Storyteller to the World

One final take on the Oscars before I dive into some grading. Kenneth Turan had what I regard as one of the oddest reactions to the best picture and director wins for The Departed. Noting that the film is an adaptation of the Hong Kong film, Infernal Affairs, Turan remarks that “It is not the happiest state of affairs that Hollywood, once the storyteller to the world, has to go to another culture to get its best ideas.” Although he adds that he welcomes Hollywood’s assimilation of the stories of other cultures, his remark ignores the fact that Hollywood has always turned to other cultures for some of its best stories.

In fact, the very first best picture win went to Sunrise, directed by German F.W. Murnau. Two years later the winner was All Quiet on the Western Front, based on a novel by German solider, Erich Maria Remarque. 1932 nominee, Shanghai Express featured German-born Marlene Dietrich and Josef von Sternberg in prominent creative roles. 1934 nominee, Viva Villa! focused on the story of Pancho Villa. The 1937 winner, The Life of Emile Zola, is a biopic about a French novelist. The 1957 winner, The Bridge on the River Kwai, was based on a French novel. I mention these examples not because Turan’s comments are resistant to the contributions of other cultures but to point out that the idea of Hollywood as “storyteller to the world” makes sense only because so many Hollywood filmmakers have long built upon, borrowed, or reworked stories from the rest of the world. Thanks to GreenCine for the link.

Update: Corrected to fix the name of Murnau’s film. I should have had one more cup of coffee before writing this entry.


  1. Chris Said,

    February 26, 2007 @ 12:39 pm

    I think you mean Sunrise, not Sunshine, for the Murnau film, though that’s a lovely mental image.

  2. Chuck Said,

    February 26, 2007 @ 12:42 pm

    Oops. Yeah, I’ll fix that.

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