The fundamental fascination of retelling or reinterpreting a previously made film is something that has been occurring (or plaguing, depending on your stance on the matter) Hollywood for sometime. Are there just no more new ideas? Do we just not want to read subtitles? Are we just not interested in other cultures? There are plenty of ways to perceive these questions, but the truth of the matter is that sometimes a reinterpretation translates well into another's hands. Films like David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo have proven to materialize from an unwarranted retelling of a superior version, while films like Spike Lee’s Oldboy should have probably never seen the light of day.
What’s that French cinema saying? If your lover is on a train and you make it in time just before it departs then it is an American film because we just love our happy endings. However, if your lover is on the train and you do not make it in time then it is a French film because the idea of lust and “what could have been” is far more attractive to a liberal European country. It’s minor disparities that truly define different forms of filmmaking and perceived endings. I mean, imagine if Chinatown had a nicely tied up ending where everyone gets their due. It probably would not have been as daunting to think about as the ending that acclaimed Polish filmmaker (and all-around jovial person to be in a room with) Roman Polanski was kind enough to bring to Hollywood.
With a long history of remakes and retellings in Hollywood — with many more to come as Beetlejuice 2 and Suspiria are gearing towards future releases — there’s usually not much more room for improvement. Most remakes feature almost identical shot for shot “artistic” correlation à la Psycho (whoever thought that that was a good idea seriously needs to re-evaluate their job description). The only way to improve on an original story is to incorporate contemporary attributes because, let’s face it, most movies have not aged very well. I imagine the special effects department thought they had a winner when The Terminator was released in 1984, only to feel undermined by current special effects and makeup standards. So, let’s take a long look at some of the best foreign films that Hollywood should consider re-adapting for a relatable society as well as the filmmakers who should helm them.
10. Suicide Club (2001), (Ben Wheatley)
Suicide Club is a notorious Japanese film (because aren’t they all?). The cult classic has become such an influential masterpiece that some have awarded it the title of "ground-breaking." It tells the story of investigators looking into why over 50 teenage schoolgirls committed suicide in a matter of days. The gory nature of the film as well as dark comedic approach has resonated the most with the film, and a significant remake can offer an even more resonate film. In the age of social media and online bullying — as well as a culture’s obsession with murder and the abnormal, this would be a pretty smart and satirical take on the standard police procedural film genre.
Ben Wheatley really hit big with High-Rise, a quasi-futuristic 1970s look at both literal and figurative emotional infrastructure. With previous films such as Sightseers and his upcoming film Free Bir, Wheatley is not only a talented filmmaker who has proven to be unfazed by the reality of gruesome violence, but he is also a talented writer who has a great ear for pop culture satirized dialogue.
9. Playtime (1967), (Sofia Coppola)
A little known French comedy that depicts the interlocking stories of several individuals in an apartment complex. The film has been lauded for its visual set design and damning approach to social connection with different people of different cultures. It also helps that the film is still funny, even by 2016 standards. Jacques Tati’s film has always maintained a sense of intimacy with each of the characters who appear on the screen, never failing any of them with the complex look of the film. Hopefully the film can find an audience in the future, but if it doesn’t, then a proper remake wouldn’t hurt.
Bob Harris is the best character that Sofia Coppola has ever written. With the same intimate care of her character that Tati has had with all of his, I think a retelling of Playtime would look really cool. She has never done a film as long as this film would probably be, but hopefully she can provide the same amount of characterizing care in more characters instead of just one. In which case, we could potentially see a longer, funnier, and even more somber comedy-drama that Lost in Translation has now been declared.
8. The Clone Returns Home (2008), (Charlie Kaufman)
A much more recent movie on this list. You’d think The Clone Returns Home’s script is basically written in its title — and you’d be right for the most part. However, the film does offer a few surprises and challenges the viewers with a paradox of questions regarding mortality and childhood memories. I do not want to give too much away on the off chance that you feel compelled enough to watch the movie, but it’s definitely a good one. An astronaut is cloned after he is killed, eventually finding his deceased real self and thinking it is his twin brother. A pretty crazy story that you would expect to come out of Japan, but another filmmaker who has proven to be tailor-made for that culture would be the zany Charlie Kaufman.
Being John Malkovich, Adaptation., Synechode, New York — nothing about his film career screams out normalcy. Even taking a common love story such as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Kaufman feels the need to make it completely uncommon. A film about a clone who thinks that his twin brother is dead and is trying to hide his discovery amid a scientific breakthrough is just too unorthodox to be made by anybody else.
7. Eyes Without A Face (1960), Ana Lily Amirpour
By far the creepiest looking movie on this list; however, it has become one of the most influential horror movies ever made. The French-Italian film was released in the United States under the name The Horror Chamber of Dr. Faustus— which admittedly is not as catchy as Eyes Without a Face. It was one of those movies where upon release it was immediately declared a disaster, but has since been branded as having a cultural impact. It follows a doctor who kidnaps women in order to use their face to substitute his daughter’s disfigured one. She is kept behind a creepy mask throughout the movie— leaving much to the imagination — which is horror movie 101.
Ana Lily Amirpour’s debut A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night was an independent vampire movie set in Iran. The film has an allegorical stamina that correlates with Iranian culture and the “ghost-towns” that inhabit it. It is also a very downbeat and quiet film — an aspect that the film uses to its advantage. It is also an aspect that would work well in a movie that takes place in a single house with only a handful of characters such as Eyes Without a Face. After making just one movie, with a second, The Bad Batch, to be released soon, Amirpour has proven herself to be an artistically somber filmmaker who works well when she is building suspense.
