Reel Cool #4: Film Premakes (How To)

I recently came across a YouTube meme of posting “Premakes” or in plain English, scenes from old movies (the older and more obscure the better) re-cut and re-titled and passed-off as more recent modern classics. It’s a similar concept to the sweded films made popular by Jack Black’s “Be Kind Rewind”. Check out five of the best premakes I found, including one (the first one) that shows you frame by frame exactly how the author has put it together, including the titles of the very old (forgotten) movies he sourced clips from.

This meme resembles an offline trend here in Shanghai and something the Shanghainese are very good at –making new things that look old. One of the “must do’s” when visiting Shanghai is the Dongtai Lu Antique Markets. Here, you’ll find ‘premakes’ of your favourite classic wind-up watches, propaganda posters, mahjong sets and just about anything else you might expect to find in the estate of someone who lived through the cultural revolution. But it’s not all tea and skittles.

Where do you draw the line at manufactured nostalgia? An old apartment block in the French Concession that I frequently pass was recently knocked down (not un-common in the name of “progress” in Shanghai). But what struck me as odd was that, not only did the new building erected in its place look remarkably similar, but the developers had painted the year 1939 on the outside of the building. Is it OK to “renovate” it call it 1939?

I suppose, like the videos below, the difference between fraud and an acceptable level of imitation comes down to two factors:

a) Reason – Do you reasonably expect there to be an endless supply of authentic, yellowed propaganda posters for sale for 10RMB (about $2)? Is it reasonable for viewers of the film ‘premakes’ below to believe that an original version of Forrest Gump was in fact made in 1949? Granted, the line starts to blur a little, which brings me to the second factor.

b) Skill – most of the videos below are produced by one very talented YouTube user called whoiseyevan. Even if the line between ‘real’ and ‘fake’ seems a little blurred, the work/skill in reproducing that propaganda poster well enough to make me look twice, gives it value.

In the same sense, the insanely deep knowledge of vintage cinema titles and skills required to put these videos together gives them value outside of both the (old) films used in the premakes and the modern classic titles they pay tribute to.

1. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1951)

2. Forrest Gump (1949)

3. The Empire Strikes Back (1950)

4. Ghost Busters (1954)

5. Gone With The Wind with Vampires (1939)