Oscar Wilde was one of the great wits of his age, but he was allegedlynot averse to appropriating other people's bons mots. It is said thatafter his friend and rival James Whistler had made a particularlyapposite remark, Wilde sighed and said "I wish I had said that!".Whistler's reply was "You will, Oscar, you will". The American filmindustry has a similar attitude to other people's films to the one thatWilde had to other people's conversation. When the European-particularly the British or French- film industry comes up with aparticularly admired film, Hollywood gives a collective sigh and says"We wish we had made that!" You will, Hollywood, you will!<br><br>Recent years have seen a glut of remakes of European films, but,admittedly, the results of this creative plagiarism are by no meansalways bad. The plot of "Sommersby" may have been blatantly lifted from"Le Retour de Martin Guerre", but it is still a good film in its ownright. Moreover, I was one of those who thought that Luc Besson's"Nikita" did not lose much in translation when it was remade as theBridget Fonda vehicle "The Assassin". Sometimes, however, Hollywoodmanages to come up with a remake that is so inferior to its originalmodel that the two films do not deserve to be mentioned in the samebreath. "Diabolique" is a case in point.<br><br>Henri-Georges Clouzot's "Les Diaboliques" was one of the classicthrillers of the fifties, as good as the best of Hitchcock's work.Jeremiah Chechik's remake borrows the same basic plot of the original,but transfers it from 1950s France to 1990s America. At the centre isthe sadistic headmaster of a private school, a man who brutallymistreats not only the boys in his care but also his wife and even hisbeautiful mistress. The wife and mistress,tired of his mistreatment,plot together to murder him and to dispose of his body in the filthyschool swimming pool, but when the pool is later drained the body hasdisappeared. As in the original, there is a sudden, surprise twist atthe end. Chechik also, however,introduces elements that were not inClouzot's film. The wife, Mia, here becomes a former nun, who hasrenounced her vows after losing her faith, but is still haunted byguilt. There is a suggestion of a lesbian relationship between Mia andthe mistress, Nicole. Chechik also introduces a major character, in theform of a female detective, with no equivalent in the original film.<br><br>"Diabolique" has come in for some sharp criticism, largely because itis a remake of a classic. It is a mediocre film rather than ahorrendously bad one, and if we did not have its famous predecessor tocompare it with, it would doubtless be seen as just another banal andunsuccessful crime thriller. Nevertheless, I think that the criticismit has attracted is justified. Chechik must have known that one of theperils of remaking a film is that your work will be weighed in thebalance against the original, and woe betide you if it is foundwanting. And, compared with Clouzot's, Chechik's film is wantingindeed. He lacks the French director's sense of pacing and ability toconvey suspense, with the result that his film is slow-moving where theoriginal was brisk and flabby where the original was taut.<br><br>I was also disappointed by the acting. Isabelle Adjani can be a fineactress in her own language, as she showed in "La Reine Margot", but Ihave not been impressed with her in English-language films, and hereher character never came to life. Sharon Stone was slightly better asthe hard-bitten, sluttish Nicole, but this was not really one of herbetter performances and did nothing to alter my view that she has notalways chosen the best vehicles in which to show off her talents. ChazzPalminteri's headmaster was almost too unpleasant to be believable, andKathy Bates seemed wasted as the detective. Watching Clouzot's film Iwas glued to the screen with anticipation as I wondered how the filmwould end; watching Chechik's, my attention was rather glued to mywatch as I wondered when it would end. 4/10
Drama / Horror
Drama / Horror
The wife and mistress of a cruel school master collaborate in a carefully planned and executed attempt to murder him. The plan goes well until the body, which has been strategically dumped, disappears. The strain starts to tell on the two women as a retired police investigator who is looking into the disappearance on a whim begins to think that they know more than they are telling, and their mental state is not helped when their victim is seen, apparently alive and well by one of the pupils.
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