By K.C. Conner

Arizona Summer Wildcat

eople just can't leave well enough alone.

Evidence of this truism is Hollywood's tendency to remake perfectly good French films, even those deemed "classics." It is a well-publicized assumption among the heavy hitters in L.A. that the American public is too lazy or ignorant to tolerate hearing a foreign language in their theaters, much less reading subtitles while enjoying a show.

Now, by remaking successful French films, the powers that be in the film world are creating a generation of moviegoers uncomfortable with and un-open to import films, and as a result, foreign cultures as well.

Most recently, the stylish French spy thriller "La Femme Nikita," about a young punk turned government assassin starring Anne Parillaud, became "Point of No Return," starring a too-sweet and fresh-faced Bridget Fonda. The result was nearly a frame-by-frame ripoff without the sophistication of the original. "Nikita" was one step forward for female action films. "No Return" was one giant step back.

The classic 1959 John-Luc Godard new-wave film "Breathless," starring Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg, became "Breathless" in the '80s starring Richard Gere and Valerie Kaprinsky, but lost too much in the translation.

The original film is the story of an American girl in Paris who falls for a street hood on the run. In the American version, Kaprinsky, a French woman, is in L.A. and Gere is the hood.

Whereas the original "Breathless" was an honest, shocking and nihilistic social commentary, with Gere in the lead, the '80s "Breathless" left most of its shock value for the sex scenes.

What is it with Richard Gere and this genre? Few people know that "Sommersby," starring Richard Gere and Jodie Foster, the story of a Civil War veteran who comes back from the war so unlike his old self that the locals begin to wonder about the man's true identity, is actually a loose remake of "The Return of Martin Guerre," starring Gerard Depardieu and Natalie Baye.

Yet "Sommersby," by changing the time period of the story ("Martin Guerre" was set in the 16th century), created a certain originality about itself that other films in this copy-cat category lack.

The French also make lovable family-oriented films. Two fine examples are "Three Men and a Cradle" and "Cousin, Cousine," which became the less appealing "Three Men and a Baby," starring Ted Danson, and "Cousins," starring, well, Ted Danson and Isabella Rosellini.

The real losers are not the French, who have held many conference discussing how to break into the U.S. market again. The public is the loser, missing out on the talent of another culture.

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