Saturday, February 27, 2010

cinema obscura: George Sluizer's "The Vanishing" (1988/1993)

If, as suspected, both Jeff Bridges and Sandra Bullock walk off with the best actor and actress Oscars on Sunday, 7 March, do you think some resourceful rep-house programmer will think to quickly book a film that they made together some seventeen years ago?

Bridges played the creepy psychotic who arbitrarily snatches Bullock away from Keifer Sutherland, burying her alive, in "The Vanishing," George Sluizer's 1993 American remake of his own 1988 Dutch film, the by-far superior "Spoorloos." The crime is carried out as a heartless, methodical experiment. The point isn't necessarily to torture the Bullock character but to observe Sutherland as he squirms in helplessness.

However, what seemed like a thing of sadistic beauty in the European version comes across a tad too literal in the American remake, even though the two films are virtually carbon copies of each other. It's amazing how subtitles can camouflage the vulgar, disguising it as artistry.

Michael Haneke's English-language remake of his "Funny Games" (1997/2007) suffered from the same disasterous disconnect.

Nevertheless, Bridges, Bullock (in the film's smallest role), Sutherland and Nancy Travis (a woefully underused actress who appears here as a woman who tries to assist Sutherland in his search) are all in fine form.

Hopefully, if "The Vanishing" does enterprisingly reappear after the Oscars, it should be presented in tandem with "Spoorloos." Ideally.

Note in Passing: Coincidentally, the American remake will receive a series of showings on the Fox Movie Channel - 8 March at 10 p.m. (est), 9 March at 2 a.m., 27 March at 8 and 10 p.m., 28 March at midnight, 12 April at 10 p.m. and 20 April at 8 p.m.


TALKING MOVIEzzz said...

"even though the two films are virtually carbon copies of each other."

Except for one dramatic difference, the ending.

As a huge fan of the original, I was there first show opening day for the remake. I felt betrayed by the finale which ruined the film and pretty much Sluizer's career in Hollywood. Those who liked the original saw him as a sell out and the remake didn't have many fans of its own.

Although I do remember Bullock as coming through the film unscathed. She was one of the film things I liked about the film.

joe baltake said...

Absolutely. I was also a fan of the original and less enthusiastic about the remake, largely for the reason you mention.

Gene Wilder's "The Woman in Red" (1984), a remake of Yves Robert's
"Pardon Mon Affaire"/"Un éléphant ça trompe énormément," is also faithful to the original - except for the ending (which was crucial to the original) and the dubious sexuality of one of its supporting characters. Wilder eliminated any doubts about the character.

Carol said...

I think it was remarkable that you found this movie that both Bullock and Bridges made together. As I am a real wimp about horror films (I did not even watch that clip on Oscar as it was scary) I would not want to see it; but I thought it fascinating that the film exists, and I did not see any mention of it on the major sites.