We are at the end of my 10 part blog on films remade by the same director as the original version. To recap, the seeds for writing this article came about when news broke that director David Cronenberg was going to be remaking his 1986 film “The Fly”, which originally stared Jeff Goldblum in the starring role. Days later it was announced that French director Géla Babluani was going to be remaking as a big budget Hollywood film his 2005 French film “13 Tzameti”, this time in color. It was with this news that I set out to research if there ever had been a director who had done this before? I was curious if any directors in the past 100+ of film making had learned from the mistakes (even if the original were an excellent film) of the original and redone a later version, with years of maturity, money, and experience behind them?
To my surprise, there were many. I decided to narrow my field of research to 20 different films, thus giving me a total of 40 to watch (I actually watched 42, counting the two mentioned in the section above!) Even further to my astonishment, I learned that it is indeed quite possible for a director to turn out a better film. Not surprisingly, I also learned that it’s possible to turn in a turkey as well.
However, even more to my incredulity, and you’ll see after todays final films, the odds were IN FAVOR of the film turning out better! A total of 12 were equal or better, in my opinion, and only 8 were worse! Even then, only a few of those were grades lower in my ratings, with many them being only 1/2 – 1 grade lower!
You’ll be happy to know that todays films were my favorites out of the bunch. Not favorite remakes, per say, but favorite pairs. Meaning, I thought that the originals were excellent, and the remakes magical. Surprisingly (or maybe not!), all 4 of todays films were directed by the same director. A director that, hitherto, I did not know much about. However, after watching these 4 films, I realized that I had stumbled upon a director of the highest caliber. A director that I knew would soon garner a position in my favorite directors list (needless to say, I did view a handful more of his films subsequent to this review, solidifying his standing).
“Remaking the Tinsel in Tinseltown”
“20 Films Remade by the Original Directors”
~Director: Yasujirō Ozu~
Original Film: A Story of Floating Weeds – “Ukikusa Monogatari”
Cast: Takeshi Sakamoto, Chouko Iida, Koji Mitsui, Yoshiko Tsubouchi
Specs: 86 mins / Black and White / OAR 1.37:1
A wonderful little film that is unlike most others of that era. The acting is subtle and not overacted, as is so common in other silent films. The engrossing story of a traveling acting troupe that stops into a small Japanese farming town where the master has a former mistress and son whom he decides to visit, inciting a vengeful current mistress, is beautifully told. It is evident moments into the film that Ozu was a master storyteller, relying on character mannerisms and subtleties to compel the viewer to stay seated.
The film is a testament to how one little sin can snowball and affect so many people, not just the one who committed the sin. A truly wonderful piece of film from one of Japan’s most celebrated filmmakers.
My Rating: ***** / A
Remake Film: Floating Weeds – “Ukigusa”
Cast: Ganjiro Nakamura, Machiko Kyō, Hiroshi Kawaguchi, Haruko Sugimura, Ayako Wakao
Specs: 119 mins / Color / OAR 1.37:1
An absolutely wonderful film. Simply put, one of the best. Wonderful musical score and spectacular script easily make this a huge improvement on an already excellent film (the 1934 original). Director Ozu has flushed out the story, added some very witty humor, and cast the perfect actors to pull off this story of a traveling acting troupe that stops into a small Japanese farming town where the master has a former mistress and son whom he decides to visit, inciting a vengeful current mistress. Most of the humorous scenes are part of the side story, which is about the other actors in the troupe seeking to find women to keep company with while in town.
The only question I had regarding Ozu’s direction was the choice to have the actors speak directly into the camera when addressing the offscreen character, instead of an over-the-shoulder or a two-shot framing. I felt myself being pulled out of the film each time this occurred.
The cinematography is simply gorgeous, with colors popping off the screen in the most vibrant of ways. The story itself is a simple one, yet powerful in that it shows how one man’s sin will affect so many around him. A must own.
My Rating: ***** / A
~Director: Yasujirō Ozu~
Original Film: Late Spring – “Banshun”
Cast: Chishu Ryu, Setsuko Hara, Haruko Sugimura, Yumeji Tsukioka, Yoshiko Tsubouchi
Specs: 108 mins / Black and White / OAR 1.37:1
A gratifying character driven story about a widowed man who desires to marry off his stubborn daughter, lying about his own engagement in order to do so. This film was an entertaining film, but lacked any real drama. It served more as a day-in-the-life-of genre film than a dramatic film in the truest sense of the word.
Interestingly, Ozu chose to have the characters speak directly into the camera when addressing another character, instead of an Over-the-shoulder shot, or two shot. The second or third time it happens, I no longer noticed it, which is an indication of the quality of filmmaking.
While a very slow moving film, one that likely would never get made today due to the current nature of the flash, bang, cut, music video style films, it was still a very well acted film, with wonderful music, and an interesting peek into middle class life in early postwar Japan. The cinematography is superb, and truly shows that images can indeed tell a story. Another case to show that editing isn’t cutting every 3 seconds, but letting a scene play out and breathe to tell a more effective story.
A very well made film.
My Rating: ***** / A-
Remake Film: Late Autumn – “Akibiyori”
Cast: Setsuko Hara, Yôko Tsukasa, Mariko Okada, Keiji Sada, Miyuki Kuwano, Chishu Ryu
Specs: 128 mins / Color / OAR 1.37:1
A very amusing remake of “Late Spring” changes some things from the original version (strangely enough, the title, as you can see) that give it more drama and tension. The change from the father widow to a mother widow made the desire for the girl to stay and help her parent instead of getting married all the more dramatic, as the two women go through similar situations with courting men. Including the fathers friends as the men attempting to marry off his daughter has added delightful humor, as well as a dramatic element of the pressure of men to see their daughters married.
A wonderful jazz score, a script that could be made again today with it’s portrayal of adults and their views on “young kids today”, along with the beautiful cinematography all elevate this film above the previous in a minor way.
Again, as seems to be common with Ozu, there is one directorial decision I still don’t quite understand? Why Ozu has his characters directly addressing the camera in CU’s instead of an over-the-shoulder two shot is unclear. Happily, after seeing it for a few films now, I have an opinion on the matter. I would surmise that Ozu feels it allows the viewer to see inside the soul of his characters, giving them more personality.
A wonderful film through and through. A true classic.
My Rating: ***** / A
Hope you enjoyed this series. I’m off now to catch some much needed sleep!!!…