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Why on Earth is Lee Daniels Remaking Fellini's 'Nights of Cabiria'?

by
December 7, 2010
Source: Deadline

Daniels / Cabiria

While a recent article at Deadline has confirmed that The Butler, starring Denzel Washington as real-life White House butler Eugene Allen, will be the next film from Precious director Lee Daniels, some much more disturbing news of his future slate is mentioned ever so briefly. Daniels just recently switched his talent agency from Creative Artists Agency to William Morris Endeavor, but before he left, the lovely folks at WME had closed a deal for the filmmaker to remake Federico Fellini's Nights of Cabiria, the 1957 film which won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. Do you hear that? That's the sound of Lee Daniels losing every ounce of my respect.

So Daniels gets a Best Director nomination aside from the fact that his work on Precious was dull, and uninspiring, unlike the story that actually drove the film to the Oscars, and now he thinks he can remake a Best Foreign Film winner from one of the most iconic Italian filmmakers in cinema's history? I'm sorry, Mr. Daniels, but you are no Federico Fellini, and Precious (which was only your second film) is far from being a masterpiece. Daniels has no subtlety, unique visual style or one ounce of abstract story telling in his bones (from what we've seen so far) and that makes him the least qualified director to remake a film like this (which shouldn't be remade in the first place).

As for Nights of Cabiria itself, it's one of Fellini's finest works and if you haven't had the pleasure of seeing it, then you're missing out completely. The film features Fellini's wife Giulietta Masina as a wide-eyed, naive prostitute walking the streets of Rome as she looks for true love, but consistently finds heartbreak. Chock full of silly humor contrasted with stark tragedy, the film is a must-see for any film connoisseur or student of cinema. And now it's in the hands of Lee Daniels. The Playlist (who noticed the news bit in the otherwise boring report) seems to have a slight glimmer of hope in their mention that for Bob Fosseā€˜s classic musical Sweet Charity was based on Nights of Cabiria and that "still worked out." However, I really don't care to see Daniels version of the story, which will most likely be tailored to his core audience. Anyone else mad about this?

