Déjà vu all over again An Amer­i­can­ised still jolts, but that’s about it, writes

FUNNY GAMES Di­rected by Michael Haneke. Star­ring Naomi Watts, Tim Roth, Michael Pitt, Brady Cor­bet, Boyd Gaines, Siob­han Fal­lon Funny Games Don­ald Clarke

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Filmreviews -

re­lease, 107 min A DECADE ago Gus Van Sant di­rected a very odd re­make of Psy­cho. While num­ber­ing the film’s abun­dant flaws, some crit­ics sug­gested that Gus had, per­haps, de­vi­ated too lit­tle from Hitch­cock’s orig­i­nal. But surely the op­po­site was the case. How in­ter­est­ing it would be to see a film-maker re­ally

16 cert, lim at­tempt a shot-by-shot re­make of a suc­cess­ful pic­ture. What would be lost? Could any­thing be gained?

Michael Haneke’s ab­surdly faith­ful re­make of his own Funny Games (1997) of­fers some med­i­ta­tions on those ques­tions. The ac­tion has moved from Aus­tria to the US, but the story re­mains the same.

A bour­geois cou­ple, played by Tim Roth and Naomi Watts, make their way to a lake­side lodge for a re­lax­ing week­end of boat­ing with their son. Be­fore they have time to settle in, two ar­ro­gant mid­dle- class youths ma­noeu­vre their way into the kitchen and take the fam­ily hostage. Stop­ping oc­ca­sion­ally to de­liver sly asides to the au­di­ence, the youths act out a drama that has things to say about at­ti­tudes to ca­sual vi­o­lence in pop­u­lar cul­ture.

Though Haneke does drop in some (de­lib­er­ately?) in­ap­pro­pri­ate fe­male nu­dity, the pic­ture is as close to a shot-by-shot re­make of the orig­i­nal as any even par­tially sane di­rec­tor could man­age. And, sure enough, it proves in­ter­est­ing to con­sider how chang­ing the decade and the lo­ca­tion al­ters the em­pha­sis.

Cer­tain cul­tural and tech­no­log­i­cal ref­er­ences have be­come dread­fully out­moded: the kids al­lude to Beavis and Butthead; when time goes back­wards it does so in the man­ner of a rewind­ing VHS ma­chine. More in­trigu­ingly, trans­lat­ing the ac­tion to a posh sec­tion of the United States al­lows the kid­nap­pers (played in Per­sil white by Brady Cor­bet and Michael Pitt) to take on the qual­ity of a lat­ter-day Leopold and Lowe.

No longer aping Amer­i­can pop cul­ture, but, rather, in­gest­ing it at source, the new in­vaders seem less fool­ish and, dis­con­cert­ingly, some­what more glam­orous than their Euro­pean pre­de­ces­sors.

Funny Games’ prob­lem – and this has not changed – is that it works too well as a thriller for its fin­ger-wag­ging de­nun­ci­a­tions of cin­e­matic vi­o­lence to be taken se­ri­ously. The new film is dated, di­dac­tic and hec­tor­ing, but it is also re­volt­ingly grip­ping. In­deed, Beavis and Butthead might very well find it to­tally, like, cool and stuff. Heh, heh, heh.

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