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

VR: The New Talkies

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Like some indestructible colossus, structured narrative has triumphed over all other storytelling vehicles and methods as never before.  The real heart of stories—themes, ideas, emotions, imagery— its genuine “content,” has been jackbooted into submissive obscurity by an over-glorification of the predictability, safety, and feats of its engineering.  After the world recovered from the last global conflict, bold, adventurous filmmakers, many of who acquired their chops during the conflict, rigorously and unrelentingly pushed their medium’s inherent bounds and limitations  As “story”‘s  gospel seems to wane, an upstart medium is literally waiting in the wings.

Though its tech is nascent, VR seems destined to become the 21st century artform bar none.  Content’s resurgence and reaction against form’s constrictions seems to be inevitable.  The smackdown between artificial frames—produced by expert professionals—and experience—produced with seeming novices/laypersons—began at the turn of the last century, as reality TV sounded the death knell of scripted content.  The latter clearly rebounded, but among the wonders of any new artform is its parentage.  VR’s promise—and perils—explode rectangular confines to plunge participants, no longer passive “viewers,” headlong into experience itself, that literally messes with their heads.  Makers’ powers are exponentially greater and more dangerous.  The option of looking away or shielding one’s eyes is impossible.

What’s more is the remarkableness of VR’s déjà vu factorStereoscopes and kinetoscopes were once solitary and somewhat klunky, yet nevertheless popular solo pastimes. Shortly before the first talkie appeared, film executives balked at sound’s inevitability and the value of adjusting their infrastructure to accommodate it.  Once talkies broke though, silents were almost immediately consigned to history’s archives, to be glimpsed fleetingly by enthusiasts and historians alone.

VR is currently at a juncture similar to those nascent sound films, with little if any headway within or saturation among either the general public or the audiovisual industry itself.  But concurrently, the cinema seems bound for that same fate as the small frame has mostly trounced the large one.  The current standoff between the two hinges almost entirely on the debt-fueled frenzy of the so-called “content providers” to outproduce one another.  When, not if, that house of cards collapses, anything goes and the future will be up for grabs . . .

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Filed under: divers, French film industry, US film industry, , , , , , ,

Un mariage pas très gai

The most exciting news coming out of Cannes this year was on police blotters despite the hullaballo that reigned down when the Palmaires were announced (and after apparently, from the author of the graphic novel which sparked the film.)  Though Cannes endorses artistic achievement and little else, in film, excellence and success can be mutually exclusive, and they rarely translate fluidly and identically, especially from France to the US.

That no major film with LGBT content has ever screened till now is unsurprising, as Spike Lee, flashing back to 1989, might have been one of the first filmmakers of any African descent to screen in competition.  This disconnect between popular media and social issues can also explain the domestic umbrage about the “foreign” laurels flung on the film, revealing the true colors of the anti-marriage crowd.

Unlike the American right which smartly realized that social progress is a one-way street, the French extreme-right, seems to be going after something it can gallantly lose merely to gain attention.  Would that this political contortionism could work to make real LGBT stories successfully visible to more people.

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

Actors as Translators (and Interpreters)

Kristin Scott Thomas

Another testament that so much is knitting our world closer; this lovely article only confirms what I’ve noticed for some time.

By necessity, national film market borders are disappearing faster than polar ice floes.  But as formats get smaller and more personalized, and guaranteeing revenue trickier, consolidation is even more critical, all in a search for more “green.”

And along the way to all of that, I’m really happy to see Kristin Scott-Thomas getting much deserved critical attention for the wonderful work she does and has done.

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

To Err

still from the film "Inception"Translation is hard work, requiring sharp organizational skills, linguistic dexterity, and stimulants.  And for anyone who does it professionally, the latter can be a big part of the job, as penetrating below the surface of language and really messing around linguistic sub-basements, under often unruly time constraints, can make the film Inception seem like an inspirational human interest tale.  (And I’m not even going into the whole human v. MT conundrum here.)

It was then with embarassing recognition and not a little shame that I read this sober yet ironic posting recently.  I liken translation to shattering some kind of object, and meticulously piecing it back together.  And getting cut up quite a bit in the process, so that our linguistic serum enters into it.

Myself, I make mistakes (something the author and I’d venture most translators are averse to admitting), strive for perfection, and learn to be humble.  But since the space between languages and cultures is never finite, always fluctuating, and extremely human, translation requires much more than good linguisitc “engineering” skills.  Rather, a greater parity between the right and left brains.

Filed under: divers, French translation, translation, , ,

Looking back . . .

Exactly a year later (mostly), my ongoing business resolutions are still works in progress.  But hey, so aren’t we all.

As carried forward from last year:

  • Investing myself in my TM tools:  2012 was a descent year for my translation business, but a major step forward came with my beginning to harvest terminology from past bumper crop years, regarding ranslation projects in my specializations (financial, legal and audiovisual).
  • Revisiting my business plan:  I peeked at it last year, and found little to adjust, but best of all I was able to attend the ATA in San Diego.
  • Working to become a “CT” (certified translator):  Progress firmly, in that I took a practice test with . . . unflattering results.  But knowing the hurdle is kept high on this, I feel encouraged to persist.
  • Revising and updating my website:  More progress here from last, and I hope to move ahead with an reintro soon.

