Remaking an original
By Miguel Paolo Celestial
Published in WestEast Magazine #24: GlobalizAsian, 2008
Not for Raging Bull, The Last Temptation of Christ, Goodfellas, Gangs of New York, or The Aviator did Martin Scorsese win an Academy Award for Best Director. He only bagged it for The Departed, or should we say, for Warner Bros.’ adaptation of Andrew Lau and Alan Mak’s Hong Kong crime thriller Infernal Affairs.
Leonardo DiCaprio for Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Matt Damon for Andy Lau, Jack Nicholson for Anthony Wong, and the Irish mob for the Triad. Is this multi-Oscar-awarded movie more than just a transliteration from one language and ethnicity to another? Do the different versions of this crime thriller mean the same for Hong Kong viewers as for Massachusetts’ audiences? Whatever the considerations, nobody can deny that, in business terms, The Departed has been a successfully localized product, traded between foreign outfits for the consumption of a foreign audience. That success has literally translated to bigger box-office profits for Hollywood than for Hong Kong cinema.
Globalization has eased the processes through which film remakes are brokered. As Hollywood creates remakes of Asian films, Asian houses also retell Western stories to their local audiences. But what exactly is the difference between an Asian film with English subtitles and its Hollywood remake? Why are some Asian films less “consumable” to American audiences in their original form and why are others more favored untouched? Does the rise of martial arts movies and Asian filmmakers have anything to do with their countries’ emerging economies or merely the redirection of the US film industry?...
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"Last Samurai: Tyson Ballou in Performance" appears alongside "Remaking an original" in WestEast Magazine #24: GlobalizAsian, 2008. More of the shoot.