Will Japan drink old wine in a new bottle?
In recent years we’ve seen Hollywood remakes of Japanese cinema experiencing varying degrees of success, from horror movies, such as “The Grudge” and “Ring,” to feel-good comedies like “Shall We Dance?”
So we’re a bit surprised to hear that a Japanese version of “Sideways” is to be released by Fox Japan on Oct. 31. While the title and plot line remain the same, according wine blogger W Blake Gray of The Gray Market Report, there are some notable differences. Extra humor is injected into the story with Rinko Kikuchi playing the spurned lover who speaks comically bad Japanese and the ending is also reportedly different to the original version. Still set in California, the movie has a Japanese cast and basically remains a buddy movie about the difficulties and disappointments of life.
While many people thought the horror of “The Ring” didn’t translate well to Western screens, in the past Hollywood re-imaginings of Akira Kurosawa’s samurai classics enjoyed huge success, namely “The Magnificent Seven,” which grew out of “Seven Samurai,” “A Fistful of Dollars,” which took a tip from “Yojimbo,” and even “Star Wars,” which is indebted to “Hidden Fortress.” But even back then it wasn’t just the West plundering the East for inspiration. Kurosawa was a huge John Ford fan and “Seven Samurai” was itself influenced by the American director’s movies. What comes around, goes around.
According to a recent New York Times story the trend for Japanese remakes of American movies is set to continue, with new versions of “Ghost” and “Working Girl” in the pipeline. Let’s hope these remakes add something new to the originals and don’t just shoehorn foreign plot lines into a native format for the sake of milking a little extra profit from a familiar title.
On the bright side, if “Sideways” proves to be a hit, maybe we’ll see a greater variety of Napa Valley wines flowing into Japan.