Remaking as textual category

Make Your Movie Now

Filmmaking Stuff - How To Make, Market and Sell Your Movie

Get Instant Access

While the above factors contribute to an understanding of film remaking, the concept of the remake is never simply reducible to issues of industry and commerce or matters of influence and authorship. A second, general (and related) approach suggests that remakes are located in texts (or structures) that are produced in accordance with the narrative invention of former film models.72 At its most contracted, a textual approach leads to accounts of remaking which attempt to reduce all narrative structures to a single (Oedipal) logic or variant thereof. Michael Eaton, for instance, notes that 'there are only two possible premises for stories: The Odd Couple and The Fish Out of Water . . . Although Oedipus, if you think about it, is a bit of both'.73 While Eaton's comment might be tongue-in-cheek, the description readily fits any number of recent remakes. For instance, in Planet of the Apes astronaut Leo Davidson (Mark Wahlberg) finds himself in a tentative ('odd-couple') relationship with chimpanzee Ari (Helena Bonham Carter) on an alien planet dominated by apes. Or in the case of Insomnia, Will Dormer (Al Pacino) is the 'fish-out-of-water' city cop who finds himself in the twenty-four hour daylight of an Alaskan summer tracking a murderer (Robin Williams) with whom he becomes complicit. More commonly though (and as for film genre), the desire to confine film remakes to a body of texts or set of textual relationships reveals a tension between 'sharable terms' (shareability) and 'accurate designation' (accuracy).74 In the case of remaking this is a conflict between a desire to provide exhaustive lists of film remakes, and one (as in Druxman's and other taxonomies) to precisely define the category, or various categories, of the remake.

An example of the former approach - of shareability - is Robert Nowlan and Gwendoline Wright Nowlan's almost one thousand pages long Cinema Sequels and Remakes, 1903-1987, a reference work which alphabetically lists 1,025 'primary films' and many more associated remakes and sequels. In a brief (not quite two pages long) introduction, Nowlan and Nowlan make little attempt to define either remake or sequel, but rather take these as received categories. That is, the principal criterion for selection is that a film has been previously designated as a remake or sequel in any two or more of a number of unidentified but 'reliable source[s]' which list remakes and sequels of certain genres of films.75 While this type of loose definition makes for a wide selection of material (shareability), and does not preclude the inferential reconstruction of at least some of the unspecified principles of selection (through an examination of those films that have been included), Nowlan and Nowlan's intuitive approach underscores the extent to which the remake is conceived more through actual usage and common understanding than through rigorous definition. In this respect, Nowlan and Nowlan's account of remaking overlaps with Simonet's survey of recycled scripts (that is, remakes, sequels and series), in which each film is categorised not according to an analysis of its content, but according to its being identified in the text of a film review.76

If shareability tends toward exhaustive lists of remakes, then accuracy is inclined toward taxonomism. Robert Eberwein, for instance, provides a recent and elaborate taxonomy of remakes, proposing fifteen categories (many with subdivisions) including sound remakes of silent films, American remakes of foreign films, parodic remakes, pornographic remakes and so on.77 In the more developed 'Twice-Told Tales', Thomas M. Leitch makes a number of points about the singularity of the remake both among Hollywood films and even among other types of narratives. Leitch argues that:

The uniqueness of the film remake, a movie based on another movie, or competing with another movie based on the same property, is indicated by the word property. Every film adaptation is defined by its legally sanctioned use of material from an earlier model, whose adaptation rights the producers have customarily purchased.78

Putting aside for the moment the fact that this description immediately excludes those 'obvious remakes' (Druxman) which do not acknowledge their previous sources, the point Leitch wants to make is that although adaptation rights (for example, film adaptation rights of a novel) are something producers of the original work have a right to sell, it is only remakes that 'compete directly and without legal or economic compensation with other versions of the same property'79:

