds, with - once again -  Naomi Watts in the lead position opposite George Clooney, despite the following opposition from original star Tippi Hedren; “Why would you do that? Why? I mean, can't we find new stories, new things to do?"

I am firmly with Hedren on this. 

What is the point of film as a medium? To create, to inspire. Not to ravage the old top quality film for trash that might secure you some box office profits. It’s a rarity to find people making genuinely new films.

Who wants to see Steve McQueen replaced by Pierce Brosnan for Christ’s sake? Or Charlton Heston by Marky Mark. The fact that this article is becoming more a list than a rant is my whole point. It’s a scandal of diabolical proportions.

What else can I say, but “Hey, Hollywood. Stop it. Just, stop it.”

But instead we look forward to another Spiderman, another The Thing, another Total Recall. Another host of movies I have no desire to see. 

Another disappointing week to avoid the cinema.

Conor is an Irish writer based in Chicago, and when not striving for a Best Original Screenplay Oscar, likes to relax in a good movie, book, or whiskey. His short term goal is to one day get around to finishing his own website - www.conorohagan.com.

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