by Chris MaGee
Remakes are tricky. Most are unnecessary, many botch up the originals, and only a handful end up being successful, artistically and commercially. Japanese film fans have suffered through their fair share of remakes as well with everything from Masayuki Suo's "Shall We Dance?" and Kiyoshi Kurosawa's "Pulse" getting the Hollywood remake treatment. Much less common are European and Hollywood films that get remade in Japan. Of course there's the horrific/ laughable looking remake of Alexander Payne's "Sideways", but the less said about that the better. Now news comes via Twitch of one of Japan's best directors (in my humble opinion) remaking a French classic.
Akira Ogata, the man behind the superb "Boy's Choir" and "The Milkwoman", has announced he will be remaking Louis Malle's 1958 noir film "Ascenseur pour l'échafaud (Elevator to the Gallows)". The original film starred screen legend Jeanne Moreau as a woman who plots the murder of her husband with her lover, played by Maurice Ronet. All seems to go as planned by small overlooked details and clues threaten to upset their new life together. Jazz icon Miles Davis also provided the film's score. No word on how music by Davis can be topped, but the roles Moreau and Ronet will be replaced by Michiko Kichise (Nodame Cantabile: The Movie, The Bird People of China) and Hirsohi Abe (Still Walking, Survive Style 5+).
Now, I'm not going to play snobby cinephile and say that I'm intimately aware "Ascenseur pour l'échafaud" because I'm not, which at least on the surface is an indicator that this could be a remake that has a chance of working. If you're going to remake a film then pick one that's a little off the beaten track, and if you're going to remake a film then get a director with formidable talent like Ogata. It's an interesting choice for him as he's just getting reaady to release "Non-chan Noriben", a heartwarming manga adaptation about a single mother opening up a restaurant. Talk about shifting gears!
Akira Ogata's "Elevator to the Gallows" is due out in Japanese theatres in the fall of 2010.