Remakes differ from . . . adaptations to a new medium because of the triangular relationship they establish among themselves, the original film they remake, and the property on which both films are based. The nature of this triangle is most clearly indicated by the fact that the producers of a remake typically pay no adaptation fees to the makers of the original film, but rather purchase adaptation rights from the authors of the property on which that film was based, even though the remake is competing much more directly with the original film - especially in these days of video, when the original film and the remake are often found side by side on the shelves of rental outlets - than with the story or play or novel on which it is based.80

Taking as an initial proposition the triangular relationship among a remake, its original film and the source for both films, Leitch suggests that any 'given remake can seek to define itself either with primary reference to the film it remakes or to the material on which both films are based'. And then, depending upon 'whether it poses as a new version of an older film or of a story predating either film, it can take as its goal fidelity to the conception of the original story or a revisionary attitude toward that story'.81 Accordingly, Leitch outlines the following quadripartite taxonomy of the remake:

1. Readaptation: the remake ignores or treats as inconsequential earlier cinematic adaptations in order to readapt as faithfully as possible (or at least more faithfully than earlier film versions) an original literary property, for example the film versions of Shakespeare's Hamlet (Laurence Olivier, 1948; Tony Richardson, 1969; Franco Zeffirelli, 1990) or Macbeth (Orson Welles, 1948; Roman Polanski, 1971).

2. Update: unlike the readaptation which seeks to subordinate itself to the 'essence' of a literary classic, the update 'competes directly' with its literary source by adopting an overtly revisionary and transformational attitude toward it, for example West Side Story (Robert Wise and

Jerome Robbins, 1961), China Girl (Abel Ferrara, 1987) and William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet (Baz Luhrmann, 1996) as transformed remakes of earlier, 'faithful' filmed versions of Romeo and Juliet (George Cukor, 1936; Franco Zeffirelli, 1968).

3. Homage: like the readaptation which seeks to direct the audience's attention to its literary source, the homage situates itself as a secondary text in order to pay tribute to a previous film version, for example, Brian De Palma's Obsession (1975) and Body Double (1986) as homages to Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958), or Rainer Werner Fassbinder's Fear Eats the Soul (1974) and Todd Haynes's Far From Heaven (2002) as tributes to Douglas Sirk's All That Heaven Allows (1956).

4. True remake: while the homage renounces any claim to be better than its original, the true remake 'deal[s] with the contradictory claims of all remakes - that they are just like their originals only better - [by combining] a focus on a cinematic original with an accommodating stance which seeks to make the original relevant by updating it', for example Bob Rafelson's 1981 remake of The Postman Always Rings Twice (Tay Garnett, 1946) or Lawrence Kasdan's Body Heat (1981) as a remake of Double Indemnity (Billy Wilder, 1944).82

Leitch concludes that, unlike readaptations, updates and homages, which only acknowledge one earlier text (literary in the first two cases and cinematic in the third), 'true remakes [emphasise] a triangular notion of inter-textuality, since their rhetorical strategy depends on ascribing their value to a classic earlier text' (that is, an original property such as James M. Cain's novel, The Postman Always Rings Twice), 'and protecting that value by invoking a second earlier [film] text as betraying it' (Garnett's version as a watered-down film noir, probably due to limitations imposed by the MGM studio and the Production Code of the 1940s).83

While Leitch's recognition of the significance of a literary property, and in particular the relationship of a film adaptation and its remake to that property, leads to what at first appears to be a more inflected taxonomy than that developed by Druxman, further consideration reveals a number of difficulties, not only among Leitch's four categories but in relation to his preliminary suppositions. First, while the ubiquity of the Hollywood remake might understandably lead Leitch to conclude that the remake is a particularly cinematic form, one might question to what extent it differs from the remaking of songs in the popular music industry. That is, how does the triadic relationship between (1) the Pet Shop Boys' long remake (of their earlier, shorter remake) of 'Always on My Mind', (2) the 1972 version of the same song by Elvis Presley, and (3) the original property

