The remake phenomenon: a big money story?

So what is a remake? The question arises because the term can encompass many other practices besides the classical practice of redoing, “the operation of soaking hides in darkened vats for a month to a month and a half.” We do our best.

A phenomenon that takes many forms

Let’s start with the first remake initiative in the history of cinema (the original). It dates back to 1904 The Great Train Robbery Siegmund Lubin’s remake of Edwin Stanton Porter’s film of the same name was released the previous year. The context is amusing, as Porter’s film is best known for its innovation, allowing it to become a huge success at the time. In addition, a new copyright law was created the same year to prevent a future situation.

The problem is that this law doesn’t cover intellectual property, which would have allowed Lubin to quietly make his own film almost identically while surfing on Porter’s success. It wasn’t the last job, driven by the lure of profit offered by the idea of ​​literally copying a film instead of creating an original whose success was not guaranteed. Nice beginnings.

From dishonest origins to the birth of a myth

Indian woman’s husband Released in 1918 and directed by Cecil B. DeMille, it is the first “real” legitimate remake, and it is now driven by an artistic will, not just material. The original 1914 film was also the work of Cecil B. DeMille and would become the first Hollywood feature film in history, resulting in the financing of many other films as a result of its success, as well as the creation of Paramount Pictures. It should be noted that the first film made in Hollywood was made in 1910, that is, before the arrival of the studios: it is a short film called DW Griffith. In old California. Eventually, DeMille would make his final adaptation of the film in 1931, introducing a talkie version of the film that allowed him to make the transition from theater to cinema, thus launching his career as a successful director.

Sound problem

This last form of remake, that is, the transition from silent to sound, had a special fate for Europe. Indeed, the period 1926-1934 was not only simple American films with sound, but also a major cultural problem of dialogue in a world in the Tower of Babel. Inevitably, each market focuses on itself, so a bilingual community is rare. So how?

Semi-silent versions, or versions “tailored” to target markets, were quickly put in place by adding boxes, subtitles, and cutting out certain passages to avoid giving too many subtitles because the public didn’t like hearing a language they did. not understand This was, for example Innocents of Paris Released in 1929 by Richard Wallace. The problem with this process is that it quickly becomes a fluke, so you have to come up with something cleaner, starting with shooting for adaptation work. We need real versions, we need remakes that can fully satisfy different audiences.

Hollywood-European cooperation…

Since then, he had the idea that why not make several versions of the same film in different languages? This would require local actors and directors, depending on the version, to present the people with a product true to their culture. So the choice is to have the same script as the core, the same sets for each version, and the film to be more or less the same but adapted to the languages.

titanic From 1929 and directed by Ewald Andre Dupond, the film will be available in three versions: English, German and French, directed by Jean Kemm. Additional versions of the films were made later, usually shooting from the original version.

This strategy was negotiated between Hollywood and the big actors of European cinema, mainly France and Germany, to allow the universalization of artistic works that would otherwise not be able to cross their borders (dough). More seriously, the ephemeral phenomenon of multiple versions has allowed for many interesting adaptations, from a simple copy to a truly different film.

Tunnel This is perfectly illustrated by Kurt Bernhardt in 1933: the famous and populist figure Jean Gabin plays the French-language engineer who encourages the workers to finish their work despite the provocation, thus bringing a sense of camaraderie to Gueule’s trade union films. love. In the German version, the same character, Paul Hartmann, who is driven to obey the leader with a fragile and authoritarian tone, and despite the same text, embodies the same image. The process is a win-win between Hollywood and Europe, with each side benefiting from this joint venture based on the sharing of production costs.

…before America took over

However, this did not prevent Hollywood from establishing itself as the world leader in the audiovisual market by authorizing transnational remakes of European films, mainly French films, since the 1930s due to the excellent reputation of French cinema in terms of ideas and stories.

One of the reasons for the American takeover was the collapse of the Gaumont and Pathé-Nathan studios, which participated in the European brain drain of the early 1930s, and greater visibility, and, incidentally, an opportunity for some. Avoid Nazism. Thus, promising European directors such as Jacques Tourneur, Fritz Lang, Otto Preminger and Billy Wilder are invited.

European producers like brothers Robert and Raymond Hakim will also experience the American adventure by participating in the production of transnational remakes. What Hollywood ultimately wanted was to bring the innovations of European cinema, and especially Parisian cinema, to Hollywood to offer something new to the American public, while at the same time adapting the scripts to local customs because of the Code. Hays has been around since 1934.

Back with New Hollywood

after Cleopatra Despite three years of production in 1963, the budget exploded and Mankiewicz was eventually buried, the public no longer watching and the studios no longer knowing what to expect. . They are, in fact, facing a younger and socially engaged audience, whether on racism or the war in Vietnam: these young people no longer want loud peplums, which are always more expensive and huge, they want authenticity and character. , good or bad, but fundamentally human in all cases.

See also

Well, France is experiencing a golden age with social cinema that raises new issues and brings the freshness of the new wave. Of course, Italy should not lag behind the revival that began in the late 1950s.

This part of the article can pass for deception, because it is more about the period of great influence (is a thief by Lellouch (1970), for example, is a great source of inspiration pulp fiction) than the real remake era for American cinema. The latter must first get back on his feet by creating a new identity before even thinking about remaking the films that inspired him.

However, this has been the case since the 80s, a period when studios regained control of mainstream cinema as opposed to independent cinema. Having acquired the rights to many European films using previous decades, they can now exploit them, for better or for worse.

to conclude

The mechanics of a remake is, in short, an old process and generally very complicated. Hollywood is the main instigator and beneficiary, with financial and sometimes artistic goals. Even today, there are many remakes with varying degrees of success, especially in the comedy and horror genres. However, the phenomenon has managed to deliver some good surprises, usually as a result of good directors being driven by the desire to do good work, e.g. An army of twelve monkeys (remake Pier Chris Marker, 1962), Convoy of Fear (remake The Wages of Fear Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1953) or even Some like the heat (remake Fanfaren der Liebe Kurt Hoffmann, 1951).

Remakes aren’t necessarily bad things, but their execution can give the public a bad impression of the process. It made him look like a slacker and easily accepted by the studios, which is historically true, but hey, ” Nobody is perfect “.

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