Conference co-organized by the CEMRA (University of Grenoble 3) and the GRIC (University of Le Havre)
Conference venue: University of Grenoble 3, October 3 and 4, 2013
When Serge Daney declared in 1991 “in film-making, only that which can be remade will be kept,” he was in fact denouncing Hollywood’s tendency to rely on the success of older works to sustain their Dream Machine which creates a form of mythology that Daney compares to the unique work of art and its “eternal” quality; Hollywood myth-making, on the contrary, is ever-changing, recycling itself to appeal to modern audiences and adapting itself to the current state-of-the-art techniques. Yet the remake is far from being merely a pale imitation of the original, and many great films are remakes from The Man Who Knew Too Much (Hitchcock, 1956, a remake of his own 1934 production) to A Star is Born (Cukor, remake, 1954), from Scarface (De Palma remake, 1983) to The Departed (Scorsese, 2006 remake both of a 2002 version by Lau and Mak and of G-Men 1935), or from True Grit (Coen brothers, 2010) to 3:10 to Yuma (Mangold, 2007). Any and all genres can be remade to “modernize” the scenario as new technologies emerge, and the evolution of other elements such as the choice of specific actors (for example Will Smith in I am Legend, 2007, remake of The Omega Man starring Charlton Heston, 1971), or social contexts lend themselves to the remake, especially in comedies, dramas and political thrillers.
Through case studies of specific films and their remakes as well as theoretical approaches, participants should seek to shed light on such questions as: what is the status of the remake; what are its relations to the original work of inspiration when shifts in the script, the esthetic treatment, the use of new technologies “modernize” the remake? And more specifically, can the typologies of the remake elaborated by Michael Druxman, Harvey Roy Greenberg or more recently Constantine Verevis be modified to include other, new types based on the use of technology in the remaking process? If, as Greenberg argues, the remake plays on a tension between the familiar and the new, “pre-selling” a narrative to the public, what is to be said about technological transformations of the original? Do they only serve the purpose of (pre-)selling or do these transformations have other functions? What is to be said about certain films which have been re-released “as is” except in 3D or with digitally-enhanced special effects? Are these remakes, or do these updated movies belong in the same category as colorized black-and-white films and “talkie” versions of silent-era productions, since they share the characteristic of altering the viewing experience of the original?
These questions become all the more pertinent in the era of digital technology which has removed any restraints on the fabrication of imaginary worlds and characters, as the film Avatar (Cameron, 2010) illustrates so clearly. Horror, fantasy and science fiction have long been stock genres in the production of remakes and serials for television, notably in the cinema’s “golden age” and up until the 1960s, period during which numerous versions of Dracula, Frankenstein and Nosferatu abound. Computer-simulated imagery has led to an increase in science fiction and fantasy remakes both for the silver screen and television. Is it possible to measure, beyond audience expectation and the economic stakes of special effects, the contribution of technology to aesthetic and ideological dimensions of the remake? Papers may also analyze the exact nature of the most recent version of the remake, the “reboot,” in which it is no longer an individual film being revisited but an entire franchise (Star Trek 2009, Spiderman 2012). This particular phenomenon appears to reveal the implementation of new strategies by studios looking to renew their most profitable franchises: even if the basic storyline remains unchanged, the plot may be radically different, the characters and their biographies presented in new ways, the aesthetics renovated significantly, and the “echoes” between the various versions more complex than in the traditional remake. When Tim Burton, in response to criticism in 2001, called his version of The Planet of the Apes a “re-imagining” of the original, he was underlining the new possibilities offered to film creators by digital technology not only to remake pre-existing material but also to reappropriate it and take it in new directions.
The conference conveners invite participants to explore these theoretical questions and the role of technology in the evolution of the remake, in particular in the last 30 years. Papers may deal with the following aspects (although this is not an exclusive list):
• The representation and the “staging” of technology in the remake itself (especially the aesthetic and ideological stakes of this representation)
• The derivatives of the remake: what is to be said about TV series and movies that share the title with an original but which are completely different in every other way? This includes the status of the “cross-over”, the series remade into a movie (Twin Peaks, Star Trek…) or the movie remade into a series (M*A*S*H…). To what extent can the cross-over be called a remake as opposed to an adaptation?
• TV series remakes: what are the theoretical, economic and aesthetic explanations for the recent reappearance of remade series like Battlestar Galactica, Bionic Woman, V, Knight Rider, Hawaii Five-O, Charlie’s Angels, and/or how can one explain the long absence of the phenomenon on television? What are the esthetic results and the thematic treatments of technology? Is the television remake fundamentally different from the film remake?
• The role of technology in the distribution of film and television productions: “echoes” like vidding, amateur remakes and spoofs posted on the Internet, as well as the role played by blogs and fanzines in the economic feasibility of producing remakes “by popular demand.”
Proposals of 350 words in French or in English and a bio-bibliography of 200 words should be sent conjointly to Claire.Maniez@u-grenoble3.fr and Donna.Andreolle@univ-lehavre.fr by February 15, 2013.
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