Jhere is a long history of Hollywood plundering Asian cinema and producing an English remake. Sometimes it’s a process that will produce a classic like The Magnificent Seven (based on Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai) or at least something as interesting as Martin Scorsese’s The Departed (based on the Hong Kong crime thriller Infernal business). More often, though, it’s an unsatisfying cinematic experience, like Spike Lee’s recent take on cult Korean revenge thriller Oldboy, Nic Cage’s Bangkok Dangerous, or the never-ending stream of not quite so horrors. frightening, in particular Dark Water, The Eye, The Ring or The Rancune.
And it’s almost always a one-way street – probably because Hollywood blockbusters have reasonable global distribution, so chances are audiences around the world have already seen them, while Asian cinema is still considered as a niche activity in the West. . That’s why it was so interesting to read about Saidoweizu, a 2009 Japanese remake of the much-loved indie classic Sideways. on the American cinema site The Dissolve, this week. That’s right — there’s an obscure remake of the film that followed Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church driving drunk through the vineyards of California’s Napa Valley; the one who almost killed the Merlot industry and ensured that a certain generation could never say “Pinot Noir!” without mentally adding an exclamation mark.
Instead of transplanting the story to Japan (and, say, sending them on a tour of the best shōchu distilleries), the film takes its two stars, Fumiyo Kohinata and Katsuhisa Namase (Michio and Daisuke instead of Miles and Jack), to California. Daisuke is getting married to an American and is very fond of the traditional Vegas bachelor party – but grumpy pal Michio manages to convince him to sample the best of Napa wineries – here it’s Coppola, Mondavi, Newton and Frog’s Leap – which is the start of a very familiar looking California road trip, with fellow Japanese expats Kyoka Suzuki and Rinko Kikuchi (Pacific Rim and Kumiko The Treasure Hunter) to drink and drive with. Kampei!
If you’re in the mood for more cross-cultural remakes, how about Ken Watanabe’s recent remake of Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven (he’s a moody samurai whose days of sword swinging are over), Andy Lau and Gong Li replacing Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt in a Mandarin version of What Women Want (yes, the man is wearing women’s tights is a joke that doesn’t get lost in translation), or Song Seung-heon and Nanako Matsushima taking on the roles of Swayze/Moore in a tragic love story about a handsome Korean potter who is devastated when his beautiful wife dies – then surprised that she comes into contact with him with the help of a sympathetic medium who can communicate with the spirit world? Fortunately, they managed to resist calling it Ghost: Seoul Mates.