Stop remaking foreign films

The Gripe

the gripe

September 15, 2006|By Michael Sragow | Michael Sragow,Sun Movie Critic

The latest monument to American mediocrity, The Last Kiss, should make local movie lovers ask: Instead of redoing terrific foreign films with hard-to-recapture qualities in English, why not rerelease the originals with great ad campaigns? Tony Goldwyn's American version of Italian director Gabriele Muccino's splendid 2002 Italian hit turns a sunny Mediterranean tragicomedy into an awkward Midwest mixture of farce and soap opera.

It can be great when a filmmaker remakes a foreign classic or cult movie and puts his own spin on it -- the way John Sturges did when he remade Kurosawa's Seven Samurai as The Magnificent Seven.

But too often, American producers simply plop a foreign-language film into a new setting and slap on some contemporary attitude. Think The Vanishing, Insomnia, Vanilla Sky (originally the Spanish Open Your Eyes ) -- and now, The Last Kiss. The American movie stays faithful to the outline of Muccino's picture, tracing the stumbling steps toward maturity of buddies hitting 30, this time in Madison, Wis., instead of Rome.

But writer-director Muccino's fluid, seductive style shows you how the characters' individual whirlpools tumble into each other; he pulls us into a vortex of shared humor and desperation comparable to I Vitelloni or Diner. The American script (by Paul Haggis, of Million Dollar Baby and Crash) shifts focus with all the fluidity of a pants-pressing machine. And director Goldwyn never summons from his male cast emotions deep or vibrant enough to bind the different story lines.

Let's make The Last Kiss the last time American moviemakers think they can improve on something simply by ridding it of subtitles. Rent the Miramax DVD of the Italian version.

michael.sragow@baltsun.com

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