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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

question of the day: “Remixing” a foreign film for North American audiences: good idea?

Yesterday I posted a trailer for the Bollywood film Kites, which opens today all over the planet on the same day it also opens in India: it’s an attempt to drum up some love outside India and Indian ex-pat communites among mainstream moviegoers for the movies that are often seen by more people than many Hollywood films… though only inside India. Bollywood certain makes more films in any given year than Hollywood does, but so far, not one of them has captured the attention of non-Indian audiences around the world the way that Hollywood films cross cultural barriers.

So, here comes Kites, which is not exactly a traditional Bollywood film to start with. From a press release about the film:

Produced on an epic scale, and set primarily against the lavish backdrop of Las Vegas, KITES tells the story of two star-crossed lovers who are destined to be together even though each is betrothed to another. Indian superstar Roshan, plays “J,” a charming hustler looking to make a big score, and Mori, the renowned Mexican actress (best known in America for the 2005 hit “La Mujer De Mi Hermano”), plays Linda, a beautiful immigrant with dreams of marrying a rich American. Their romance is described in the film as a love that “knows no language,” an apt description of KITES itself, which has more international appeal than more traditional Bollywood films.

The film was shot entirely in Las Vegas, Santa Fe, and mostly in English and Spanish. The trailer makes it look like a Quentin Tarantino movie. So it appears that it may travel well and be accepted by, if not a really wide mainstream audience, at least perhaps more movie lovers here than will have ever been exposed to Bollywood before.

But then there’s this: Next week, on May 28th, the same production company will release Kites: The Remix. More from the press release:

Officially billed as “A Brett Ratner Presentation,” Ratner’s version of KITES is, as its title suggests, a true “remix,” in that it is the same film, played to a different rhythm, running a swift 90 minutes as opposed to the 130–minute original. One of the leading action directors working in the industry today, Ratner is credited with taking Asian action star Jackie Chan and crossing him over into American superstardom with his spectacularly successful “Rush Hour” series. In much the same way, KITES: THE REMIX will target younger, hipper, more action-oriented crowd than the original. Besides playing different theaters and neighborhoods, it will also take on additional screens at many of the same multiplexes that will be playing the original version as of May, 21, an unprecedented strategy that will present an alternative to fans who want to see more—and less—of the film at the same time.

I haven’t seen either film, so I can’t comment specifically on whether it works in this instance. And I’m trying to put aside my disdain for Brett Ratner, and my shock that any filmmaker, no matter how desperate he was to get his film in front of more eyeballs, would let that hack Rattner literally hack up his movie.

But this still doesn’t sound like the best idea ever to me.

(Of course, something similar happened last year, when the Chinese historical epic Red Cliff, over four hours in length in Asian theaters, was released in North American arthouses in a two-and-a-half-hour form. It never played on more than 42 screens, and earned $627,000. Kites clearly has greater ambitions than that. James Cameron didn’t do a remix of Red Cliff, for one…)

So: “Remixing” a foreign film for North American audiences: good idea?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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  • Brian

    As I said on the thread with the trailer, if some of the trimming takes the form of eliminating a bunch of Bollywood’s de rigeur non-plot-related dance numbers and other such filler, then it probably wouldn’t be missing much. Bollywood editing styles, from what I’ve seen, tend to drag scenes out in a way that American audiences would generally find repetitive and unnecessary.

  • I’ve only seen three movies from India, and I liked two. One was a musical I enjoyed after getting over the shock of the difference (I felt like I had watched a movie made by three different directors), another was a movie banned in India (I think the title was “Fire”) for its lesbian theme, which I also liked, and a long, drawn out, boring life of Buddha before he became Buddha. So I’ll probably have a go at the full length version if I get the chance.

  • I’m skeptical. In my experience, foreign stuff that’s been chopped up and re-edited for the imagined tastes of Western audiences has always been to the detriment of the material. I suppose theoretically it could be a good idea, but it would take a skilled editor to do it well. Whether Ratner is that person is another question.

  • Drave

    I just got back from seeing this, and there is no way a 90 minute version could ever work. It’s actually not very Tarantino-esque, despite what the trailer looks like. It’s a little bit Guy Ritchie, a little bit Baz Luhrmann, with a heaping tablespoon of noir. There are actually quite a few nods to classic American film moments. A couple of them actually made me stop and think, “Wait, people in India have seen that movie?” Overall, I really liked it, but I have seen quite a few Bollywood musicals, so my tolerance may be higher than average. There is only one 7+ minute dance number, but it’s actually one of the best I’ve ever seen. The action is way more intense then usual. Also, this movie has one of the hottest kisses I have ever seen in a movie, and their lips barely touch, so make of that what you will. I don’t know that it’s a great film, but it’s something different and definitely worth seeing.

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