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What are the best and worst U.S. remakes of foreign-language films?

The U.S. remake of Sweden's "Let the Right One In" got me thinking about this topic. Most of the time American remakes of foreign films suck, but some actually work out. What do you think were some of the best U.S. remakes of foreign-language films and what were the worst?

Tags: foreign, movies

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I think the circa 1990 La Femme Nikita would have to fit in there, remade in English in 1993 as Point of No Return.
The original was gritty and dark... the only thing gritty about the remake were the bits of the scene Ms. Fonda was chewing on.
Hi Patrick. Thanks for starting a thread that is actually about movies on the Main Board. What a novel concept!

I was starting to think that it had devolved into tech support of idjuts that can't get their Silverlight player to work and decide a forum called "MOVIE FANS" is the perfect place to go look for a solution bore everyone to death.

Anyhow, back to the topic at hand. Most remakes are abysmal. The only one I can recall that I actually loved was Terry Gilliam's 12 Monkeys, which was heavily inspired by the French short Le Jetee, directed by Chris Marker. That's a good example of how to take a fairly abstract source material and make something more digestible and yet still intelligent.

There are many cases where the remake is not necessarily better but is still very good. The American version of the Japanese horror Ringu, The Ring, comes to mind. Even though it makes the classic mistake of filling in too many of the shadows in the foreign movie's plot just so BillyBob and his wife Selma somewhere in the pits of [insert flyover state of your choice] don't hurt their lil heads too much.

On the subject of Koji Suzuki books made into movies and then remade in America, don't get me started on the pretentious mess that is Dark Water. In a just (and perhaps necessarily grim) world, Jennifer Connelly would be forced to find work in only socially relevant gonzo porn. Were it not for Peter Postlethwaite's great performance, that movie would have been a complete waste of celluloid...
In a just (and perhaps necessarily grim) world, Jennifer Connelly would be forced to find work in only socially relevant gonzo porn

You sick bastard! Why insert the words "only socially relevant gonzo"?

At any rate, it's been my experience that U.S. remakes of foreign originals are compromised by a more overt fear of offending prospective viewers or by the pandemic delusion that one can improve another artist's work -- and even his inspiration -- with a bit of commercial tinkering. Hence, Le Chevre was "remade" into Pure Luck. The only things missing were the French version's verve, humor, originality, cast, and about twenty or thirty other qualities.

Where the foreign film is compromised at its root -- like, say, the Dutch version of Vanishing or the Japanese version of The Ring -- who gives a shit that the American remake is deficient? The originals are no great shakes either.

Sometimes the remake has a class all its own. The Long Night may not have the acid or the pizzazz of Le jour se leve, but it's still eminently watchable. And if The Magnificent Seven is no Seven Samurai, it's still The Magnificent Seven.
I have a strong dislike for the Magnificent Seven, probably just because Seven Samurai is one of my favorite films, and when I watch The Magnificent Seven, all I can think of in my head is how it's not Seven Samurai.
It is tough to dodge that thought. But westerns were mighty depleted when the Sturges film was released. It seemed to resuscitate the whole genre.

Nowadays we purr over Anthony Mann and Budd Boetticher movies, as if they were somehow appreciated in their own day as provocative and original works of folk art or as "perverse" studies of the American myth. Hell, they were just Jimmy Stewart and Randolph Scott movies -- and audiences knew exactly what they were gonna get when the lights went down.

Seven Samurai was first released in the U.S. in a severely truncated version, and its title was The Magnificent Seven. Being a Japanese film it was confined essentially to the "art house" circuit. Not that many people saw it before the Yul Brynner movie came out. And when it came out, it was at a time when the so-called "adult western" had sapped all the juice out of the U.S. product.

The Sturges film re-introduced audiences to action -- and lots of it. That saved the genre itself and, as a side consequence, got people interested in seeing the uncut Kurosawa original. One of those rare cases where the foreign and American versions mutually helped one another.
I prefer Leone's version of Yojimbo to Kurosawa's...
So do I. But I'm not crazy about either film.
I'm interested to see how "The Dinner Game" (1998), a.k.a. "Le dîner de cons," is remade as "Dinner with Schmucks." The French version was quite funny and the basic premise could be reworked in any number of ways for comedic gold. Due out in July 2010, "Dinner with Schmucks" stars Paul Rudd, Steve Carell and Zach Galifianakis.
The original comes close to pussying out in cheap sentiment, but saves itself at the eleventh hour. I don't think the remake will save itself.
Dinner With Schmucks was AWFUL.
I'm going to say the worst remake I've scene is Vanilla Sky which is a remake of the Spanish Abre Los Ojos. I'm not even sure how they messed it up so much since it's exactly the same story as the original and it had Penelope Cruz playing the same role in both movies. Oh wait ... the remake starred Tom Cruise. That's what it was.
I know a lot of people like The Birdcage, but in my opinion it's only a pale reflection of La Cage aux Folles. The same can be said of Three Men and a Baby (remake of the French Three men and a Cradle).

It'll be interesting to see if the upcoming Brothers can match the original.


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