(music and lyrics written by Thompson James Christopher and published by Screen Gems/EMI) differ appreciably from the triangular relationship for the film remake as described by Leitch? Or, to take as another example a case which underscores Leitch's overestimation of the economic competition a remake creates for a former adaptation, the Sid Vicious remake of 'My Way' from The Great Rock'n'RollSwindle (Julien Temple, 1980), and even Gary Oldman's remake of that performance for Alex Cox's Sid and Nancy (1986), competes culturally, but not economically, with Frank Sinatra's earlier adaptation of a property written by Reveaux, Francois and Anka. Director Cameron Crowe draws attention to the affinity between remaking in popular music and film, describing Vanilla Sky as a 'cover version' of Abre Los Ojos, and Martin Arnold's extraordinary Alone: Life Wastes Andy Hardy (1998) remakes the Mickey Rooney-Judy Garland Andy Hardy cycle (1937-58) through the methods of music 'sampling'. These examples, and (many) others from the popular music industry, adequately conform to, and so problematise, Leitch's initial claim that the film remake is unique because of the fact that its producers 'typically pay no adaptation fees to the makers of the original [version], but rather purchase adaptation rights from the authors [publishers] of the property on which that [version] was based'.84

A second limitation is that while Druxman at least acknowledges the difficulty of identifying and categorising those films 'that are obviously remakes [but] do not credit their origins',85 Leitch remains silent in this respect. For instance, Leitch considers Body Heat a 'true remake' of Double Indemnity, but he does not comment upon the fact that the film's credits do not acknowledge the James M. Cain novel as a source. Similarly, Leitch takes Obsession and Body Double to be 'homages' to Vertigo but he fails to note that neither of the films credits either the Alec Coppel and Samuel Taylor screenplay, or the Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narceiac novel, D'entre les morts, upon which the Hitchcock film is based. Examples such as Sergio Leone's A Fistful of Dollars (Per un pugno di dollari, 1964) remake of Yojimbo (Akira Kurosawa, 1961) - uncredited, but consistently 'acknowledged' in critical commentaries - suggest that taxonomies need attend not only to the nature of textual remakings ('free' or 'faithful'), but to contextual (or extratextual) markers, such as credits and reviews, that enable the identification of the intertext (see Chapters 3 and 5). While the question of categorising unacknowledged remakes is returned to below, Leitch's insistence upon the connection between three elements - a remake, an earlier version and a literary property - presents a further difficulty in that it marginalises those instances in which a dyadic relationship exists between a remake and a previous film that is itself(at least in the

The Assassin (John Badham, 1994). Courtesy Warner Bros/ The Kobal Collection.

sense conveyed by Leitch) the original property. Although it might be objected that a published original screenplay constitutes a discrete property, the point to be made here is that the remake of an 'original film property', such as John Badham's The Assassin [Point of No Return] (1994), does not 'compete directly and without legal or economic compensation' with its earlier version, but (generally) pays adaptation fees to the copyright holder of the original film upon which it is based (in this example, Luc Besson's Nikita, 1990).86 Indeed, some producers of (foreign) originals, realising the direct financial gains to be made, are actively involved in the production of US remakes.87 For example, following an unsuccessful attempt to repackage a dubbed version of Les Visiteurs (1993) for an English language, multiplex audience, director Jean-Marie Poiré extended the franchise (which included the sequel, Les Couloirs du temps: Les Visiteurs II, 1998) through a 2001 French/American remaking, Just Visiting (directed under the pseudonym Jean-Marie Gaubert).88

