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

The Year of the Avatar: translation and American film, 2009

This past year, American film discovered the world.  After Slumdog which was utterly bilingual and foreign, but made with USA/UK financing, American filmgoers were swept away by Taken, which seemed utterly American in its take-no-prisoners brevity, yet was 100% French from start to finish (see my interview with Unifrance’s John Kochman earlier this year), and managed to make it into the top 20 box office films of 2009.  (Something that Slumdog, even after umpteen Oscars and a delayed wide release last year, could not do.)

International film production, as not just a soup with different ingredients, but a real mix that can serve varying continental palates, finally, in the US anyway, seems not only viable but necessary and a reality.  By year’s end, Avatar was feeding positive messages to eight-year old boys about the difference between chosen and necessary warfare (via subtitles no less!), and It’s Complicated was subtly reinventing the American romantic comedy in a highly nuanced way, reminiscent and evocative of the other American south (as in “of France”).  And Nine, a remarkable translation of film to Broadway musical to Hollywood musical, announced itself as a flashy triumph of multi-ilingualism, with a literal and figurative tug of war for Daniel Day-Lewis’ heart and soul between the wonderful Marion Cotillard and the amazing Penélope Cruz, and Judi Dench mixing things up with her show stealing “Folies Bergères” number in French.

Having been smitten with both Italian film and Italy in my youth, I could understand why critics might fault the film for its stingy imagination cinematographically, confining the characters’ ruminations to a soundstage.  But certainly Cinecittà was a destination for Fellini and his contemporaries, professionally, and the tribute is fitting I think.

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

2 Responses

  1. […] is also related to my year-end roundup/post about industry avatars, onscreen and off.  Also interesting to read about Morel’s future […]

  2. […] I saw the production credits, I thought it was the sort of “avatar” that I’ve described previously, i.e. with international financing.  And while there is a French producer, it seems that his shop […]

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