In the Olympics of Stupid Movie Ideas, America Keeps Winning Gold.


So, the filmmaker Olivier Assayas makes a beautiful, poetic film called Summer Hours, which ends up among the handful of movies most celebrated by critics in 2009.

It’s hard to find any fault with it. It explores a broad array of subjects – art history, nostalgia, globalism, family ties – and it does so because of its particularity. It is grounded in the experience of a specific family, deeply rooted in French history and tradition, and considers the influence of the European Union (EU) on trends in art and culture. And it does all of this with the help of a cast of some of the world’s finest screen actors, sumptuous cinematography, and poetic composition.

So, then what happens?

Tom Hanks says, “Let’s remake it in America!”

I don’t want to be a cynic. But I felt a little sick as soon as I saw that headline posted at Arts and Faith today. How many excellent foreign films are ignored in the U.S. every year, out-shouted by trashy, formulaic American entertainment? And then, when it’s time for American filmmakers to try their hand at serious art, the best they can do is make a cheap copy of something profound and beautiful. How many times have I heard somebody say, “Wings of Desire… didn’t that have Nicolas Cage in it?” Or, “No, I didn’t see Mostly Martha. But did see No Reservations.” That’s like saying, “No, I haven’t had tried that fine wine you recommended, but I do like grape soda!”

I hope that this project goes away… just like Tom Hanks’ proposed remake of Kurosawa’s Ikiru. (Have mercy!)

Even as I was having these thoughts, responses rang out in harmony with mine at Arts and Faith.

Michael Leary of Filmwell responded:

Is this even really possible? Can the same discussion about art, heritage, and um, the homogenizing effect of the EU, be had in an American storyline?

I answered:

No. That’s not to say they can’t find a meaningful story to tell. But the word ‘remake’ is already a misnomer. And if the film ends up holding a candle to the greatness of the original, I’ll be thunderstruck.

Steven Greydanus of Christianity Today, Decent Films, and the New Catholic Register responds to Leary saying:

MLeary, my question exactly.

And to me:

I’d be thunderstruck too. While it’s theoretically possible that similar plot points could illuminate a characteristically American discussion with similar brilliance Assayas’s film … why would a filmmaker brilliant enough to make that transposition bother? Why wouldn’t he just tell his own story?

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About Jeffrey Overstreet

Jeffrey Overstreet is the author of a “memoir of dangerous moviegoing” called Through a Screen Darkly, and a four-volume series of fantasy novels called The Auralia Thread, which includes Auralia’s Colors, Cyndere’s Midnight, Raven’s Ladder, and The Ale Boy’s Feast. Jeffrey is a contributing editor for Seattle Pacific University’s Response magazine, and he writes about art, faith, and culture for Image, Filmwell, and his own website, LookingCloser.org. His work has also appeared in Paste, Relevant, Books and Culture, and Christianity Today (where he was a film columnist and critic for almost a decade). He lives in Shoreline, Washington. Visit him on Facebook at facebook.com/jeffreyoverstreethq.


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