The above example of the American remake of Nikita (and also Les Visiteurs) not only demonstrates that a 'triangular relationship' fails to adequately accommodate remakes of those films based upon original stories and screenplays but highlights the difficulty of Leitch's suggestion that remakes compete with earlier versions, and his belief that successful remakes supersede and so 'typically threaten the economic viability of their originals'.89 To stay with the example of the French-Italian production of Nikita, it seems doubtful that having successfully played an art-cinema circuit and having been released to home video (variously under the categories of 'cult', 'festival' and 'art-house') the appearance of The Assassin, initially as a first-run theatrical release and then as a mainstream video release, would have any appreciable impact (either positive or negative) upon the former's 'economic viability'. Admittedly, The Assassin was not promoted as a remake of the Besson film, but even a widely publicised remake such as Martin Scorsese's 1991 version of Cape Fear did not occasion the burial, or even diminish the cult following, of J. Lee Thompson's earlier (1961) version. On the contrary, the theatrical release of the Scorsese film (accompanied by press releases and reviews foregrounding its status as remake) prompted first a video release and then a prime-time national television screening of the Thompson version. The reciprocity of the two versions is further exemplified by Sight and Sound magazine's running together of a lead article by Jim Hoberman on Scorsese and Cape Fear and a second briefer article comparing the two versions ('novelist . . . Jenny Diski watches a video of the first Cape Fear and the Scorsese remake - and compares them') and giving details of the availability of the (then recently) re-released CIC video of the 1961 version.90 More recently, the two versions of Cape Fear have been released together to DVD in a collector's three-disc boxed set. This does not, however, mean that reciprocity is always the case. In the international marketplace a local remake may supplant an earlier foreign language and/or culture version. For instance, the producers of the Brazilian Costinha e o King Mong (1977), a parodic remake of King Kong (1933/1976), capitalised on the advertising apparatus and pre-release publicity for Guillermin's 1976 remake to release a version that ran simultaneously with the American remake in Brazilian theatres. 91 While it is likely that both versions benefited from this arrangement, it seems probable too that King Mong siphoned off some of its older sibling's box-office receipts.

The example of Cape Fear suggests that contemporary remakes generally enjoy a (more) symbiotic relationship with their originals, with publicity and reviews often drawing attention to earlier versions. As Steve Neale points out, along with the institutionalised public discourses of press, television and radio, a key role in communicating the narrative image of a new film is played by the industry itself, 'especially in the earliest phases of a film's public circulation, and in particular by those sectors of the industry concerned with publicity and marketing'.92 In the case of remakes, official film websites will often draw attention to originals, seeing this as an opportunity to instantly invest new versions not only with a narrative image, but with aesthetic (and commercial) value. On these sites, film makers often enthuse about the 'timeless' attributes and 'classic' status of originals before going on to insist upon their own value-added transformations. For instance, F. Gary Gray, the director of the 2003 version of The Italian Job, says 'I liked a lot of things about the original [The Italian Job, Peter Collinson, 1969]. It had great style and unforgettable performances'. Gray goes on to add: 'but the film that we've made is for modern audiences, with updated technology'.93 Following the 2003 theatrical run of The Italian Job, both versions were simultaneously released to DVD, with extras on the remake DVD not only drawing attention to the original, but featuring scenes from it. More than this, the subsequent release of Paramount Home Video's ' The Italian Job Gift Set' DVD edition (which included both 1969 and 2003 versions) suggests that, just as adaptations of literary properties often lead viewers back to source novels for a first reading, remakes encourage viewers to seek out original film properties94 (see Chapter 5).

While the above examples suggest that Leitch might overestimate the extent to which some remakes compete with original film versions, his recognition of the impact that innovations in television technology, particularly home video, have had upon shaping the relationship between a remake and its earlier versions should not be underestimated. Leitch states that during the studio-dominated era of the 1930s and 1940s it was at least in part the belief that films had a 'strictly current value' that enabled studios such as Warners to recycle The Maltese Falcon property three times in ten years (Roy Del Ruth, 1931; Satan Met a Lady, William Dieterle,

1936; John Huston, 1941), and release many 'unofficial remakes' of its own films.95 Although the re-release of successful features, particularly during the late 1940s and early 1950s, gave some films a limited currency outside their initial year of release,96 the majority of films held in studio libraries were not available for re-viewing until the mid-1950s when the major studios decided to sell or lease their film libraries to television.97 The release of thousands of pre-1948 features into the television market not only gave the general public the opportunity to see many films that had been held in studio archives since their initial year of release, but provided the possibility of seeing different versions of the same property, produced years or even decades apart, within weeks or even days of each other. Moreover, and in an instance of what has been described as the 'virtual mobility' of contemporary spectatorship,98 the television broadcasting of films provided the further possibility of viewing remakes outside of the temporal order of their production. That is, the repeated screening of the same features meant that it was inevitable that the broadcast of a remake would precede the screening of its original. While Leitch does not address the impact of television, his recognition that a remake and its original circulate in the same video marketplace draws attention to the fact that the introduction of an information storage technology such as videotape (and now DVD) radically extends the kind of film literacy - the ability to recognise and cross-reference multiple versions of the same property - that was inaugurated by the age of television.

