In a key scene in Aldous Huxley’s novel “Brave New World,” the Director – manager of the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre (for humans) -- is revealed, before a roomful of people, to be the father of the story’s hero, John the Savage. The word alone is enough to reduce the crowd of people to tears:
“’Father’ was not so much obscene as … merely gross, a scatological rather than a pornographic impropriety; the comically smutty word relieved what had become a quite intolerable tension. Laughter broke out, enormous, almost hysterical, peal after peal, as though it would never stop…”
Clearly, the folk behind the Quebecois comedy “Starbuck” are hoping for a similar reaction when their film opens here Friday. It’s hero –ne’er-do-well Montreal meat delivery man David Wozniak (Patrick Huard) -- learns to his dismay that the 648 sperm bank donations he made in the ‘80s – at $35 a shall we say pop -- have matured into 533 adults. A number of his progeny, 142 to be exact, want to meet him, are challenging the confidentiality laws that have kept David anonymous all the intervening years, and he’s also, incidentally, $80,000 in debt to gangsters. Oh yes, and his unhappy girlfriend Valerie (Julie LeBreton) is pregnant. Make that 534.
That science would eventually be rendering men obsolete is something Huxley saw coming; that fatherhood would be rendered slightly hysterical is something he apparently sensed as well. In fact, the extreme patrimony of Huard’s David Wozniak has been declared found funny enough that “Starbuck’s” Canadian director, Ken Scott, is now adapting his French production into English for DreamWorks, as “The Delivery Man” (a much better title; Starbuck was a famously potent bull who sired much livestock for our friends in the great white north, back in the ‘80s). The meat man in question will be played by Vince Vaughn, and the film should be ready this year.
Not a lot of foreign-language directors have gotten the chance to remake their movies in English for American audiences. (Although he remade his movies from English into American, Alfred Hitchcock doesn’t count.) But it’s more than you might think. Here are a few, notable for being relatively recent:
- Michael Haneke remade “Funny Games” (1997) as “Funny Games” (2007)
- Robert Rodriguez remade “El Mariachi” (1992) into the semi-sequel “Desperado” (1995)
- Takashi Shimizu remade “Ju-On” (2002) as “The Grudge” (2004)
- Francis Veber remade “Les Fugitives” (1986) as “Three Fugitives” (1989)
- George Sluizer remade “Spoorloos” (1988) as “The Vanishing” (1993)
- Ole Bornedal remade “Nattevagten” (1994) as “Nightwatch” (1997)
- Hideo Nakata remade “Ringu 2” (1999) as “The Ring Two” (2005)
Speaking of remakes, it’s worth noting that the story behind the 2011 Canadian “Starbuck”– one story, at any rate – was the basis for the 2010 American documentary, “Donor Unknown.” It told of world-class spermanator Jeffrey Harrison, who is tracked down years later by a number of his donor kids, who have all had ideas of who and what their father was, and get a slightly rude awakening. It’s no comedy. But then again, Harrison didn’t father 533 children. Make that 534.