ichard Gere is Gerard Depardieu. Bruce Willis is Phillipe Noiret. Bridget Fonda is Anne Parillaud. No doubt Arnold Schwarzenegger could be Kenneth Branagh if the Hollywood studios thought that a 'Iemiinamr—style Shakespeare would pack them in.
It‘s not that American movies ripping off foreign predecessors is a new concept -— 1960‘s The Magniﬁcent Seven bears more than a passing resemblance to Kurosawa‘s The Seven Sumauri - it‘sjust that in 1993 it seems to be becoming more of a rule than an exception. Playing safe is the first law in modern
happiest when giving the green light to hit
sequels or running a winning formula through the cinematic equivalent of the photocopier. ln
j an atmosphere like this. the nearest they come
i the man who gave the world the Let/ml Weapon
to a ‘new idea is when they pinch the plot from a foreign movie.
But at what point does the desperate become the ridiculous? It became clear things were beginning to get out of hand when Joel Silver
5 The l.isl ‘) ‘22 April 1993
Hollywood. to the extent that the film capital is
JUST P 0
Bereft of original ideas of its own. Hollywood is turning to European cinema for hit movies. But not in their subtitled form: commercialise the plot, add a star or two. and make sure the dialogue's in English. Alan Morrison examines the remake phenomenon.
and Die Hard series -- announced plans to remake (‘i'nemu [)(ll'(1(/f.\'(). this time starring Bruce Willis as the projectionist and Macaulay Culkin as the kid. Check the date of that memo. Nope. it wasn‘t I April. Hollywood’s artistic conscience had reached its nadir.
Then again. who needs a conscience when there is serious money to be made‘.’ When Coline Serreau's l985 comedy 'l'mi's Hommes e! an ('uuﬂin became Three Men and (1 Baby two years later. the deluge of dollars paved the way for its inevitable sequel. The $40 million already taken at the American box office by .S‘ommervby. a remake of The Return (til/(trim (iuei're. is proof that such ventures are as profitable as ever.
The reason the original versions don‘t travel is. quite simply. that American audiences won‘t go to the cinema to read. The short subtitled sections in Dances ll’iI/i Wolves were a major innovation for the American market as only the most determined film buffs actively seek ottt foreign language movies. Rather than attempting to promote the original product. the studios prefer to push a hefty cheque in the direction of the foreign filmmakers. take their
outline and throw in those ingredients stored only in Hollywood cupboards.
'l'here is. of course. an important distinction between 'foreign' films like The ('ijving (Ia/tie and [Iowan/s lim/ 4 which have fared better in America than on home soil and ’foreign language films‘ complete with those kiss-of- death subtitles. liven the presence of the relatively well—known Gerard Depardieu and an eighteen-week slog at the box office only brought 'lims Les .llulins l)u Mum/e a modest $2.3 million. while ()scar nominations for Best Actress and Best l‘oreign l‘ilm assured Indra-lime of_iust under $3 million. No doubt its success in the latter category will bring in an extra buck or two.
If foreign language films continue to be denied access to the lucrative American screens. then it is liker to have an increasingly adverse effect in the long-term. perhaps restricting potential budgets. Maybe the
solution isto get [38 studios to pttt some money up front for original liuropean productions in order to test the water. as it
were. Just as long as liuro cinema-goers don't
choke when they‘re fed back their own ideas in . stars—and—stripes wrapping. The taste gets blander the more you have to re-heat the dish.
Main pic: Richard Gore and Jodie Foster in Sommershy. Insert pic: Gerard Depardieu and Nathalie Baye in The Return of Martin Guerra.