Imitation may be a form of flattery, but when it comes to movie remakes I consider it an insult (until now). In this blog I will be addressing the movies in the US that are a blatant reproduction (or attempt at reproduction) of “foreign films.” Think of Paris, Je t’aime and New York I Love You. What the hell was that? Paris was such an offering of love to the diversity of the city and New York became a cheaper, less tailored version. Having each vignette be authored by a different director and team gave way to the richness and flavor that is the amalgamation of Paris, while New York just ran together like an overly ambitious romcom.
So I hate remakes. I think that when you translate something from one culture to another you have to be careful and actually think about who your audience is and what you are trying to portray from your own culture (anthropologist within me here).
Recently I watched Eat Drink Man Woman. Beautiful. Then I watched Tortilla Soup. And despite the bias I went in watching it with, I ended up loving it (not as much as the original, but still). The movie was translated from a Chinese family to a Mexican one and I felt that fitting since cuisine plays a major part in both cultures, especially intertwined with family and communication. Three sisters deal with much-the-same issues, yet both sets of women seemed to handle their paths slightly differently. Tortilla was a bit shorter, but perhaps that can be attributed to American audiences preferring shorter films. Eat Drink was also slower paced.
I think the winning equation here was that with Tortilla there was definitely a translation. They are essentially the same story, but the details make it rich in ethnographic reflections. So go watch both and tell me what you think