April 5, 2005
Written by C.N.
AsianWeek magazine has an article that discusses the recent phenomenon of Hollywood studios remaking Asian movies, specifically a new generation of supernatural thriller/horror movies. Rather than the traditional blood-and-gore slasher films American audiences are used to seeing, these new thrillers, best represented by The Ring which was a remake of the Japanese film Ringu, rely more on “atmospheric” elements such as tense drama and abrupt plot surprises.
[Hideo] Nakata’s atmospheric thrillers (Ringu, Chaos, Dark Water) fired the shot heard around the world, heralding a new era of more subtle and moody horror films devoid of overt gore and blood. . . Nakata says he thinks Asian horror films have resonated with American audiences because they want more than the cookie-cutter films offered to them by U.S. studios.
[Better Luck Tomorrow director Justin] Lin attributes Hollywood’s recent fascination with Asian cinema to the changes in technology that have allowed filmmakers from other countries to compete with American studio films as well as Hollywood’s constant need for fresh voices and stories. . . But like Lin, [Asian American producer Roy] Lee feels the main reason for the ascendancy of Asian films in America is that the quality of the films themselves has improved and that the lower budgets Asian filmmakers must use have forced them to be more creative.
“The fact that [Asian filmmakers] have lower budgets actually makes the films more interesting because oftentimes the filmmakers use ingenious techniques that, while they are ‘low-tech,’ can be more effective than the standard techniques of Hollywood filmmakers,” Lee says.
Here again we have a rather fine line. On the one hand, many critics would point out that Hollywood (and perhaps mainstream American society in general) has a habit of appropriating elements of Asian culture for their own commercial purposes and in the process, cheapening and even corrupting the original essence and appeal of such Asian cultural elements.
On the other hand, it is encouraging to see that at least when it comes to many of these Hollywood remakes of Asian films, Asian and Asian American directors and producers are put in charge of the projects. While that does not guarantee success or “cultural authenticity,” it does go a long way toward addressing the historical exclusion and marginalization of Asian and Asian American filmmakers in the American movie industry.
In the meantime, if you haven’t learned already, don’t watch these movies alone — these films are seriously spooky.
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Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Hollywood Remaking Asian Cinema" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2005/04/hollywood-remaking-asian-cinema/> ().
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