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  • Leave Fellini alone...and Precious was just a sick movie. In a bad way.
  • mehran
    Agreed.
  • I don't think you could even attempt to recreate this movie, especially that ending with Giulietta Masina looking straight into the camera - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w0Vsa-ognSM
  • JimVB
    We look forward to Tyler Perry's remake of L'Avventura.
  • nelson
    ahh a bashing post pathetic
  • David
    Nights Of Cabiria is one of my favorite films from one of my favorite directors. I saw Precious and was not very impressed with the direction. I found it uneven and often hammy but occasionally pretty good. I have never seen Sweet Charity, so the fact that that film was made does not detract from my enjoyment of Fellini's Le Notti di Cabiria in any way. As long as Daniels does not call his film "Nights Of Cabiria" (which I doubt that he will), I think the legacy of the great Fellini classic is secure.
  • @ #5, nelson If you have something to say on the other side of the argument, by all means, please defend Lee Daniels, or even just the idea of a Nights of Cabiria remake. Otherwise your comment is insignificant and unnecessary.
  • LINKFX
    Nights of Cabiria is a truly wonderful film. DEFINITELY A FILM THAT NEVER GETS TO BE REMADE. IT IS PERFECT ON IT'S OWN and ANY ATTEMPT TO "RE-MAKE or RE-IMAGINE IT" for some stupid urban audience will only sully Fellini and what Fellini has done for cinema.
  • Andy
    Jeez. I thought Precious was an incredible movie and Lee Daniels did an incredible job, but remaking a movie like Nights of Cabiria? That's not for him nor for anyone. I could see a story inspired by it but a flat-out remake? Not fond of the idea. I'd like for Daniels to go ahead and make Selma. That sounded like it would be a good choice for this next film.
  • jah p
    WOW! Talk about throwing a director under the bus!!lol! Look Daniels is a talented filmmaker, most of them are, we shouldn't talk down on him because some studio gave him this project! It's not like he went out of his way to look to remake this film. People didn't want Matt Reeves to direct the remake to LTROI, but he nailed it out of the park! So we'll just have to wait and see how it goes, but we shouldn't bash the guy for his previous work.
  • Shane
    Can't wait to see his pandering, snap-zoom-filled take on a masterpiece.
  • Max
    Nights of Cabiria has already been remade, into a musical, called Sweet Charity which was also made into a movie, directed by the great Bob Fosse. I think that's more of a travesty than judging a whole project based on one line you read in Deadline. Lee Daniels is a great, great director and his work on Precious is fantastic. You may think a lot of what he did was over-the-top, but if you've read the book, he was less over-the-top than that and the subtleties that he able to bring out of his actors was unrivaled last year. It seems that the new trend of remaking "good" films is to put them in the hands of capable directors (Reeves, Fincher) and letting them reinterpret in their own way. I'm not saying it's a great idea, but how about you let more than one line you read in an article create your whole fucking opinion. You are a journalist remember?
  • Dave
    "Nights of Cabiria" ain't no "La Strada", or even a "Juliet of the Spirits" for that matter. The ending is the best thing about it, otherwise it's a mixed bag. Why not remake it? Remakes of older foreign films produce varied, yet generally amusing results. (e.g. "Chloe in the Afternoon" into "I Think I Love My Wife") I'll check this out.
  • Cracky
    I get it, Ethan: Classics shouldn't be touched. But is there a way to give "movie news and updates" without totally lynching Lee Daniels? This was borderline angryblog-ish, man.
  • LINKFX
    @ Cracky, wow....nice lynching comment, you went there...kind of inappropriately extreme and insensitive wouldn't you say? I mean I don't think Ethan was suggesting we all dress up in our Klux Whites and go burn a cross in front of his house, too....
  • @ #12, Max, As you can see I reference Sweet Charity and the glimmer of hope that a remake of Nights of Cabiria might provide. I'm not going to completely disregard the project (I'll pretty much watch anything), but it is my opinion that Lee Daniels is not a "great, great director." My problem with Precious doesn't just stem from it being over-the-top. It stems from his lack of creative vision, and telling the story in a really generic fashion. I give the man credit for getting such great performances out of Gabourey Sidibe, Mariah Carey, Paula Patton and Mo'nique, but I don't think that qualifies him to remake an Italian classic from one of my favorite filmmakers. It's not just one line in a story that has shaped my opinion, but a film for which Daniels has received unworthy praise. It's not a fact, but just my opinion. We all have them, and I appreciate yours just the same. Thanks, Max.
  • Cracky
    Fucking lol'd. Take it how you want LINKFX. The internet is a wonderful place.
  • JimVB
    Somebody actually read Push, by Sapphire, and admit to it?
  • Al
    I'm against remakes in general, but Fellini? No. Leave Italian cinema alone.
  • Max
    Casting Lenny Kravitz, Mariah Carey, Mo'nique, and a no-name first-time actress was one of the riskiest decisions made in recent memory and I guarantee you he worked on a daily basis to bring those performances out of the mostly non-actors (or at least, non-dramatic actors.) Also, I think it's pretty offensive saying that it "will most likely be tailored to his core audience." That's like implying because he made one film about the struggle of one black girls life, he's unable to make a film that appeals to a broader audience (though I think the themes in Precious can resonate with just about anyone.) He has made Shadowboxer, which doesn't cater to the same audience as Precious, and he produced Monster's Ball, which is the same case. Directors are capable of creating different works that exist for different people. Also, I think Shadowboxer, while not the best movie, shows that he is a director with a solid visual style. I still think Precious has a great visual style, whether in flashbacks or other, but I think it also tries to focus more on characters, because it is a very character-driven piece.