The ever-expanding availability of texts and technologies, and the unprecedented awareness of film history among new Hollywood film makers and contemporary audiences, is closely related to the general concept of intertextuality, an in principle determination which requires that texts be understood not as self-contained structures but as 'the repetition and transformation of other [absent] textual structures'.99 In Mikhail Iampolski's discussion of intertextuality and film, the 'semantic fullness' of a text is precisely 'the result of its ability to establish a connection with [these other] texts that came before it, and occasionally with those that came later'.100 Refusing to reduce this type of semantic productivity to a simple question of influence, Iampolski draws instead upon Ferdinand de Saussure's (and Julia Kristeva's) account of the anagram to define the intertextual element - the quotation - as that 'fragment of the text that violates its linear development [its internal, textual repetitions] and derives the motivation that integrates it into the text from outside the text itself.101 As this description suggests, the 'semantic anomaly' of the quotation disrupts the linear unfolding of the text impelling the reader toward a non-linear ('tabular') intertextual reading, but one that may ultimately enrich meaning and salvage the very same narrative linearity that was initially compromised.102 Additionally, Iampolski points out that an 'embedded quotation', one that seems to derive its motivation from the logic of the text and so dissolves into the film's mimetic structure (that is, a quotation known to the author but not the reader) is, paradoxically, not a quote, and (conversely) an 'anomalous moment' can become a quote through the reader making specific moves of exegesis, regardless of whether this expresses the author's intentions.103 Adapted to the case of the film remake, this suggests that 'remaking is not necessarily about intended effects, nor necessarily about precise identification of an intertext. It is, or it may be, a more general intertextual relation, although this doesn't mean that it is unstructured or imprecise in its operations'.104

Robert Stam takes up the concept of intertextuality in film drawing upon Gérard Genette's description of transtextuality as 'all that which puts one text into a relation, manifest or secret, with other texts' to describe several types of textual transcendence.105 Among these categories, the term 'intertextuality' specifically describes the 'literal presence of one text within another', principally as 'quotation' (or 'the explicit summoning up of a text that is both presented and distanced by quotation marks'), but also through 'plagiarism and allusion of various kinds'.106 In its most literal and contracted form, remaking as quotation would describe the (acknowledged) insertion of segments from one film into another. There are countless instances of direct quotation in feature films. Examples include: Nana (Anna Karina) watching images of Maria Falconetti from La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc (Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1928) in Vivre sa vie (Jean-Luc Godard, 1962); Allan (Woody Allen) transfixed upon the ending from Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942) in Play it Again, Sam (Herbert Ross, 1972); Donnie (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Gretchen (Jena Malone) 'sleeping' through The Evil Dead (Sam Raimi, 1981) in Donnie Darko (Richard Kelly, 2001); and, in one of the most expansive of recent examples, scenes from Shock Corridor (Sam Fuller, 1963), A bout de souffle (Jean-Luc Godard, 1959), Queen Christina (Rouben Mamoulian, 1933), Bande à part (Jean-Luc Godard, 1964), Blonde Venus (Josef von Sternberg, 1932) and others interspersed throughout The Dreamers (Bernardo Bertolucci, 2003). The unauthorised but direct use of material in experimental films - for example, clips from East of Borneo (George Melford, 1931) in Rose Hobart (Joseph Cornell, 1936); fragments from The Wild One (Lâszlô Benedek, 1951) in Scorpio Rising (Kenneth Anger, 1964); and soundbites from Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves (Arthur Lubin, 1944) in Flaming Creatures (Jack Smith, 1963) - would constitute a kind of quotation as appropriation.107 By contrast, plagiarism - the direct but unacknowledged use of segments from another film - is (by definition) a less obvious but no less prevalent strategy. Plagiarism might include the use of stock footage (establishing shots, action sequences and the like) in genre films and B-movies. For instance, Flying Leathernecks (Nicholas Ray, 1951) makes extensive use of US Navy newsreel footage for its battle sequences, and stock footage recurs in the various versions of the Titanic story.108 Finally, while Genette seeks to restrict intertextuality to direct and localised instances of citation, allusion suggests a wide range of practices, and a potential overlap with the forms of imitation, pastiche and parody reserved by Genette for the category of 'hypertextuality' where a hypertext 'transforms, modifies, elaborates, or extends' an anterior hypotext109 (see Chapter 3). Employed here in a restricted sense, allusion describes 'a verbal or visual evocation of another film',110 and includes such strategies as the mention of films and film makers in dialogue, the display of film titles on marquees and posters, and the recreation of classic scenes, shots and lines of dialogue from earlier movies. For instance, Omar Calabrese claims that Spielberg's Raiders of the Lost Ark includes 350 allusions to old Hollywood films.111 Or, to give a more recent and specific example, in the 2030 sequence in The Time Machine (Simon Wells, 2002) Alexander Hartdegen (Guy Pearce) asks Vox, a holographic guide at the New York public library, about time travel and is referred not only to The Time Machine by H. G. Wells but also to the original 1960 film directed by George Pal.

