Monday, May 2, 2011

Movies - A remake or new adaptation?

Several "remakes", as the critics and the public call them have been in the theaters recently.
True Grit, Jane Erye and the made for HBO Mildred Pearce.
I tend to not to like the word "remake", preferring "new adaptation or interpretation". However unless one goes back to the original novel or short story it is really hard to tell if it is a true remake of an old movie or a new interpretation.

Why would someone want to do a remake of good film?
-The Producer/Director sees a fresh interpretation of the novel or short story on which the film is based.
-There is a new generation of film goers.
-New technology can add fresh cinematography to the movie.
-and probably a host of other reasons.

True Grit - based on the 1968 novel by Charles Portis.
-1969 starred John Wayne as Rooster Cogburn. He was the star and the main protagonist was Cogburn. Rest of the story and character supported Wayne.
-2010 Cohen Brothers adaptation centered on 14 year old Mattie Ross with an unknown young actress Halle Stienfield. The story was hers to tell. Cogburn supported her.
IMO the 2010 was the better film in many ways. Better story, better acting and better cinematography.

Jane Erye - Based on the familiar Charlotte Bronte novel
To my knowledge this is the most frequent of the "remakes". If anyone know about a novel that has been interpreted more times, please let me know at
1934 - first film adaptation of the novel.
1943 - Orson Wells & Joan Fontaine star
1949 - Charleton Heston
1973 - BBC production
1983 - BBC series
1996 - Franco Zefferille directs
1997 - Arts & Entertainment production
2006 - Masterpiece Theater
2011 - Director Cary Fukanago - Stared Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassenbender
IMO the 2011 surpasses the previous. The acting was right on and cinematography dark and mysterious, like the novel. Since it had been a long time since I read the novel, I have to trust that it was genuine adaptation of Bronte's work.

Mildred Pearce - based the 1944 James Caine novel by the same name.
First made in 1945 as a black and white film noir. It stared Joan Crawford and Jack Carson with supporting roles by Eve Arden and Ann Blythe.
-Crawford won the Oscar for best actress and both Arden and Blythe were nominated for best supporting actress. The movie was also nominated for best film and for best screen play.

2011 HBO -5 episodes starring Kate Winslet and co-starring Melissa Leo, the best supporting actress at this years Oscars.

IMO - This is a no brainer. The 1944 film was a film noir and the 2011 one was a soap opera.
There were things I liked and disliked (read hated) with both of them.
The early film had a 'negro' maid that was a terrible stereotype probably a sign of that time.
The HBO series started on a high for the first two episodes then had a ridiculous and unbelievable ending.
Given an awful screen play I preferred Winslet to Crawfords acting.
I liked the color cinematography however the black and white was appropriate for a noir film.
The interpretation of the novel had to be better in the 1945 adaptation. Starting with a murder and building the story up until the end when we find out who the murderer is.
Contrast this to a sappy and unbelievable ending.

I have led a book discussion group of "Books to Film" where everyone read the book and then we watched the movie together. I also find it interesting when folks say to me "Why would they make a remake of a very good movie?" It is an interesting concept to discuss.

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