  • KR
    I'm with Max on this one, "will most likely be tailored to his core audience," does seem borderline racist and narrowminded and pretty presumptuous that he has a specific audience considering his two films. And if you didn't mean "black audience" is sure does lean that way. In contrast I would say that Precious takes to more realism rather than creativity. Not every movie, story, etc has to have a some sort of elaborate go round, the story itself can be enough. Daniels seems to have captured the subtleies of the black and urban areas well. And it is very character driven...
  • Voice of Reason
    The FSN cast HATES to be hated. Ha! No, but, seriously, bad form in writing here....TOO scathing. Whatever.... Ethan, I will agree that this seems RIDICULOUS, but who are YOU? Lets say you (somehow) write for Variety, or likewise, and people associate you for some piddly movie blog to discredit your move to a more notable rag?....Wont you want them to give you a chance? Some bigwig on this site once told me that the story is worth judging for itself in person more than speculation outside and that cant be done until you see the movie. Damned if people didnt scoff at Baz's modern R&J take....Lesson: there will ALWAYS be haters. Dont join them just to encite them....embrace the unpredictability of uneleased cinema and let us terrible commentators throw people under the bus instead.
  • @ Max I haven't seen Shadowboxer so I can't comment as to its relevance to this proposed remake, however, your assessment of Daniels work on it makes me want to check it out. Actually, I think the story of Precious shares certain similarities with the potential remake. There's the struggle for love, acceptance and even more similarities. As far as my comment on Daniels' core audience, it shouldn't be considered racist. I've heard from industry insiders that he's trying extremely hard to be as successful with Tyler Perry and yes, his core audience is African Americans. This isn't a racist thing, it's simply trends in populations. I don't find information like this to be stereotypical if it's true And frankly, when I had an African American usher do a double take at my ticket when I went to see Precious last year and follow up by asking, almost incredulously, if my friend and I were really going to see that movie, that tells me that there's a certain population that's more receptive and likely to see the film. That doesn't mean he'll always make that type of film or that he's limited to making those kinds of stories, but I can easily see how it could be tailored for that specific audience. I'll admit that my words are a bit harsh in the criticism of Lee Daniels, but I simply didn't find his work on Precious to be as praiseworthy as others. Once again, this is just an opinion. I would love for Daniels to prove me wrong and knock this remake out of the park, but seeing what he's accomplished so far, and seeing what stories he's looking to tell with Selma and The Butler, he simply doesn't seem like the right guy to remake Nights of Cabiria, a story that is tragic like Precious, but has a lot more subtlety and abstract storytelling. Also, Max, I genuinely appreciate you debating this topic in a mostly respectful fashion. All I ask is for decent film discussion, even if its heated. I'm not saying I'm right or you're wrong. This is what a passion for discussing film is all about. Thanks, again.
  • Max
    Let's just agree to disagree. I respect your opinion, I just hope that we can look at movies, especially ones by directors who embody the better things about filmmaking, with a more open mind. Good remakes, when put in the hands of capable directors, do exist. I'll just name Ocean's 11, The Fly, The Thing, The Departed, True Lies, 3:10 to Yuma as a few. Also, the funny thing about Precious, it was hated by a lot of the black community and loved by the white community. Blacks thinking it just showed racial stereotypes onscreen compared it to the likes of Birth of a Nation and the white's latched onto it, claiming there were "Preciouses all around us." Some fulfillment of white guilt. It was a dividing film that had fans and critics of all races. It fared well in the Oscars, where every governor of AMPAS is white and the voting body possesses the diversity of Alabama 40 years ago. So I think any niche audience claimed for Precious is assumed at best. Just food for thought.
  • Fair enough. Valid points all around, sir. I wholeheartedly agree that remakes in the right hands can and have turned out rather well. Here's hoping Lee Daniels proves me wrong if only for the sake of quality cinema continuing in the near future. Thanks for the heated, but truly satisfying, discussion on the matter. Looking forward to more down the road.
  • Max
    You're a gentleman and a scholar. P.S. Hope that twitter post about internet douchebags wasn't about me.
  • DiR3cT
    SON OF A BITCH, then again I think I would say that to anyone who was going to remake it. What a scumbag....
  • @ Max, You may be surprised, but it actually wasn't. That was reserved for some special commenters over at the rumor about George Lucas resurrecting dead actors. I found your comments to be exactly what I like to see in these threads and did not file them under douchebaggery.
  • Anonymous
    "So Daniels gets a Best Director nomination aside from the fact that his work on Precious was dull" So like 80% of Oscar nominees?
  • PJ
    By definition a classic is something that can never again be achieved. Le Notti Di Cabiria is a classic. Any attempt at a remake is just crass narcissism.

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