English, Motherf*cker, Do You Speak It? What You Miss When You Wait For The American Remake.
News broke yesterday that Josh Brolin will be starring in Spike Lee’s remake of the South Korean kick-assterpiece Oldboy. I’m very down with this casting. Brolin has the weathered, grim demanor neccessary for the part and rumor has it that Christian Bale is eyeing the villian role. I am supremely down with this. The last time Bale played a villian was, what, 2000? (We’re not counting Dicky Eklund or *sshole Film Actor Yells At Key Grip, right?) I look forward to seeing him snarl up a storm. Now I know there are those of you who object to remakes in any form, but with that cast and that director, things are looking pretty swell, no? [MovieLine]
Oldboy was a film I never would have seen had I not wandered into the living room when my roommate was watching the above tentacle scene with slack-jawed wonder. I stayed for the rest and then we watched it again from the start. And it’s great. Like, really f*cking great. I’ve had trouble, however, getting other folks to watch it because, you know, it requires reading. And that hurts their little brains. The watching AND the reading of the subtitles. And it’s frustrating and obnoxious because they’re missing out not only on the hammer-smashiness of Oldboy, but the elegiac calm before the storm of Let The Right One In, and the icy brutality of Oplev’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. And it’s fine, I suppose to wait for an inevitable American remake. Let Me In was alright, I suppose, and Fincher’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo will likely be as good if not better than the original. So, sure, fine, don’t strain your eyes.
But listen, between you and me, here are the two things you’re missing when you skip any movie that makes you read. The first advantage to a foreign film IS the disconnect between the viewer and the words. If you don’t speak the language, or only speak SOME of the language, you’re forced to follow the film a bit more viscerally. You have to pay close attention to intonation and expression/physicality and that level of involvment heightens your emotional reaction to the film. (Too hipster/snobby? What, you don’t like FEELINGS?) Secondly, unless you are an avid/rabid consumer of foreign films, odds are many of the actors will be unfamiliar to you. (With several notable exceptions, of course. Gael García Bernal, call me.) Because of that, your enjoyment of the performance is free of any preconceived notions associated with the actor or his/her previous roles. That is to say, Brolin may be fantastic in Oldboy, but in addition to being Oh Dae-Su, he is also Llewellyn Moss and Dan White and the tallest, most handsome Goonie and boning Diane Lane on the regular. The Korean actor, Min-sik Choi? He IS Oh Dae-Su, from stem to stern.
So what am I saying? I’m saying watch foreign films, they’re good for you. You enjoy the American remake? Brilliant. Check out the original while you’re at it. You like the original? Bully for you. Don’t close your mind to the possibility that the American version may have its merits. Are there foreign films you love that you can’t get anyone to watch? Remakes that you consider abominations? Are you excited for Oldboy?
Bottom line. If you haven’t already, watch Oldboy. If only for the oppurtunity to drawl, “Oh, the Spike Lee Oldboy? Nowhere near as good as the original.” I know how you lot like feeling superior.
Joanna Robinson will never look at sushi the same way again.