Americanization: How Le Grand Chemin Became Paradise- Introduction (Part 1 of 3)
In Godard’s latest film [as of this writing], Éloge de l’amour, there is a scene where an old couple is selling their life story, as it pertains to the French Resistance. A lawyer representing Steven Spielberg is stopped by their granddaughter while reading the contract. A debate ensues because he uses the word ‘America.’ The granddaughter asks “Which America?” to which the lawyer responds ‘The United States.’ Still combative, the granddaughter counters saying Brazil’s official name is ‘The United States of Brazil’ and the same goes for Mexico. Then the girl stops playing her game and says “Oh the States then, that America, the one that has no name or history such that they buy their stories from other countries.” This is a very telling scene of the culture that created one of the largest and most culturally significant film industries in the world. There are ‘histories’ in the United States for certain groups but fewer moments when there is a collective history. The narrative traditions of our country’s cinema have been decided by executives and not by a common culture.
When a foreign film is a big hit one of two things happens. One, it comes to the United States to play in some theatres or, two, in some cases the film will be remade, Americanized and jazzed up. This is just one of many issues that makes it difficult to transplant a film across cultures. I will be examining in this paper France’s Le Grand chemin and the United States’s version Paradise.
It wouldn’t surprise me at all if studio executives sit around debating the question “How do we make this American?” when they’ve acquired the rights to a foreign remake. It’s the asking of this question which usually leads most remakes awry. A French film is French, a Russian film is Russian and a Brazilian film is Brazilian. The films are a product of their society and are successful if they can strike some universal cord that reverberates around they world. “How do we make this American?” that’s like asking “How do we make a dog a cat?” You can’t do it. This is the hurdle the makers of Paradise faced in remaking Le Grand chemin.