CC Issue 14 / Film / TV

Have You Seen The French Version?

I was sitting down to brunch (yes, brunch) with a couple of bespectacled, and therefore knowledgeable, friends recently when the talk turned to film.  “Have you seen the ‘remake’ of ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’?” one of them asked.  “Yes,” I replied, “and it was bloody fantastic.”  Gasp.  “Nick, my dear boy, surely you understand film nerd etiquette.  You never admit to liking a remake better than the original, especially if the original had subtitles.”  Well, I’m sorry, Status Quo.  I’m sorry, Normal Jean.  I’m sorry, Mr. I-Watch-Films-Not-Movies, but while many remakes are unimaginative, cynical exercises in moneymaking (or “whores’ movies”, as William Goldman might put it), there are numerous examples where the new shines brighter than the old.  Here they are:

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (Niels Arden Oplev) vs The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (David Fincher)

While the Swedish version is an excellent film with fantastic performances, Fincher’s take on Steig Larsson’s ink-stained heroine is better-paced, more visually attractive and more exciting.  But the ending wasn’t as good.  A close call.  Oh, and what a great teaser trailer!




Abres Los Ojos (Alejandro Amenabar) vs Vanilla Sky (Cameron Crowe)

I have to be careful here because there are a lot of ‘Vanilla Sky’ haters.  However, I find that is the case with most Cameron Crowe films (except ‘Almost Famous’, which is universally loved).  I love most of Crowe’s work and found his version of Amenabar’s film more enjoyable than the original.  It is different enough to the original to keep it interesting but the concept is the same.  Penelope Cruz plays the same character in both films and although she is more attractive when speaking Spanish, I found it easy to develop a crush on both of her.  Another thing that makes Crowe’s film stand out is his trademark excellent use of music throughout the film.  The ‘Vanilla Sky’ soundtrack stands out as one of my favourites.




Infernal Affairs (Wai-keung Lau, Alan Mak) vs The Departed (Martin Scorsese)

This is another controversial choice, especially among my Hong Kong friends.  I maintain that both films are great, but upon repeated viewing of both of them, I must take my hat off to Scorsese’s gritty American version.  Like Fincher’s ‘Dragon Tattoo’, he keeps all the elements of the original and tinkers with the ending.  It works even better here and anything that has been added actually enhances the film (especially Dignam, the foul-mouthed Mark Wahlberg character).




Ringu (Hideo Nakata) vs The Ring (Gore Verbinski)

Hmmm… I can’t remember much about either of them.  I have tried to block them out as horror films give me nightmares.  I just needed one more because my list was looking a bit weak.




These four examples are all that I could find.  Unfortunately, this is one of those pieces where I started with a premise and in the process of trying to prove it right, I found it to be wrong.  While the above examples are, in my opinion, excellent remakes, they are the exception and not the rule.  Most remakes are, by far, inferior products.  Damn.  I will be quiet now and never bring it up again.  I guess glasses do make you smarter.

9 thoughts on “Have You Seen The French Version?

  1. Nice one nick! I haven’t seen any of the movies you mentioned but was rather amused at the ending – which is a predicament I find myself in often- setting out to prove something only to confirm my opponent’s view…. Hence my recent purchase of red framed glasses.


  2. Good call on Infernal Affairs – probably your most controversial pick – I also prefer The Departed. I thought I was the only one. But my opinion is usually voided by the fact that I saw The Departed first.

    Conversely, I thought “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” by Fincher was just too similar to the original. Especially for someone like Fincher, who has the ability to really add a visual signature to his movies. That being said, I have a loaded bias at the fact that Dragon Tattoo just didn’t need to be remade at all.

  3. Oh come on now…how can you leave out ‘Footloose’…?! P.S. Completely agree re: the chick with the tatt. Loved Fincher’s version…it was one of the rare times the actors looked the way I’d imagined when reading the novels.

  4. For most of these films did you watch the original first or the remake?

    I, for one, fully void CJ’s opinion that The Departed is a better movie. Just ’cause you Newfies can’t read subtitles doesn’t mean can dismiss foreign language originals.

    • Hi Joe. I saw the originals first in every case except ‘Vanilla Sky’. I think most Hong Kong residents would be with you on the Infernal Affairs/Departed question. In all these cases, the originals are great, but I reckon these four remakes are some of the very few that come close to (or surpass) the original. (With the exception of ‘The Ring’, which I can’t remember at all.)

      • At least you saw Infernal Affairs first. I can respect that. I think I disliked The Departed a whole lot more than I should have simply because so many film critics openly admitted to not having seen the original.

        If we weren’t discussing remakes of foreign films I’d mention ‘Scarface’.

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