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December 1996, Week 3


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Michael Friend <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 16 Dec 1996 17:59:17 -0800
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
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With respect to dubbing in Italian film, it should be noted that virtually all
voices in Italian film (including those destined for exclusively Italian
audiences) until very recently were post-recorded and dubbed (into Italian as
well as other languages where necessary) rather than recorded directly.  Italian
law mandated that foreign film releases in Italy had to have Italian
involvement, which was specifically implemented to create a "dubbing industry."
Many "voice actors" became well-known for their work and were strongly
identified with the characters they "voiced" (i.e., the guys who were the voices
of "Stanlio" and "Olio" in the Laurel and Hardy sound films (and dubbed silents
also, when those films were rereleased in the sound era).  We may find their
voices disturbingly different from those English voices that we know, but they
are an important part of Italian popular memory.
Fellini was hardly the only one to "play" with the phenomenon of post-dubbing.
Godard's Le Mepris certainly foregrounds the issues of originality and
translation, and creates an ambient that is often impossible to fully translate
by either dubbing or subtitling.  European film-making, especially in the post
WWII era of co-productions, has had to contend with the reality of films that
would be released in several participating countries, each with a different
language.  International co-productions often have to accept post-dubbing as the
economic and political result of the financing process.  But on a simpler level,
even in a typical "spaghetti" western (with a cast that might include several
Italians, a Swede, an American, a German and any number of Spanish actors) there
is little possibility of making an Italian language version wherein each actor
speaks Italian fluently (without accent, or in specific dialects) without
dialogue replacement.  And since the dialogue will have to be replaced in every
language in which the film will be shown (dubbing being the most accepted form
of translation among popular audiences internationally), there isn't much point
in worrying about what any actor was saying in any language (including Italian)
on the set.  Thus, the famous "counting" which has been previously cited in
these exchanges, and other colorful apocryphal tales about what actors and
actresses may have said to one another during the takes of the film.
This lack of a single "original" soundtrack (as opposed to a variety of equally
valid tracks) clearly presents technical and aesthetic problems for film
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