6. The Firemen’s Ball (1967), (Armando Iannucci)
Before he went on to win a slew of Academy Awards in his venture through Hollywood, Miloš Forman was an experimental Czech filmmaker who was eventually exiled for his critical views on conservatism. The film is a revealing look at the corruption and gossiping that ensues in a Communist community. It was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film category at the 41st Academy Awards and has since been rediscovered in the midst of new political satire films.
Who is Armando Iannucci? He is a political satirist who has helmed some of the most thought-provoking political comedies of all time. His work on the film In the Loop as well as series work on The Thick of It and HBO’s Veep has given him the opportunity to spread his talent for profanity-laced, yet witty dialogue. It’s certainly no secret that political corruption exists outside of Communism, and is certainly alive and well in contemporary society. Incorporating the same themes as The Firemen’s Ball in a currently tumultuous region would provide Iannucci with enough to create the ultimate controversial political lampoon.
5. Pixote (1981), (Paul Greengrass)
Pixote is a little known Brazilian film that used the documentary-style filming approach to great effect. The film is mostly known (excluding the infamous naked run) for fooling audiences into believing what they were watching was an authentic documentary. The film offered an up close and personal look at the criminal underworld of Brazil — an underworld that was inhabited by a whole cast of bizarre characters, from the children at the center of the story, drug abuse, prostitutes, police corruption, and a transgendered woman accused of murder. To put it somewhat lightly, it is not a very feel-good movie and you would rightly expect a lot of challenging questions. Most people still do believe it to be a documentary considering Fernando Ramos da Silva, who plays the titular character, was killed a few years later under similar circumstances as some of the characters in the film.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who felt sick watching The Bourne series when Greengrass took over. Not because the films were any worse, but because sometimes a tripod won’t put a dent in your shooting schedule. That logic alone can be thrown out the window since the documentary-style that Paul Greengrass seems so attracted to would be easily transitioned into this film. Unlike with The Bourne Ultimatum, Captain Phillips felt so real and gritty because of the use of hand-held work and gave a sense of validity and unease to the true story. That and the unflinchingly emotional take on the story that Greengrass used in United 93 would help conceive a brutal mockumentary about underworld life in Brazil.
4. The Spirits Of The Beehive (1973), (Joe Wright)
A truly bizarre Spanish film (which is saying a lot given some of the names on this list) about the love of film and supernatural entities. The film follows this young girl who is absolutely in love with the movie Frankenstein and loses a piece of her innocence because of it. The film has been highly regarded as one of the best movies to ever come out of Spain, so I’m sure there are some trepidations when it comes to re-adapting it, but the film is more of a symbolic wartime film told through the eyes of an innocent child on the verge of seeing the world for what it really is. Definitely some heavy themes at play here, but the film has since resonated and gained a cult following as well as an edition to the Criterion Collection.
Joe Wright has always been a divisive filmmaker of popular and unpopular reason. He has an intriguing visual style, but his stories are less inclined to flourish. Hanna and Atonement are just two of his most visually striking films. I don’t know — a movie about children in a wartime backdrop with some horror elements just seems to really bode well.
3. World On A Wire (1973), (Ridley Scott)
World on a Wire is no easy feat. It is a three hour German science fiction drama thriller directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder — a man so cool he died with a lit cigarette in his mouth. What’s so good about this film is just how little it cares what people think about it. It may be overly long, some of it may not make a lot of sense, but its influence is certainly undeniable. The Matrix and Inception are almost direct remakes in themselves, but those are straight up action movies — not that there is anything wrong with those, but they never truly delved into the philosophical question of virtual reality and the human mind. It is part futuristic corrupt corporation drama and part espionage thriller.
Recently, Ridley Scott has been a hit-or-miss kind of filmmaker. However, there has always been a sense of understanding and homeliness when it comes to science fiction movies. Alien, Blade Runner, The Martian, and yes, even Prometheus, have gone on to be some of his most enticing movies of his career.
2. The Pornographers (1966), (Pedro Almodóvar)
Now that your mind is out of the gutter, let’s talk about Shohei Imamura’s masterful film. The Pornographers is a black comedy satire about post-World War II recession Japan. It follows a filmmaker who directs erotic features, or adult films, or skin flicks, or just straight up porn — all while dealing with the government, gangsters, pimps, and his highly critical family. For a film that was released in the prudish 1960s, this film revolutionized the art of eroticism and comedy, paving the way for similar features that have chosen to tackle the taboo. It is considered the underrated Imamura’s best film and should continue to be recognized.
Currently, no other filmmaker writes eroticism and passion as well as Pedro Almodóvar. A unique Spanish filmmaker who does not shy away from political and sexual liberations in his films. Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!, All About My Mother, and The Skin I Live In are just some of the many, many films where Almodóvar has proven himself superior to other filmmakers when depicting intimacy.
1. Stalker (1979), (Darren Aronofsky)
Every cinephile is familiar with this one right here. A Soviet Union, post-apocalyptic science fiction by the great Andrei Tarkovsky. Stalker has paved the way for many post-apocalyptic drama and action movies that have come after it. A “Stalker” is hired to lead a writer into The Zone, an unworldly and decaying land of soon to be horror. It is a mind-bending spectacle that every film lover should see. Controversial upon its release for its dystopian portrayal and it not being “Soviet” enough, the film was not well received upon initial release, but, like so many of the films on this list, it has gone on to gain an international following.
If Requiem for a Dream and The Fountain have proven anything, Darren Aronofsky has the talents for visual spectacle. If The Wrestler and Black Swan has proven anything it is that he is equally talented in creating a character to their physical and emotional core. A science fiction drama set in a wasteland conundrum is the type of cinematic opportunity one dreams to see on the big screen.
For more awesome films you may not have seen, check out the video below to see which horror films from the past 100 years should be next on your must watch list:
Which of these films would you most like to see remade?