:- Double take

The remake phenomenon rolls on, with the release of The Assassin, closely based on Nikita. Alan Morrison hears the case for the defence from its stars, Bridget Fonda and Gabriel Byrne.

Some years. it's space movies that are the rage. Other times. it‘s westerns. musicals. psychos in the home. In I993. the Hollywood wheel of fortune has stopped with the arrow pointing at remakes. in Britain. much journalistic ink has been used up deplon'ng and. on rare occasions. defending the practice. as Sommersh): Seen! of a Woman and The Vanishing hit the screens within weeks of each other. Now comes The Assassin. a remake of Luc Besson‘s [990 thriller Nikita. which unlike the original versions ofthe above titles. is still doing healthy business in the late night rep slots. Also unlike the others. The Assassin is a virtual scene-by- scene. shot-for-shot duplicate of its predecessor. which certainly begs the question. why bother?

‘Here‘s the answer to that, and it‘s a Hollywood answer.‘ replies The Assassin‘s male star. Gabriel Byrne. ‘America is the biggest market for movies. most people who go to see movies in the world see them in America. They‘re remaking it because two per cent of people in America in the cinema-going population have seen the original French Nikita. The ordinary guy who goes to see lethal Weapon 3 has not seen Nikita. so what they have is a situation where they‘ve got a highly commercial film with subtitles. And people do not read subtitles. according to Hollywood. The

The Assassin: ‘the emphasis is more openly on thrills’

reason it was remade was purely financial and economic.‘

That may well be the case. but The Assassin is no less a film for it. The story is identical: a down-and-out teenage cop-killer is trained as a govemment assassin. then sent out into the world. where her growing love for her new boyfriend comes into conflict with the murderous acts she has to perform. All the key scenes are there. all the characters and plot twists. up until a small parting of narrative paths at the end. Besson‘s original was. more or less. a blatant attempt to make an American-style movie while retaining a certain atmospheric sexiness that is very French. in the hands ofJohn Badham the man who brought us Saturday Night Fever. Blue Thunder and The Hard Way the action scenes are tighter. and the emphasis more openly on thrills rather than moody contemplation.

While it is valid to criticise those who blindly refuse to consider a subtitled

filrn worth their attention. it‘s all too easy to indulge in inverse intellectual snobbery. claiming an original is better simply because it is French. Lines of words at the bottom of the screen do get in the way of fast-cut action movies for the vast majority of cinema-goers. who have as much right to enjoy this story as anybody. And. let‘s face it. remaking Nikita is certainly less of a heinous crime than the dubbed version Palace threw out into British video stores.

in some areas. Nikita has the edge; in others. The Assassin is superior. Badham‘s version makes more of the repressed sexuality between the girl and her mentor; her drugged-out perception of the opening robbery and murder is made more immediate. making her more sympathetic from the outset; and the scene in which she fixes a victim in her sights while her unknowing boyfriend sweet-talks her through a closed door becomes the emotional pivot ofthe film. No doubt.

other viewers would disagree. championing the subtler aspects of Besson's piece. Each detail of The Assassin will be put under the microscope and compared to Nikita. a necessary evil of which the actors were always aware.

‘lt was an initial concern for me.‘ admits leading lady Bridget Fonda. ‘l thought. “Why am I setting myself up for this?“ because l‘d seen Anne Parillaud and she was phenomenal. I almost didn‘t do it because ofthat. and because I don‘t particularly like remakes. But i also knew that i would never get another part like this. There‘s no comparison to the good roles for men. although there are getting to be more and there are some major female stars now. But it‘s hard for me to say. because so far I've been lucky.‘

Gabriel Byme is equally clear about what drew him to the project: ‘I did it because i thought the original was a good film. l thought that the American script was more or less the same. and it was a commercial movie. i needed to do a commercial film because that gives you a certain amount of power. it was a great role. and I enjoyed it. i don‘t have a problem with remakes. I really don‘t. Just the same way that a play can be reinterpreted and restaged. so can a film. lfyou put on a play in London. does that mean that you can‘t put it on in Poland, in a different language and a different setting. because you reach a wider audience?‘

Byme‘s play analogy is certainly relevant. but given the fact that the two films are really just variations on the same theme. perhaps a musical comparison is closer to the mark. ls Pavarotti‘s rendition of ‘Nessun Dorma‘ better than Jose Carreras‘s? ls Warhol‘s silkscreen of an electric chair more meaningful when it‘s in blue rather than red? Both films have their place; just fine-tune your mood and make your choice.

