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Posted August 02, 2011 to photo album "Déjà vu"
In adapting the Israeli thriller <em>Ha-Hov</em> into <em>The Debt</em>, John Madden enters the cinematic tradition of remaking foreign language films for English-speaking audiences. We look at some of the best foreign language adaptations, from transforming Kurosawa into a American western to popularizing Japanese horror.
Profumo di Donna (1974) to Scent of a Woman (1992)
During the 1970s and 1980s, Hollywood scratched its collective head as Al Pacino turned in a string of incredible cinematic performances, and each time was rebuffed by the Academy. Pacino was nominated for Best Actor for his turns in Serpico, The Godfather Part II, Dog Day Afternoon, and ...And Justice For All, but struck out every time. Finally, though, Pacino won his Oscar, for the 1992 film Scent of a Woman, in which he played a blind, hard-drinking retired army officer who takes a young student charged with looking after him on a weekend of debauchery, after which the older man plans to commit suicide. What was not discussed at all on the film's release was that Scent of a Woman was a remake of the 1974 Italian film Profumo di donna. In comparing the two, one can see how the sensibilities of 1970s Italian cinema and 1990s Hollywood fare shaped these films. “[Profumo di donna] is in many respects darker, more uncompromising, and more involving than its better-known 1992 remake,” writes critic Nathan Rabin of The Onion's A.V. Club. “But while the Hollywood film takes great pains to show its protagonist as a kind-hearted, charismatic romantic who hides behind a gruff exterior, [Vittorio] Gassman plays him as a miserable, drunken, whoring failure lashing out at a world that doesn't accept him. In place of Pacino's tango-dancing and self-righteous monologues, Gassman limits himself to fondling nubile companions, engaging in drunken rages, and emotionally abusing anyone who comes close to him.” Analyzing the Pacino version, the New York Times critic Janet Maslin noted that the film thrived because it transcended its narrative setup: “The good thing is that the principals and film makers make the absolute most of a conventional opportunity. They succeed in turning a relatively contrived situation into a terrific showcase for Mr. Pacino's talents.”