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Let me second Jesse Kalin's remark that the strange effect of switching
one's attention from perceiving to reading, which subtitles requires,
deserves more attention that it has been given, and is indeed, in my
experience and judgment, the sole and perhaps decisive argument in favour
of dubbing.  It is unfortunate that most North Americans have no awareness
of how well and effectively dubbing can be done, though most Europeans who
lived through the last era of cross-country exchanges of good films
(1955-1970) will not forget it, especially when confronted with the
computerized garbage rushed into place nowadays.  The impact of
Tarkovsky's long takes when well-dubbed, for example, compared to the
constant interruption of them required when reading subtitles, has
perhaps to be experienced to be believed.
 
It is equally unfortunate that no one has bothered to study the most
notable other effect of reading subtitles.  I well recall how intellectual
the babblings of the drunken guests at Fellini's party in EIGHT-AND-A-HALF
seemed to those of us compelled to read the lines via subtitles when it
appeared (is read like an existentialist tract); and how astonished we
were to learn that our Italian counterparts considered ASPHALT JUNGLE to
be equally intellectual when its dialogue was filtered through the act of
reading, compared to the debased level of communication they found in
their own indigenous productions (their masterpieces, by our 'reading').
 
 
Evan William Cameron                            Telephone: 416-736-5149
York University - CFT 216 (Film)                Fax:       416-736-5710
4700 Keele Street                               E-mail:    [log in to unmask]
North York, Ontario
Canada  M3J 1P3
On Thu, 5 Dec 1996, Jesse Kalin wrote:
 
> I find this response by students as strange and puzzeling as Don.  I have
> never encountered it, even in "first" film courses, though I can quite
> imagine that students come to "block out" the (language) sound through
> their focus on reading.  (This actually is an argument for dubbing, though
> that's another issue.)  I have used Japanese films extensively, especially
> Ozu and "Tokyo Story", and a wide range of films other than Kurosawa.  I
> have always encouraged them to listen to the Japanese and begin to connect
> it (inflection, tone, etc.) with facial expression, bodily comportment, and
> the information given in subtitles.  (They have also been encouraged to see
> the films twice, though most don't, except in response to a specific
> assignment or for a term paper.)
>
> But film is also a strange beast, living as much in our imaginations (and
> constructed memories, ie., as retold stories--modified, amplified,
> embellished, etc.
>
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