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March 1995, Week 3


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 15 Mar 1995 19:55:43 CST
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----------------------------Original message----------------------------
having entered this discussion rather recently, i will keep this brief in
case i'm covering territory already discussed.  i just want to note my
apprehension concening the use of sub-titling as opposed to dubbing.  i
recently saw a very interesting paper presented on just this topic.  the
author, a graduate student at NYU, grew up in Germany and presented a
case not just in favor of dubbing, but in an argument similar to the one
presented here on the behalf of sub-titling, she urged better dubbing.
she said that in Germany as a child, she had always assumed that the
german voices she heard when John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart spoke were
their real voices and she was actually disappointed to eventually hear
their "actual" voices.  the actors in her country work hard and are
serious and profressional about their job of translating a Hollywood film
into the German language.  the actors that are the voices of one big-name
actor are that actor's voice in other films as well.  getting of the
occasional discontinuity between lip movement and words spoken is much
simpler a task than trying to take in mise-en-scene, action, inflection,
etc while reading small yellow or white print on the bottom of a screen.
it was indicated in this thread that one goal of foreign films should be
to increase their popularity in the US.  to that end, i find it difficult
to believe that sub-titling could ever hold the appeal of dubbing unless
by popularity you are going for the sweater-vest and tweed crowd.
serious, consistent and professional dubbing, while it may to an extent
"Americanize" the film, is really the only realistic way that large
audiences are going to embrace "foreign language" films.  look at the
relative success British, Australian and even New Zealand films enjoy
here as opposed to German, French, Italian, etc.  A British film is no
more/no less foreign than a French film, it is simply in a less-foreign
i hope this argument is not construed as an elitist snubbing of what
general audiences are capable of, but rather as an observation of what
movie-goers seem to desire when spending their $8 on an evening out.  if
foreign films are to seek a truly wider audience, they should not be
sold, as has been contended in this thread, on their novelty as foreign
creations but on their internal appeal as entertaining and interesting
films.  for this to work, they must also be as fully accessible to the
audience as they are in any other country.
i don't mean to cover old ground, but i was concerned by the suggestion
that some type of consensus favoring sub-titling had been reached.
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