Genette's 'highly suggestive' category of intertextuality leads Stam to speculate upon sub-categories within the same paradigm.112 Some of these terms can be productively adapted for a discussion of remaking. The first sub-category, celebrity intertextuality, defines those situations in which the presence of a film or television star or celebrity evokes an earlier version of a film property. This is evident in many contemporary remakes where actors from original films lend themselves to cameo appearances. For instance, Robert Mitchum and Gregory Peck - stars of J. Lee Thompson's version of Cape Fear (1961) — take minor roles in Martin Scorsese's 1991 remake. In another example, two of the four actors who played the 'survivors' in George A. Romero's Dawn of the Dead (1978) appear in different roles in the 2004 remake, and a third actor from the original (Gaylen Ross) has a clothing store in the mall named after her. A second, similar sub-category of intertextuality is referred to as genetic intertextuality. In this case, the appearance of a well-known actor's child (or other relative) evokes the memory of an earlier film version. For example, in Swept Away (Guy Ritchie, 2002) Adriano Giannini takes on the role played by his father, Giancarlo, in Lina Wertmuller's original Swept Away . . . by an Unusual Destiny in the Blue Sea of August (1974).

In a related example, Simon Wells, director of the 2002 remake of The Time Machine, is great-grandson to H. G. Wells, author of the book from which the film versions are derived. Stam's next category, intratextuality, might be employed to describe the way in which a remake refers to the process of remaking - in particular, the status of originals and copies -through strategies of mirroring or mise-en-abyme structures. For example, Laura Grindstaff says that Luc Besson's Nikita (1990) is an 'adaptation of the Pygmalion myth in which a woman is subjected to a dramatic makeover', and as such 'the Nikita narrative stands as a synecdoche for the relation between original film and its copies [The Assassin and Black Cat]'.113 Similar arguments have been made about the way in which science fiction remakes like The Fly (Kurt Neumann, 1958; David Cronenberg, 1986) and Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Don Siegel, 1956; Philip Kaufman, 1978) act out the logic of the original and the copy.114 Finally, the category of autocitation would refer to a film maker's self-quotation through the remaking of his/her own earlier film. Examples include Alfred Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much (1955,1934), George Sluizer's The Vanishing (1993, 1971) and Takashi Shimizu's The Grudge (2004, Ju-On: The Grudge, 2003).

