Amiss in Adaptation, or a Hollywood Story.

After finishing yesterday’s post, I took some time to consider things. 

Well, it’s always fun to fiddle with the famous French cultural sensitivity, but what if I’m too harsh? After all, the lyrical French only try to rename movies (sometimes quite creatively), while the intrepid Americans… remake them entirely. Because, hell yeah, why stop at a title? Plus, who bothers to actually read, these days? And finally: „Amagawd, 3D and subtitles?” *scoff. 

Don’t get me wrong: I like the American people, and I love Hollywood.

Hollywood is a myth, a modern wonder of the world, standing tall as a solid effigy of the Dreamworks. It’s a wondrous alchemy lab responsible for uncovering unique gems and pure gold in its boiling pots and porringers (i.e. Culver, Raleigh, Ren-Mar, Columbia, Tri-Star, and the hardly surviving MGM). Yes, Hollywood is a magical place where enchanters, soothsayers and shamen abound. Their task is Paramount, and their message is Universal. In time, Hollywood insidiously but steadily mesmerised us all into following its frothy tail, like a sly Twentieth Century Fox that got the world locked up inside a plastic box

This being said, let’s get back down to Earth for a moment. Because, let’s face it: Hollywood, we have a problem. Down here, all is not for the best in the best of all the possible worlds. Down here, it so happens that sometimes pure diamonds change into vane dust, even with the best intentions.

Actually, wait. Let’s not get back to Earth just yet. Let me tell you a story first.

The trouble started in the early 60’s, when the abovementioned soothsayers suddenly discovered that their charms and originality were beginning to gently wither and fade. With their charms almost gone, but their wit intact, the cinematic shamen eventually decided to travel to lands far, far, away, in search of inspiration. 

Tacitly shifting from Pangloss to lip-gloss, but inspired by the proverbial legend of the Three Wise Men (aka Melchior, Gaspar, and Balthazar), the Hollywoodians sent towards the Eastern shores a working party of three astute executives (aka Metro, Goldwyn, and Mayer). Their task: to follow the rising star across the ocean, to find the cradle of the Nouvelle Vague (in Frenchlandia), to uncover the secrets of the Golden Age (of Korejapandia), and to bring back home a pack of Spaghetti Westerns and a slice of Dolce Vita

The Three Astute Executives travelled the world, ravenously searching for their Fountain of Youth, their Holy Grail, their Singing Sword, only stopping for punctual SWOT analysis and monthly corporate briefings. Years passed, and the three astute executives managed to amass a very eclectic (critical) mass of tokens, artifacts, and outlandish concepts. Veni, video, vici! chanted  the three, as they decided to return back home. 

Behold! We bring you tidings of great joy! chanted once more the Executives, entering the pearly gates of Hollywood. And so they were received with pomp and pageantry. And for a brief moment they felt like true gods descended upon the world. And it was good. 

The results were less good, though.

Let’s briefly examine the tidings of great joy, if we may: 

-Et Dieu créa la femme became And God Created Woman and failed miserably, even if the Executives made the effort to import… the original director (but not Brigitte Bardot, aka La Femme);

-the French classic La cage aux folles became Birdcage, and even the common effort of Dustin Hoffman, Gene Hackman and Dianne West couldn’t save it from its mediocre adaptation;

-Godard’s astonishing A bout de souffle was recreated in 1983 under the name of Breathless, a totally dyspneic experience famous only for its sizzling pool scene and for exhibiting Richard Gere’s white butt (which on second thought is not a small thing, after all);

-the very hip Dinner for Schmucks was originally a brilliant play and film by Francis Veber, Le dîner de cons. Also, my dad is successfully using Le dîner instead of Xanax to chase the blues away; his other favorite French play and movie is the exceptional Le père Noël est une ordure, changed into Mixed Nuts for Hollywood purposes (where they were totally unable to translate the hilarious original dialogues, or to recreate the complicity between characters). For the French public, Le Père Noël, although a recent creation, is as sacred as Molière; especially since Molière would have never dared to culminate one of his dialogues with: Je t’encule Thérèse!

-even more briefly: The Woman in Red (kudos to Gene Wilder) takes after Un éléphant ça trompe énormement; Nine Months (feat. Hugh Grant) is a remake of Neuf mois; Original Sin used to go by as La sirène du Mississipi, the latter being made before Angelina Jolie was even born; Wicker Park is an adaptation of L’Appartement; the much applauded The Tourist is an exact copy of Anthony Zimmer

And these are only some of the movies made after French originals. The tidings of great joy were also of Italian origin, like Scent of a Woman (Profumo di donna), German, like City of Angels (Der Himmel über Berlin, brilliant visual poetry by Wim Wenders), Chinese, like The Departed (Internal Affairs), Japanese, like the frantic Godzilla, The Grudge, and The Ring, Spanish, like Vanilla Sky (Abre los ojos, splendid without Tom Cruise). And so on and so forth.

Ok. I had nothing to prove initially, so I can’t really end up with a conclusion. I don’t even have a punchline, so I’ll just borrow a Hollywood joke and let it fail by itself:

Astronomers in Prague have decided today that Pluto is no longer a planet. In related news, producers in Hollywood have decided that Tom Cruise is no longer a star.

That’s All, Folks!


~ de ubiquus pe iunie 11, 2011.

5 răspunsuri to “Amiss in Adaptation, or a Hollywood Story.”

  1. Nice writing style. I look forward to reading more in the future.

  2. Well, I have to return the compliment, if only for the brilliant review of Godard’s ‘Breathless’ posted on your site. We are totally in agreement on that topic.
    I was also happy to find a ‘Richard Gere movies’ category.

  3. „Tacitly shifting from Pangloss to lip-gloss…” = priceless.

  4. Although I would not agree punctually with a couple of insights pertaining to the European context that seem a tad lickety-split, this may as well be one of the most comprehensive metareviews latterly written on cinema. Excellent job, sir.

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