Wishing all of my followers, readers, clients, and anyone simply looking for a solid translation out of or into French from English, a joyous 2013!

Filed under: divers, French translation, translation, ,

Personal Sidebar: ‘Any Day Now’

Garret Dillahunt and Alan Cumming in "Any Day Now"As awards season starts in earnest, this is possibly the best movie most people won’t see.  Because it’s an honest and vivid LGBT filmidiotically rated “R” as if to equate gay male sexuality with extreme violence (more than entire blog’s worth of suggestive content, that)–made with a miniscule budget, and has a timely, heartfelt story with no tentpoley gimmicks.

This terrific, warm and entertaining movie, though it miraculously escaped direct-to-Netflix obscurity, is nevertheless bound for nowhere, fame-wise.  That is, unless people take notice, and more importantly award voters and related trendalistas (OK I just made that word up, in English anyway).

Even major talent is venting about the dearth of risky, story-driven content.  Can the day be far off when, like winter and unextreme weather, human and humane films are something from another era?

Filed under: divers, US film industry, , , ,

The Trouble with “Globish”

Perhaps because I’m a) a French translator, b) getting older, and/or c) ever less culturally pliable, non-native English speakers professing linguistic skill or expertise they don’t have neutralize my patience like no one else.  Anyone who’s spent any time on a customer service line lately will understand perfectly.

Accordingly, my curiosity was piqued by an article in the current ATA Chronicle by Jeana Clark and Esma A. Gregor on “Globish,” or “Global English.”  Most Chronicle articles seesaw/skew between the academic and the technical, and while their logic only jumps one shark (whose household familarity with Globish?), the authors have made a thorough presentation of something native speakers often experience as a linguistic APM.

Unfortunately, being messengers (like me) in the endless skirmish that is language, Clark and Gregor pussy foot around taking stakes for either “side” linguistically.   For instance , is this the death knell for the English we know and (love? hate? despise? tolerate? endlessly mangle?)  (Happily I’m not the first person to rhyme Globish with rubbish.)  Is it a linguistic mutation more zombie than real?

Professionally, when clients and editors alike resort to it through ignorance or inexperience, I find Euro English the most exasperating manifestation.  At the end of the day (the business one, anyway), this all reminds me (and hopefully my clients!) that it’s essential to pay a professional when an amateur only creates more confusion.

Filed under: divers, translation, , , , , , , , ,

Five Minutes with Three LSPs

Another highlight from the 53rd annual ATA Conference was my conversations with several LSPs on the state of translation, business-wise and in its evolution technologically.  Christine Muller and Kevin Hudson, from LanguageWorks; Marina Mintz from Paragon Language Services; and Virginia Anderson of Oregon Translation (not included here alas due to technical problems) spoke to me separately on their companies, how they think the business of translation is evolving, and what impact social media is having on translation professionally.

Virginia made an excellent point on something that’s familiar to anyone involved in the translation industry.  Contradictory forces pushing for “more and faster” versus “better with care” don’t always fall into simplistic paradigms, but are rather motivated by the business necessity driving the work.  Something that everyone–peer translators, LSPs, and clients–would wisely keep top of mind in the midst of their next translation project.

Filed under: divers, French translation, translation, , , , , , , , ,

The Impossibility of Translation

The strangest thing about translation is how out of nowhere it can illuminate.  Nicholas Froeliger‘s talk at last week’s ATA‘s 53rd annual conference packed exactly that kind of intellectual firepower.

A dialectic jutuxposing the logical tools privy to translators with their ever-expanding cyberscape, his session if nothing else scored an ironic coup arguing “for” the primacy of the human “analog” over anything digital at a conference dominated not only by incessant hawking of any and all avatar translation methods and means, but also by a categorical privledging of the virtual over the real in networking, hiring and socializing.  (Lest anyone think I’ve gone all Luddite, hey, I’m blogging about it.)

In the tradition of great French thinkers, his thesis made easy fodder of the professional shotgun marriage the majority of us either endure or risk persishing into obscurity.   But sans rancor, he wittily made his argument, recasting translators (in my mind anyway) as silent masters collaboratively dueling with their avatars.

Filed under: divers, French translation, , , , , , ,

Personal Sidebar: “Plan B”

I caught this film on Netflix recently–the only consistently supportive place for GLBT entertainment content–and it makes some very intriguing choices about essentially two men who are in various stages of “questioning,” i.e. whether they’re attracted to men or not.

The film could have gone in many directions.  And while I enjoyed the one it ultimately took, the potential other routes were so interesting that it stayed with me.  Although the director stuffed in a lot of unnecessary and pointless interludes that negatively evoke Pasolini or Antonioni, it’s worth checking out.  Would that it and similar films could break free of the download ghetto, and find larger audiences.

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