x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Hollywood still relishes the remake

The US film industry has long had an obsession with remaking foreign language films, much to the displeasure of many a movie buff.

It may have been released in its native France only a few months ago, but thanks to healthy box-office takings, the romantic comedy Heartbreaker (L'arnacoeur), is already due to get a major movie makeover. Rights for the light-hearted film, which stars Vanessa Paradis and Romain Duris, were recently snapped up by the British production company Working Title Films, which has been behind smash hits such as Billy Elliot, Frost/Nixon and Four Weddings And A Funeral.

The premise is a typically cheesy one: Alex (Duris) is a professional love-rat, whose clients pay him to break up relationships before they lead to marriage. Working alongside his sister and her husband, the lothario finds himself dealing with more than he bargains for when he comes across his next target, the seemingly content Juliette (Paradis). Hollywood loves a breezy, feel-good movie, and its humorous and summery plot makes Heartbreaker a prime candidate for a remake.

The US film industry has long had an obsession with remaking foreign language films, much to the displeasure of many a movie buff. Occasionally however, the industry can - and has - produced a remake of equal or even superior quality to the original. Take Martin Scorsese's 2006 Oscar-winner The Departed, a highly successful re-imagining of the Hong Kong thriller Infernal Affairs (2002). Both films featured a slew of big name actors, and both produced excellent box-office results. And despite several changes to the plot in the remake, the co-director of Infernal Affairs, Andrew Lau, was reported to have enjoyed the US adaptation.

Other remakes that have gone on to achieve both box office success and critical acclaim include the 2002 psychological horror The Ring, based on the 1998 Japanese movie Ring. The plot, which follows a journalist who discovers she has only seven days to live after watching a cursed videotape, was copied almost scene for scene by the American director Gore Verbinski. The resulting movie took more money in the first two weeks of its release at the Japanese box-office than the original brought in overall. The surprise success of the movie led to several other Japanese horror films getting the same treatment - although none would go on to be as profitable as The Ring. Hideo Nakata - who directed Ring, Ring 2 (1998) and Dark Water (2002) - went on to remake the US versions of the latter two films, although neither were as well-received as the originals. But despite the less-than-stellar performances of recent Japanese horror remakes, The Ring 3D has reportedly been green-lit for a 2012 release - although a director is yet to be named. And despite earning its fair share of negative reviews, the 2004 remake of Ju-on - The Grudge (starring a post-Buffy Sarah Michelle Gellar) went on to become one of the most profitable films of the year. And it's not just the Japanese film industry that filmmakers have tapped for inspiration.

The Austrian director, Michael Haneke, remade his 1997 thriller Funny Games, almost a decade later,re-setting the film in New York, starring Naomi Watts and Tim Roth as the victims of a pair of psychopathic killers. Both the original version of the movie and the remake failed to set the box office alight. One hopes the same fate will not befall the latest version of the Swedish vampire horror Let the Right One In, which was slated for a remake before it had even been released, due to its acclaim at film festivals. The director Matt Reeves, will head up the remake (called Let Me In) which sees the action switch from Stockholm to New Mexico. Regardless of the outcome, there is one person who definitely won't be going to see the movie when it comes out later this year. Tomas Alfredson, who directed the original, has voiced his concerns regarding the adaptation.

Penelope Cruz starred in the 1997 Spanish thriller, Open Your Eyes, as well as the English-language remake Vanilla Sky (2001), which also featured her boyfriend at the time, Tom Cruise. The film received mostly negative reviews upon its release. However, despite the lack of critical acclaim, it took in more than US$200 million (Dh735m) at the box-office. This may have had more to do with public interest in Cruise and Cruz's off-screen relationship than the film itself. It would be difficult to pick the worst remake of recent years, but a special mention has to go to Guy Ritchie's 2002 disaster Swept Away, which starred his then wife Madonna. Based on a 1974 Italian classic that dealt with issues of love, class and politics, the English-language version is primarily remembered for almost nailing the coffin lid shut on Ritchie's career. Impressively, the Queen of Pop earned even more derision for her acting than in her previous cinematic outings. The film also became the first to win both the Worst Picture and Worst Remake or Sequel awards at the Razzies. But such howlers aren't likely to stop the flow of English language remakes any time soon. Only time will tell if Heartbreaker will find a happy ending in Hollywood.