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Déjà vu

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.

Ha-Hov (2007) to The Debt (2010)
Seven Samurai (1954) to The Magnificent Seven (1960)
Yojimbo (1961) to A Fistful of Dollars (1964)
The Wages of Fear (1953) to Sorcerer (1977)
Viktor und Viktoria (1933) to Victor Victoria (1982)
Profumo di Donna (1974) to Scent of a Woman (1992)
Ringu (1998) to The Ring (2002)
Insomnia (1997) to Insomnia (2002)
Infernal Affairs (2002) to The Departed (2006)
Brødre (2004) to Brothers (2008)
Let the Right One In (2008) to Let Me In (2010)
Yojimbo (1961) to A Fistful of Dollars (1964)

Yojimbo (1961) to A Fistful of Dollars (1964)

The influence of Hollywood filmmaking on Akira Kurosawa was widely discussed – and also criticized – during the 1950s, and so Kurosawa decided to address the issue head-on by making Yojimbo (1961), a film that was blatantly and unabashedly indebted to American cinema. “Kurosawa, often called the most Western of Japanese directors, now seems to have thought, 'Enough moral fervor. I’ll show you how Western I can be,' and selected two typically American genres for this demonstration,” writes Alexander Sesonske in his Criterion Collection essay on Yojimbo. The film's setting was a village that might as well have been the location used in any given Hollywood Western of the era, while the plot and themes owed much to film noir. (Many have claimed that Yojimbo owes a debt to Dashiell Hammett's novels The Glass Key and Red Harvest.) The story concerns a nameless swordsman (Kurosawa's acting mainstay, Toshiro Mifune, who played Kikuchiyo in Seven Samurai) who is hired by a crime lord as protection from a rival, and who then audaciously convinces the rival to hire him also. Though a comedy, the film had a hard edge, and broke new ground within Japanese period pieces by showing blood and realistically recreating the sound of steel on flesh and bone. The combination of a compelling plot and brutally authentic depiction of violence was irresistible to Sergio Leone, who in 1964 remade Yojimbo as the classic Spaghetti Western A Fistful of Dollars, starring Clint Eastwood as the Man with No Name. However, at the time, the film was not deemed a remake as Leone, looking to reduce his budget, had not bought the remake rights. Following the film's release in Europe, Kurosawa successfully sued for plagiarism. ("It is a very fine film,” Kurosawa wrote Leone, “but it is my film.") The plagiarism case held up the U.S. release of Dollars until 1967, when it became a major success. His court victory had given Kurosawa a 15% stake in Leone's movie, and he cheerfully claimed that he had made more money from A Fistful of Dollars than he ever did from Yojimbo. However, while Leone's film did shamelessly plunder from Kurosawa, it also broke new ground. “This violent, cynical and visually stunning film introduced The Man With No Name, the anti-heroic gunslinger for whom money is the only motivation and the villains are merely obstacles to be removed,” wrote John Nudge in his essay on Spaghetti Westerns for Images Journal. “Many later films followed this formula of the lone gunman in pursuit of money to the exclusion of all else. Leone's unique style, artistic camera angles, extension of time and raw, explosive violence presented a skewed view of the West, making his film different from any Western that had come before.”