Thursday, May 9, 2013

Thought Leaders' Corner: Remakes of Korean films

This months edition of the Thought Leader's Corner concerns remakes of Korean films. An increasing trend as Korean cinema emerges on the world stage, there are some varying opinions on how this could benefit or negatively effect the local Korean industry. Read on below to read my thoughts on this trend. You can read the full April thoughts here from a variety of Korean film experts worldwide.

MKC Thought Leaders' Corner: April 2013

How do you feel about remakes of Korean films?

"I am not a fan of remakes, and Korean movie remakes are no exception to this. 

Some people in the media will say that remakes can give increased exposure and awareness to their original source materials, by being easier to consume as they are localised or made in English to appeal to a wider market. I agree they can have a wider appeal, as many people are turned off by subtitles and Asian faces, but I don't see that exposure being passed on down to the original material.

Same story, different time. An analogy of remakes

Did anyone see The Lakehouse and know that it was a remake of Il Mare? No, the only film people thought of when they watched it was Speed! Did anybody that watched My Sassy Girl with Elisha Cuthbert and Jesse Bradford go and watch the original? No, because they were turned off by a terrible film that missed all the context of the original Kwak Jae-yong masterpiece. 

I mean, even when the remake is critically acclaimed, features major stars and achieve box office success, as was the case with Martin Scorsese’s The Departed, the original material did not get the recognition it was due. Instead upon awarded the Oscar for Best Picture, the announcer claimed Infernal Affairs was a Japanese crime film! (You can read Bey Logan's thoughts on the issue here, in which he suggests, why don't we instead focus on remaking bad films in a bid to try and make them better?)

A Departed Affair

So I personally don’t see any truth to the matter that remakes give exposure to their originals, and very rarely are films improved on via a remake, so I just don’t see the point in them. The only successful ventures into this realm in my opinion have been films that auteurs themselves have returned to in a bid to improve upon, such as Robert Rodriguez with Desperado (a semi-remake/semi-sequel to El Mariachi).

Just not right is it?

Even if remakes of A Bittersweet Life, Castaway on the Moon or Oldboy are critically acclaimed, I don’t see a huge benefit of this going to the Korean film industry itself, apart from maybe a royalty check to the screenwriter of the source material."

To sum up, I've got enough Korean films I need to watch. Remakes? Ain't nobody got time for that!

Kieran Tully
Artistic Director, KOFFIA Korean Film Festival in Australia
Programmer, Cinema on the Park Korean Film Night Sydney

1 comment:

  1. I'm interested in your thoughts on adaptations, Kieran - particularly self-adaptations, which Oldboy can be described as, given the authors of the Korean version are also the authors of the Spike Lee's script, and the source manga. And yes, there's a whole separate line of debate around self-remakes by auteurs - I love Haneke's work, but I thought the American version of Funny Games was a cynical gesture to capitalise on a contemporary taste for torture porn. But Gela Babluani's American version of 13 actually brought something new to the concept of Russian Roulette, and built on the French original.

    Let's just hope that Spike Lee doesn't fall into the trap of George Sluizer, whose American version of his original film The Vanishing ended with one of cinema's most infamous cop-outs.

    For the record, I feel Scorsese's The Departed took the original (excellent) story from Mak and Chong and crept down a new and familiar, but fascinating road.

    t.milfull (at)