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ARCHIVE SPECIAL! The Remake Film Festival

Tuesday 27 July 2021, by judy

To mark our editor Judy’s return to Mydylarama after completing her epic PHD, here’s one of her older cracking reviews and an opportunity to revisit the wonderful concept behind the Remake Film Festival.

As Hollywood’s fiscal calculations ensure it pumps out sequels, prequels and trilogies (etc.), the Remake film festival sets out a different relationship between box office hits and contemporary production. Filmmakers from around the world are invited to reimagine, reinterpret or remake scenes from classical Hollywood movies - this year scenes were taken from Psycho, Casablanca and Singing in the Rain. It’s a great premise which brings to mind the fantastic and fantastical films from Michel Gondry’s underrated ‘Be Kind, Rewind’ where a community on the brink of demolition come together to make movies, using beach coat hangers, tinsel and all manner of junk to re-create box office hits including Ghostbusters and The Lion King (an endeavour which the Comedians Cinema Club now bring to the stage). Unfortunately no such frivolity or playful daring prevailed at the Remake Festival where the majority of entries were profoundly lacking in imagination, even when prompted by some of cinema’s most beloved moments. Given the international scope of the festival, its inviting premise (structured yet with wide scope for interpretation) and the work of Hitchcock et al as a springboard, this says a lot more about the current state of cinema than about the festival itself.

Tellingly, of the ten finalists, only one was inspired by Singing in the Rain, evidencing an inability by judges and/or filmmakers to embrace the chaos and reverie which could be wrought by lay people trying to splash about like Gene Kelly. In contrast, Psycho remakes abounded; apparently stabbing scenes come easily, while joyful abandon is almost impossible. It’s true that low budget short films are hampered by a range of constraints (hammy actors not being the least of them), yet our relationship to the medium of film itself is a significant barrier to the filmic imagination. Performers and writers in fringe theatre (comedy especially) are able to create characters, props, sets and stories using found objects, trinkets, puppets and the like, yet such imaginative re-appropriation is considered uncinematic, even in the act of remaking.

Moviegoes love to laugh at Tommy Wiseau’s unintentional cult film The Room because they know what a proper film looks like - and he keeps getting it so wrong! How hilarious that he can’t follow the recipe. This deference to formulaic habits, the conventions of genre and a resistance to a playful and imaginative engagement with our material environment are stifling the filmic imagination. The Remake Film Festival provided filmmakers with a structure within which to push the boundaries of their imaginative capacities, a realm in which to let loose in the manner of Gene Kelly’s Don Lockwood as he dances wildly and blithely down the street. Don’s effervescence is brought to a halt by a cop; unfortunately ours never got started.

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