The Assassin opens in Scotland on Friday 2 July. To compare. Nikita is on Channel 4 at [0.35pm on Saturday IO Juli:

:— Off the beaten track

Andrew Pulver rounds up the arthouse releases.

Shaping up to be the arthouse hit of the summer, Alan Rudolph’s Equinox (Edinburgh Fllmhouse from 9 July, Glasgow Film Theatre from 18 July) Is a carefully constructed, subtly mannered exercise in symbolic storytelling that, thankfully, never becomes arch. Set In the mythical city of Empire (in fact Minneapolis-St Paul, the mldwest’s Nln Gltles) Rudolph marshals a sizeable group of

characters in a plot almost Fieldingesque In its complexity, but shot through with the kind of meaningfulness to its arrangement that concentrates its effect. Matthew Modlne heads the cast,

2 playing both halves of a separated-at- birth pair of twins: llenry, a shy and

lonely garage mechanic who is L

hopelessly in love with an anally retentive Lara Flynn Boyle, and Freddy, a mob hitman beginning to chisel his way to the top of the pile. As Henry and Freddy’s lives entwine, Rudolph piles on the duality - Mafia man Fred Ward, for example, mirrored against honest working man M. Emmet Walsh, or tight-assed Boyle against enthusiastic prostitute Marisa Tomel. The director’s trademark existential yeamings neatly counterpoint the labyrinthine thriller territories surrounding the brothers’ fates.

flow a big-league director, Rudolph is choosing to stroll through his old stamping-grounds; but more reliable evidence that the 08 independent scene is thoroughly alive and well comes in the form of Dani Levy’s I Was (in Mars (Glasgow Film Theatre from 6 July). set in the Big Apple, with German actress Marla Schrelder as Polish immigrant Silvia, newly shot out onto those mean streets. levy himself plays the sharp-suited Alio, who soon relieves Silvia of her wallet, while Marlo Giacarlone is brother lllc, who is looking for a little genuine romance. Comparisons have inevitably been drawn to the post-Jarmusch


Equinox school of off-beat cool, and while there’s no denying that there's more than a hint of Stranger Than Paradise or Johnny Suede mixed into the proceedings, levy has the sense to give his lead actress space to create one of the most intriguing characters you could wish for.

The sane, unfortunately, isn’t entirely true of the central figure in

Francesca Comencini’s Annabelle i Partagee (Glasgow Film Theatre from 12 July). It’s a very Gallic exploration of a woman’s sexuality (which means there’s lots of wiry bodies, intense conversations and high-flown mutterings), but Annabelle herself remains, in the and, little more than a f cipher.

More Euro flights of fancy as star Polish director Kryzstzof Zanussl, in a i post-Gold War world, turns to ; lntematlonal co-producers to help out 1 his movie The Silent Touch (Glasgow i Film Theatre from 14 July). lie serves ' up heart-wannlng fare, in the dignified form of Max Von Sydow as a famous conductor who is tempted out of retirement for one last gig.

Amos Poe’s Triple Bogey On A Par Five llole (Glasgow Film Theatre from 12 July) is, in complete contrast, a genuine American welrdle, with an unexpected guest appearance from Our lord and Master Robbie Goltrane. A scriptwrlter drifting in a boat in the East River decides the family accompanying him would make a great subject for a movie. Self- referential as hell, but a good (it odd)


22 The List 2—15 July K 7')