Why are foreign films so foreign?

“I’m New Wave baby, so I got very stimulated by foreign film.” – Jack Nicholson

While having dinner at Againn last night,1 I was reminded of a 1991 Bud Dry commercial that mocked foreign films.This commercial had the “sad clown of life”2 asking “why ask why?” For some reason, an elegantly dressed woman is on a beach and in torment while asking “why?”  The “sad clown of life” wonders aloud at her consternation. The commercial ends with an (appropriately PC) racially mixed group of two couples watching an action flick. The two women seemed disgusted with the movie choice. The blatant sexism is comical and sad.3

In 1991, foreign films seemed odd to me and I felt it was reasonable that Anheuser-Busch would mock the foreignness of foreign films. At the time, I didn’t understand the depth and artistic qualities that films could possess… regardless of the country of origin. I laughed in ignorance at this commercial in 1991 when I was 21. I was five years removed from watching Red Dawn repeatedly. Red Dawn was a staple for the nights I hung out at friends’ houses wishing to grow up and be a muthafuckin’ commie-ass kicking machine.4

Foreign films are no longer odd to me. Now I enjoy them, especially when you see what seems to be the national or cultural influences in the films. Remakes of foreign films in America usually disappoint. Case and point is the French movie Nikita5 (1991) which was remade into the American movie Point of No Return6 (1993) and now an American television series. I admit that I usually oppose a lot of things French,7 but the French version, the original, is far superior to the American one. The French Nikita kicks ass in a way that Bridgit Fonda could never replicate.

I recently watched the Swedish versions (originals) of The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked a Hornet’s Nest. I have not seen the new American version of Dragon Tattoo, I’m not sure I’m going to. I’m not sure if the American version, and future versions will, have the appropriate amount of coffee drinking.

In an odd turn, I’m not sure if the American version of Dragon Tattoo is appropriately violent enough.8 National Public Radio’s (NPR) review calls the original “sloppier and trashier,” however, it “was more lurid” and “packed more genuine emotion.” NPR then states that the American remake is cleaner and slimmed.

I’m not sure that a movie about men’s sexual and cultural dominance of women is something that should be made cleaner or slimmer. Advocating violence for violence’s sake (and ticket sales) is not something I am advocating. However, if the subject matter and story are “lurid,” emotional, and trashy, then the story should be shown in such a manner. Slick American films don’t necessarily evoke the appropriate feeling, especially on such serious topics as rape, incest, murder, and exploitation.

Even though Stieg Larsson’s books do not discuss the effects of the cold and geography of Sweden on his books’ characters, I can’t help but assume that they are factors in the mood, lightening, and psychology that affect this story. David Fincher9 is the director of the American version and I don’t believe that this Denver, Colorado native can comprehend the proper way to show the landscape, scenery, and coffee.

Actually, I think it has to do with subtitles. Americans are generally lazy and not that literate. Americans want their movies in ‘Merican. What I found interesting about the Swedish versions was the limited amounted of dialogue that required my reading. Like the book, dialogue between characters did not convey the full story. Subtle storytelling through writing and movie scenes present a more complete picture. Niels Arden Oplev, the Swedish director of the original, understood the story and the need to suppress dialogue.

Utländska filmer kan utländska, men ser dem innebär att tittarna att se en bra historia från ett annat perspektiv. Amerikanska versioner endast förgifta och minska den totala avsikten med författare och direktör. Men ingen kan nyversion en bättre version av Röda Dawn… “Hämnas mig pojkar! Skaffa mig rätt! “10

1. Dinner consisted of oysters, beer (Harvieston Bitter … and oddly I liked it even though it was an India Pale Ale), lamb, veal, and a flight of four Balvenie scotches (12, 15, 18, and 21 years). Scotch goes surprisingly well with oysters.

2. I wish people would call me the “sad clown of life,” or the “hardest working man in show business.”

3. The “sad clown of life” should kick their asses for being sexist pigs.

4. This video makes me want to be a muthafuckin commie-ass kicking machine today. It has the Finnish metal band Stratovarius playing their 2005 song “United.”

5. Only the French can make that final scene of Nikita smoking a cigarette look so damn serious.

6. Only Americans would make a movie that is overly violent when the adaptation is incapable of carrying the film.

7. Except kissing, french type.

8. If doesn’t show, in detail, Lisbeth (the girl with a dragon tattoo) exacting her justified revenge on her “guardian” with a giant dildo and tattoo gun… in screamingly explicitness, then the American version has failed.

9. He has though directed a number of musical videos for such stellar artists as Paula Abdul.

10. Foreign films may be foreign, but seeing them allows the viewer to see a good story from a different perspective. American versions only tarnish and diminish the overall intent of the author and director. However, no one can remake a better version of Red Dawn… “Avenge Me Boys! Avenge Me!”


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