Friday, March 22, 2019

same material, same director

The recent release of Chilean director Sebastián Lelio's "Gloria Bell," starring Julianne Moore, brings to mind a fascinating movie sub-category. 

Remakes rarely, if ever, elicit much enthusiasm, particularly not among self-styled film aficionados. I can't say I appreciate them much myself.

But "Gloria Bell" is different. It is Lelio's English-language remake of his 2014 Chilean film that was simply titled "Gloria." I've a fascination with the small, select group of remakes that are the work of their original directors.

And there are enough of them for a really resourceful film programmer to consider a program of double bills. If I've overlooked any, let me know.

Alfred Hitchcock: "The Man Who Knew Too Much" (1934 and 1956)

William Wyler: "These Three" (1936) and "The Children's Hour" (1961)

Frank Capra: "Lady for a Day" (1933) and "Pocketful of Miracles" (1961)

Georges Sluizer: "The Vanishing" (1988 and 1992)

Leo McCarey: "Love Affair" (1939) and "An Affair to Remember" (1957)

Yasujiro Ozu: "Floating Weeds" (1934 and 1959)

Cecil B. DeMille: "The Ten Commandments" (1923 and 1956)

Francis Veber: "Les Fugitifs" (1986) and "Three Fugitives" (1989)

Jean Negulesco: "Three Coins in a Fountain" (1954) and "The Pleasure Seekers" (1964)

Michael Haneke: "Funny Games" (1997 and 2008)

It's interesting to compare and contrast the original with the re-do because the results vary. Which version is the better? Are there occasions when the original and the remake are equals?

Hitchcock's second take on "The Man Who Knew Too Much," in my opinion, works better than his first. But it's impossible to say which Wyler film is the superior - "These Three" or "The Children's Hour." They are vastly different takes on the same material. On the other hand, Negulesco's "The Pleasure Seekers" is a sad remake of his earlier, more popular film.

So, let's forget "The Pleasure Seekers" and move on to something equally disturbing: Michael Haneke and his "Funny Games" films.

Haneke's shot-for-shot American remake of his German film is a willfully alienating work in which the filmmaker essentially apes the vicious behavior of his work's two cultured thugs: He takes his audience hostage and forces us to witness and, by extension, participate in a harrowing home invasion. He makes us complicit in the evil, sadistic acts being perpetrated on screen and then goes a step further and seems to blame us for the crimes.

Complicating and exacerbating matters is the fact that "Funny Games" - in both its incarnations - is actually quite brilliant.

Finally, there's "September" (1987), by Woody Allen, an unofficial remake of sorts. Allen made this movie twice, filming it first with his original cast and then starting from scratch again, with some of his original players switching roles, while other parts were completely recast.

It's a melancholy, Chekhovian piece in which six people share their misery during a weekend in the country. The first version starred Mia Farrow, Maureen O'Sullivan (Farrow's mother), Dianne Wiest, Denholm Elliott, Charles Durning and, briefly, Sam Shepard, who was replaced by Christopher Walken.

Dissatisfied with the movie, Allen immediately reshot it with Elaine Stritch, Sam Waterson and Jack Warden assuming the roles originally played by O'Sullivan, Walken and Durning, respectively. Wiest and Farrow stayed in their roles. Elliott also remained in the film but in a different role.

Of course, the original version has never been seen but would make a nifty feature on a double-disc DVD/Blu Ray of "September."

Note in Passing: Jean Negulesco was something of a specialist when it came to making films about three women who either work together or room together. In the space of two years, he made "How to Marry a Millionaire" (1953), followed by "Three Coins in a Fountain" and "Woman's World" (both 1954), and several years later, "The Best of Everything" (1959) and "The Pleasure Seekers" (1964).

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(from top) 

~Poster art for Woody Allen's "September"
~Orion Pictures.1987©

~Poster art for the American version of Michael Haneke's "Funny Games"
~Warner Independent Pictures 2018©


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

You can keep "Funny Games." Do you think there is anyone working now who will ever bring us the same delights as Hitchcock?

Anonymous said...

You should have gone into more about which of the versions is the better. I go with the remakes.

Anonymous said...

"Pocketful of Miracles" would have to be about 5 times better to rise to the level of "pale imitation" of "Lady For A Day".

Bunuel said...

Isn't Ford's "The Sun Shines Bright" a musical remake of his "Judge Priest"?

Dave K. said...

Both are based on stories by Irvin S. Cobb, who was a popular magazine writer of the period. He specialized in tales of southern life and can be seen as Will Rogers’s rival riverboat captain in “Steamboat ‘Round the Bend.” “Sun Shines” has some music in it but calling it a musical is going pretty far. The film is an interesting and probably unique example of accidental restoration: when Republic issued it on VHS, they unknowingly mastered it from a 100 minute print, allegedly Ford’s own, that was made before the studio insisted on 8 minutes of cuts. Paramount presumably now owns it, having acquired most of the Republic titles from Aaron Spelling, though they have done nothing with the Republic films other than re-license a few of the John Wayne titles to Lionsgate. A shame, because the Republic library seems a very rich one, to judge only from the westerns that have been surfacing on Encore Westerns. They also have a huge library of crime films, melodramas, serials and even a few musicals – including Allan Dwan’s utterly enchanting “Sweethearts on Parade”—that hasn’t seen the light of day in decades.

Brian Lucas said...

On a less auteurist level, I swear that "Cruel Intentions 2" is a straight remake of "Cruel Intentions". It was originally shot as a TV pilot and then fluffed up with nudity for a direct-to-video release instead. Both were directed by the apparent one-hit-wonder Roger Kumble. Not that it's worth watching again to verify!

Alex said...

How about Howard Hawks with BALL OF FIRE and A SONG IS BORN?

And I would argue that the original MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH is the better film, although Day and Stewart add a lot to the remake.

joe baltake said...

Thanks for the tip on Howard Hawks. Sorry I overlooked him. Re "The Man Who Knew Too Much," I actually like both, but tend to favor the remake. -J

Tate said...

My recollection is that "The Vanishing" remake was pretty terrible, with a compromised ending. Perhaps the thought was that American audiences wouldn't go for something as dark and chilling as the original?

Gordon said...

Frank Capra also remade "Broadway Bill" as a Bing Crosby musical "Riding High" and does "El Dorado" count as a Howard Hawks remake of "Rio Bravo"?

mike schlesinger said...

Two more: James Whale (A KISS BEFORE THE MIRROR and WIVES UNDER SUSPICION) and George Marshall (THE GHOST BREAKERS and SCARED STIFF, with a side trip to MURDER, HE SAYS). I once suggested to UCLA that they do precisely this series. They seemed interested, but hasn't happened so far.

Gordon: EL DORADO is more a variation than a remake. Hawks said that while the RB script was being written, there were numerous points where the story could have gone in two different directions. He'd choose one and tell Brackett to save the other for future use. Much of that went into EL DORADO, hence all the similar-yet-opposite characters and situations. If you like, RB & ED are sort of a western equivalent of GODFATHER 1 and 2, with RIO LOBO being GODFATHER 3 (though the Hawks films are not literal sequels, of course). If you want an actual remake, there's ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13.

My government-sanctioned essay on RB:

Charlie said...

Sam Raimi's Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2 are basically the same movie.