Viewing cross-cultural differences through the lens of cinema.
During the past decade or more the American remake has increasingly characterized Hollywood's relationship with the French cinema, as films ranging from classics like A Bout de Souffle (Breathless) to contemporary comedies like Trois Hommes et un Couffin (Three Men and a Baby) and La Cage aux Folles (Birdcage) are adapted for US screens.
In this comparative, interdisciplinary study Carolyn Durham shows how the remake phenomenon reveals striking differences not just in film theory but also epitomizes larger issues of competition, political and economic tensions, and social, gender, and aesthetic constructs. Durham establishes the metaphor of Euro Disney, which American investors envisioned as the quintessential transcultural entertainment but many French denounced as "a cultural Chernobyl," and then applies it to a close analysis of the films, showing how significant changes between original and remake further our understanding of national identity in both countries. France's belief in its own cultural superiority, she writes, leads to a perceived duty to "disseminate French culture worldwide in the guise of civilisation itself," an attitude that clashes with Hollywood's filmmaking hegemony and its "openness to new ideas, including the foreign." While the central concern is the meaning of cross-cultural differences, this engaging and incisive book also outlines an ongoing battle between a nation convinced of its aesthetic and cultural patrimony and an American industry driven by its own sense of global destiny.
CAROLYN DURHAM is Inez K. Gaylord Professor of French at the College of Wooster in Ohio and author of The Contexture of Feminism: Marie Cardinal and Multicultural Literacy (1991).