Top 5 US Remakes of French Films
In cinema too, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. More than 80 French films have been “reconceived” in the US, sometimes by famous and talented American filmmakers. But why not watch the original?
Algiers John Cromwell, 1938
Remake of Pépé le Moko Julien Duvivier, 1937
The first Hollywood adaption of Pépé le Moko stars French actor Charles Boyer, Oscar-nominated for the title role originally played by Jean Gabin. Pépé, an elegant Parisian gangster, is hiding in the Casbah of Algiers to escape the French police. When he falls in love with a sophisticated woman (Hedy Lamarr in her first Hollywood role), he risks his life to follow her back to Paris. Scrupulously faithful to the original, Algiers features a shot-by-shot redo of the famous first scene of the French film. In 1948 the story was turned into a musical, Casbah, by John Berry.
INSPIRED BY FRANCIS VEBER
Buddy Buddy Billy Wilder, 1981
Remake of L’Emmerdeur Edouard Molinaro, 1973
Walter Matthau (Lino Ventura in the original version), a hit man hired to kill a key witness in a Mafia trial, sees his mission compromised when he crosses paths with a depressed stranger (Jack Lemmon / Belgian singer Jacques Brel). The last film by renowned European-born filmmaker Billy Wilder, Buddy Buddy was a flop. It was the first of many adaptations of Francis Veber screenplays; the latest is the funny, if not as cruel as the original, Dinner for Schmucks, a 2010 remake of the 1998 Le Dîner de Cons starring Paul Rudd and the irresistible Steve Carrell.
Point of No Return John Badham, 1993
Remake of Nikita Luc Besson, 1990
A young delinquent (Bridget Fonda, Anne Parillaud in the original) is recruited and trained by the intelligence services to become a government assassin. Luc Besson was approached to direct the remake of his own film but refused. This faithful adaptation was a hit in both the United States and France. Nikita’s success story doesn’t end there: In 1997 a television show was created based on the film, and last year CW TV introduced a remake of the 1990s show for a young audience.
True Lies James Cameron, 1994
Remake of La Totale Claude Zidi, 1991
Arnold Schwarzenegger (Thierry Lhermitte in the French version) leads a double life. His wife (Jamie Lee Curtis /Miou-Miou) believes he is a salesman, while he is really a secret agent. One day he realizes that his bored wife is having an affair with a used-car salesman posing as a spy. True Lies (1994), directed by a pre-Titanic, pre-Avatar James Cameron, is a rare exception: an American remake better than the original. At the time, True Lies was one of the most expensive films ever made, in contrast to the low-budget La Totale.
Twelve Monkeys Terry Gilliam, 1995
Remake of La Jetée Chris Marker, 1962
Scientists decide to send a man (Bruce Willis) into the past to try to avert the spread of a virus that now threatens to annihilate the human race. Despite a shared story line, the two films could not be more different. La Jetée is a 28-minute short made up entirely of still black-and-white photographs and a voice-over, while Twelve Monkeys is typical Gilliam: colorful, action packed and over the top.
Remakes of two French comedy hits are in the works. Liza Azuelos directed the remake of her own teenage comedy LOL, starring Demi Moore and Miley Cyrus (Sophie Marceau and Christa Theret in the original), to be released in 2012; and Will Smith is working on the still-untitled remake of the most successful French film of all time, the 2008 Bienvenue Chez Les Ch’tis, directed by and starring Dany Boon.
Sorcerer William Friedkin, 1977 / Le Salaire de la Peur Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1953
Breathless Jim McBride 1983 / A Bout de Souffle Jean-Luc Godard, 1960
Blame It on Rio Stanley Donen, 1984 / Un Moment d’Egarement Claude Berri, 1977
The Woman in Red Gene Wilder, 1984 / Un Eléphant Ça Trompe Enormément Yves Robert, 1976
Down and Out in Beverly Hills Paul Mazursky, 1986 / Boudu Sauvé des Eaux Jean Renoir, 1932
Three Men and a Baby Leonard Nimoy, 1987 / Trois Hommes et un Couffin Coline Serreau, 1985
Cousins Joel Schumacher, 1989 / Cousin Cousine Jean-Charles Tachella, 1975
Sommersby Jon Amiel, 1993 / Le Retour de Martin Guerre Daniel Vigne, 1982
Intersection Mark Rydell, 1994 / Les Choses de la Vie Claude Sautet, 1970
Nine Months Chris Columbus, 1995 / Neuf Mois Patrick Braoudé, 1994
The Birdcage Mike Nichols, 1996 / La Cage aux Folles Edouard Molinaro, 1978
Diabolique Jeremiah Chechik, 1996 / Les Diaboliques Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1955
Unfaithful Adrian Lyne, 2002 / La Femme Infidèle Claude Chabrol, 1969
Trailers for many of these films can be seen on www.youtube.com
Find French films in our France Today Bookstore.
Originally published in the February 2011 issue of France Today; updated in January 2012
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