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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

THE LAKE HOUSE (Hollywood remake of the Korean film IL MARE)

Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock in The Lake House

A film that reunited Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock since 1995's awesome SPEED (a film that made me spend most of my childhood and high school years sporting a crew cut just because I wanted to be like Keanu, and then decided to allow my hair to grow longer after the Matrix came out, so I can STILL look like Keanu), and a remake of an okay Korean flick, Il Mare.

Sometimes, Asian film lovers (purists?) tend to annoy me with their hostility towards Hollywood remakes, their tendency to NOT accept the remakes for what they are and their desperation to compare it with the original often prevent them from viewing a film objectively. The Lake House happened to be such a film. Even during the announcement of its production, fans of the original were already spitting at it, condemning it for its very existence, declaring that it's impossible for this film to be as good as the original (... when the original isn't even such a good film to begin with, despite Jeon Ji Heon's presence).

Was The Ring really THAT bad? I felt that it worked as a WESTERN horror. The Grudge? Yeah, it's pretty mediocre, but Ju-on ain't a masterpiece either. What's the biggest irony? Ring 2, which was directed by the original Japanese director, ended up sucking big time. So unmemorable it was that I couldn't even review it after watching it last year.

Even the whole thing about Infernal Affairs being remade was the same. People showed Martin Scorsese so little respect that I was definitely sure that most of those haters had no idea whom this legendary director was. It's Scorsese! Not some random hack! In fact, I'm sure these are the same bunch of people who would declare Ekin Cheng's Young and Dangerous series, yes, even part SIX (that stupid one which has the Yakuza, the Taiwanese and Hong Kong triad speaking to one another in different languages and then understanding completely), from Infernal Affairs director Andrew Lau, to be better than such cinematic classics Raging Bull, Goodfellas and The Taxi Driver (if they were actually AWARE of the existences of these movies). They'll probably worship Ekin Cheng as an actor more than poor Robert De Niro.

I am scornful, because all these anti-Hollywood remakes sentiment made me sympathize with Hollywood more than the Asian films. After all, can anyone say that none of these Asian films were influenced by Hollywood at all? I believe that filmmaking is a symbiotic relationship, whether they are rip-offs, remakes, influences, inspirations or anything, they need each other to survive. Sure, I cringed when I heard about this Sassy Gal remake, but hey, at least it has the hottie Elisa Cuthbert.

Early reviews of The Departed are largely positive, with many people saying that it's even better than Infernal Affairs. Grittier, more violent, characters are more fleshed out (because of its longer running time), much unlike the slick MTV-like HK original (which I DO love, mind you, I can't even count the number of times I've rewatched the film), and seemingly Martin Scorsese's best film since Goodfellas and Casino (I wasn't a big fan of Gangs of New York, and I enjoyed and liked The Aviator, but wasn't really blown away). Probably will get some Oscar nominations next year.

I'm happy for the film. I WANT it to be good, so that the naysayers will swallow their words, and be blown away by the possibility that HOLLYWOOD REMAKES of ASIAN FILMS can still be good, if not better. But then, it's all a matter of whether they would stop being stubborn and accept this fact.

Now, I've digressed. Back to The Lake House. Prior to watching it, my lady friend, Yong Ling, had told me that it was better than the original Korean film. I was originally sceptical, since it wasn't something you usually hear from, well, another Asian viewer.

But she was right. The Lake House, in my opinion, IS better than Il Mare. A critic lambasted and condemned the film for its tacked-on Hollywood happy ending, but to me, that so-called tacked-on Hollywood happy ending is actually better than that ridiculous Korean 'everything that occurred in the film is UNDONE! HAHAHA' ending which diminished my opinion of Il Mare in its entirety.

Story of Il Mare is about this guy, an architect, moving into a house by the lake, receiving a letter from its previous tenant, a doctor, in the mailbox, only to find out not too long after that the 'previous' tenant is from two years in the future. He lived in 2004, she lived in 2006. She moved in after him. It's kinda like Frequency with Dennis Quaid and Jim Caviezel, where the cop managed to communicate with his long-dead father from the past via phone (and the concept was stolen for a Hong Kong drama).

Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock have chemistry, and it was apparent in this one particular scene where it was just a long take of them sitting together, engaged in a conversation, and then dancing at Paul McCartney's 'This Never Happened Before'. (a scene that wasn't from the Korean version). And hey, Keanu showed some acting chops too. His crying scene in this film was way better than that 'TRIIIIIIIIIIN, I CAN'T SEE YOU, TRRIIIIIIIN' Trinity death scene in Matrix Revolutions.

Now, this film isn't a masterpiece. In fact, I won't even recommend it to most people (except, well, hopeless romantics and Keanu or Bullock fans). It's very slow (I nearly dozed off at the first half hour), and there are many plots holes in the script (I attempt not to think about them too much). But if you really want me to compare this with the original (which means that I'm contradicting what I've always been doing by judging a film for what it is instead of comparing it to its source material), then I have to say that it's a deeper and more satisfying film than the original.

Even though it doesn't have Jeon Ji Heon.

The Lake House trailer

Someone's Lake House tribute

Mashup video of The Lake House and Harry Potter