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on audiovisual translation, subtitling, and the French & American film industries

Five minutes with Noah Harlan of 2.1 Films

I first met Noah, co-founder and producer of 2.1 Films, over a year ago at an orientation for IFP/NY members participating in the Cannes Film Festival and Market.  I’m delighted he sat down with me to talk shop, and was very happy to learn he is such a conscientous filmmaker regarding audiovisual translation.  He also has some terrific things to say about script translation, and the future of distribution (as the New York Times recently mentioned as well).

One thing he mentioned that didn’t make the final cut:  Truffaut’s 400 Blows, and the translation of the title.  Noah considers it a mistranslation into English, but I’m not so sure, especially in context of its time.  Doubtlessly a UK translator did it, but it probably resonated with Americans of that time, and Britishisms aside, I think tampering with a classic is a tall order at the very least.

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Filed under: audiovisual translation, subtitling, US film industry, , , , ,

3 Responses

  1. Noah Harlan says:

    Alexander – my comment about The 400 Blows is discussed in a number of places, including wikipedia, which says the following about the title:

    “The English title is a straight translation of the French, but misses its meaning, as the French title refers to the expression “faire les quatre cents coups”, which means “to raise hell”. On the first American prints, subtitler and dubber Noelle Gilmore gave the film the title Wild Oats, but the distributor did not like that title, and reverted it to The 400 Blows, which led some to think the film covered the topic of corporal punishment.”

  2. Noah Harlan says:

    and ps: my blog (linked above) is http://www.the401stblow.com/

    🙂

  3. Thanks very Noah for the clarification. I see I missed a notation in the French wiki about the film.

    And while I’m confessing, I must admit in my “posting” haste, I attempted a retranslation, without enough research. Thanks to your comment, I’ve mercifully spared myself, and Truffaut, further embarassment.

    “Wild Oats”, while somewhat accurate, and fairly dusty in its own right, being a recently rediscovered Restoration play, is pretty far from “Hellraiser” (alas at this point already taken). “Troublemaker” sounds like a D-grade ripoff, so . . .

    I’m quite happy, however, to focus on this point so thoroughly, as titles in translation is a very interesting topic, definitely a future post. Stay tuned . . .

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