Though I was rather harsh to Michel Gondry’s new, semi-autobiographical film The Science of Sleep, the brief descriptions of his next project, Be Kind Rewind that I’ve read have me very excited. The movie, which won’t be released until some time in 2007, anticipates the emergence of a trend whereby film fans re-make their favourite movies. If you haven’t seen this trend take off yet, just wait and see.
Be Kind stars Jack Black (who signed-on before he’d read thescript), who plays a junkyard worker who inadvertently magnetizes himself while attempting to sabotage a power plant. When he goes to visit his buddy (Danny Glover), the owner of the local video store, he instantly erases all of his stock. No one really rents videos anymore, so it’s not that much of a disaster, right? Well, no one but the old crone down the street. She’s the store’s lone loyal customer. And when she wants to rent Back to the Future, Glover’s character better have it in stock.
So what do Black and Glover do? They remake the films of course—everything from Robocop to The Lion King to Rush Hour. Given that it’s Gondry, you can only imagine how these remakes will re-imagine their originals. But the second I heard about this, I couldn’t help but recall the recent media attention garnered by a little film that could, Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation, a shot-for-shot remake of Spielberg’s masterpiece made by teenage kids in Mississippi back in the ’80s.
Starting in 1982, three friends on the Gulf Coast (Indiana Jones fanatic Chris Strompolos, comic book geek Eric Zala and and special effects guru Jayson Lamb) devoted their summers (seven-and-a-half of them) to re-creating Spielberg’s blockbuster, shot for shot. They did it all with a rented Sony Betamax camera. Chris’s dog Snickers played Indy’s monkey sidekick.
In 2002, with the boys all grown up and living in different corners of the country, a copy of the final cut of the film fell into the hands of Eli Roth (of Cabin Fever and The Hostel fame). From there, everything dominoed into place: Spielberg saw it and loved it, Vanity Fair published a big piece on the boys and whammo, mega producer Scott Rudin (Closer, School of Rock) sent them all trucks full of money for the right to make a film about their lives. Daniel Clowes (Ghost World, Art School Confidential) is writing thescript. Nothing has been cast yet, but we should see this as-yet-untitled film in 2007—around the same time we see Be Kind Rewind.
The original Raiders: The Adaptation recently played at the Sprockets festival in Toronto. Due to a cease and desist order—coupled with a desire to stay true to the movie’s initial spirit and impetus—the three filmmakers won’t make a dime off of any of its festival screenings. But expect this little picture to be seen by a lot of people.
With higher quality digital film equipment available to more people, you can’t help but predict the Raiders Boys will one day be seen as the gods of this cine-karoake movement. If a digital video camera is readily available, why continue to throw rocks at the Quickie Mart? Why not hang out with your buddies and re-make your favourite film instead? And what better way for film students to learn than to have them re-shoot, frame for frame, the great works of Godard, Antonioni or Wes Anderson? Hell, Gus Van Sant did it to Hitchcock’s Psycho (and then, unfortunately, subjected us to his creation).
Gondry’s film sounds like it is going to tap directly into a social phenomenon just as this phenomenon is getting its legs. Unfortunately though, a recent interview with the San Francisco Chronicle reveals that Gondry has struggled to secure the rights to one of the films he is re-shooting. He won’t say which film he failed to get. All the director would reveal was that, with one week to go before shooting started, he now needed to “reimagine a quarter of my film.” So with the dawn of new type of filmmaking (if that’s in fact what this will be), we find yet another minefield of intellectual property concerns. Such is the way, I suppose, in this mixed-up, increasingly weightless world of ours.