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A Multi-Part Story Revolving Around My Disike For Remakes

Part one: my life as a film student.

During my junior year, while I was hacking away at my degree, my soon-to-be-plan sponsor approached me during an intermission at a play: (here's my abbreviated version of the conversation) "Want to teach a class with me?"
"Sure. what's the class on?"
"Violence in film."

We decided that we'd each choose a certain number of movies to show, plus a few extras, and then John would handle the writing portion (being the writing instructor).

So we set about selecting movies.

I will now jump ahead in this fascinating story to the part where John picks a little-known-German film called "Funny Games."  He had just seen it recently and - if I remember correctly - it was so striking a film it had "inspired" him to teach this "film violence" class.

I go out and rent the movie... it's brilliant. It's the most brutal bits of "A Clockwork Orange" distilled down into it's own 2 hour movie.

The violence is unexpected and completely honest. The stripped down plot and small, focused cast, feels less cliched - less faked - less forced than your average big-dollar movie. No Hollywood horror movie can touch the sincerity of the violence in "Funny Games".

But more than that, there is a social responsibility angle completely absent in Hollywood flicks: audience accountability. Some Hollywood films hint at audience accountability, "you - the viewer - are equally as guilty as the killer / villain because you are watching and doing nothing (or worse yet) you are enjoying what you are seeing".  The killers in "Funny Games" actually speak directly to the audience.

The first time, you think one must be looking off camera at the other. The next time, there is no mistake - he's talking to you, the viewer. asking you if these innocent people should live or die.

It's a moral trap of sorts: if you keep keep watching, and they die, you did nothing to help them. But, if you turn the movie off, you'll never know... maybe they survive... If you don't watch, it's like you left them to die - eliminating that hope of survival.

Part two: being into movies has made me a snooty bitch.

For the most part, I hate remakes.  Well - let me expand on that a bit.  A good movie has within it commentary on the sociopolitical climate of the country / world in which it's made. The various subtextual messages make the film. The difficulties in remaking that movie are analogous to the difficulties of making a book into a movie: Are the nuances lost? Is the "essence" of the story maintained? Is the intention the same? Is the message the same?

In my mind, a good remake keeps all the details that make the story important, while spinning the whole thing to reflect the current times in which the movie is made. The essence of a story - the "moral center" shall we say - can be relevant many years after the story was initially written. Revitalizing that message, making it important to audiences years later, is a skill - and the mark of a good remake.

When I initially saw trailers for a remake of "Funny Games" - I nearly shit a brick. I'm thinking, "there is NO WAY that an American version of that movie can EVER be as intense as the original; in America, there would be a happy ending."  The only potential saving grace I saw was that the writer/director of the original (Michael Haneke) wrote and directed the remake. Although! the man who directed the original version of "The Grudge" ALSO directed the Americanized remake  and we all know what a fucking disaster that was.

Part three: working in a video store affords me time to watch things I usually wouldn't.

This afternoon, I watched the remake of "Funny Games".

Unlike "The Grudge", where they tried to make a traditionally scary Japanese story into a scary American story - the "Funny Games" remake was a dead-on, shot for shot, recreation... almost like they opted for remaking the movie instead of simply dubbing it.  The elements that made the original horrifying - were still there.

While I was pleased to see that essence of the movie was intact, I couldn't help feeling that the remake itself was sort of useless. Nothing changed, why wouldn't I just watch the original?... oh that's right.

The average American can't manage to read subtitles. the average American can't sit still during a movie without seeing American actors that they know and love.



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