Film remaking can be regarded as a specific (institutionalised) aspect of the broader and more open-ended intertextuality described above. It can range from the limited repetition of a classic shot or scene, for example the many reprises of the Odessa Steps sequence of The Battleship Potemkin (Sergei Eisenstein, 1925) - Bananas (Woody Allen, 1971), Brazil (Terry Gilliam, 1985), The Untouchables (Brian De Palma, 1987), Steps (Zbigniew Rybczynski, 1987) and Naked Gun 33'3: The Final Insult (Peter Segal, 1994) - to the 'quasi-independent' repetitions of a single story or popular myth,115 for example the successive versions of Dracula or Robin Hood or the Titanic story. More often, though, film remakes are understood as (more particular) intertextual structures which are stabilised, or limited, through the naming and (usually) legally sanctioned (or copyrighted) use of a particular literary and/or cinematic source which serves as a retrospectively designated point of origin and semantic fixity. In addition, these intertextual structures (unlike those of genre) are highly particular in their repetition of narrative units, and these repetitions most often (though certainly not always) relate to the content ('the order of the message') rather than to the form (or 'the code') of the film.116 Brian De Palma's Obsession (1976) provides an example of both, repeating not only the narrative invention of Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958), but 'resurrecting' some of Hitchcock's most visible stylistic characteristics, such as doubling effects and the voyeuristic use of point-of-view shots.117

While these factors yield some degree of consensus, any easy categorisation of the remake is frustrated (as seen above) by a number of factors. First, there is the problem of those films which do not credit an 'original' text, but which do repeat both general and particular elements of another film's narrative unfolding, for example Body Heat as an uncredited remake of Double Indemnity; The Big Chill (Lawrence Kasdan, 1983) as an unacknowledged remake of The Return of the Secaucus Seven (John Sayles, 1980); and Flying Tigers (David Miller, 1942) and all major combat films of the early 1940s as unacknowledged remakes of Only Angels Have Wings (Howard Hawks, 1939).118 Second, there is the difficulty of those films based on a like source - a literary (or other) work or historical incident -but which differ significantly in their treatment of narrative units, for example The Bounty (Roger Donaldson, 1984) as a non-remake of Mutiny on the Bounty (Frank Lloyd, 1935 and Lewis Milestone, 1962); Tony Richardson's The Charge of the Light Brigade (1968) as a non-remake of Michael Curtiz's 1936 version; and The King and I (Richard Rich, 1999) as a remake of the Rogers and Hammerstein musical, but not of the film versions based on Margaret Landon's book or Anna Leonowens's diaries. Moreover, in a contemporary context, remakes increasingly take only the pre-sold title of an original property as a point of departure to create a nonremake, with all new characters, settings and situations. A third complication (discussed further below) arises from the fact that originals are never pure or singular. For instance, Michaels notes that Herzog's remaking of Nosferatu is complicated by the fact that the negative of the Murnau 'original' was destroyed, and that all existing prints are copies (remakes) reproduced from Murnau's shooting script.119 Furthermore, the intertextual referentiality between either 'non-remakes' or 'unacknowledged remakes' and their 'originals' is to a large extent extratextual,120 being conveyed through institutions such as film reviewing, marketing, distribution and exhibition. For example, the BFI/National Film Theatre's programme describes four films from Paul Schrader scripts - Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976), Rolling Thunder (John Flynn, 1977), Hardcore (Schrader, 1979) and Patty Hearst (Schrader, 1988) - as 'updates', or remakes, of The Searchers (John Ford, 1956).121 And Schrader has since added that his later Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (1985) is in turn a 'remake' of Taxi Driver.122 In a more complicated example, reviewers consistently refer to The Big Chill as a remake of The Return of the Secaucus Seven,123 even though director John Sayles does not admit to the description: 'I never felt like it [The Big Chill] was a rip-off. It goes in such a different direction. It's like saying if my movie had an Indian and a horse in it: "Oh, it's a rip-off of Shane"'.124

Was this article helpful?

0 0
Film Making

Film Making

If you have ever wanted the secrets to making your own film, here it is: Indy Film Insider Tips And Basics To Film Making. Have you ever wanted to make your own film? Is there a story you want to tell? You might even think that this is impossible. Studios make films, not the little guy. This is probably what you tell yourself. Do you watch films with more than a casual eye? You probably want to know how they were able to get perfect lighting in your favorite scene, or how to write a professional screenplay.

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment