Say What?


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

Five minutes with Richard Howard

I am thrilled to present an interview I had a few weeks ago with the plurally and internationally honored writer, translator, and teacher Richard Howard.

He’d first come to my attention from a brief meeting I’d had seven years ago with Françoise Kourlisky.  Preoccupied as I was (and still am), with translation and writing for TV and film, I promptly moved on to other things.  Fast forward to my birthday earlier this year, when I saw he was reading his work at a bar off in the East Village.

Poetry for me has often felt like some foreign language that only real experts should speak (in the same way many still regard French).  So it’s always with great relief when I hear someone who not only I can understand, but whose work I can enjoy, and therein find many levels of understanding.  Similarly, far, far too few people not only know very little about Richard Howard‘s work (even in the world of French translation!) but moreover, still fewer are aware that he has been an out gay man since the mid-1940s who socialized with the likes of playwright Edward Albee, composer William Flanagan, and savant Ned Rorem.

Note that in honor of LGBT Pride month, this interview is an extra 40 seconds long – the number of years since the first gay pride parade in New York, and Richard Howard received a Pulitzer Prize!


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

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.

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

5 minutes with Jerry Rudes of LVT

Jerry Rudes heads the French subtitling company LVT‘s New York operation, which French-subtitled a number of films for this year’s Cannes Film Festival, including Ang Lee’s “Taking Woodstock”, playing in competition.  He also founded and ran the Avignon Film Festival for over two decades, which also had a New York counterpart for a number of years as well.

I’m honored and delighted Jerry took some time out of a very hectic schedule last week getting ready for Cannes.  He’s a wonderful starting point for this virtual conversation on translation and film. Hopefully the video speaks for itself–it’s my first!

One question I didn’t ask him, was why Americans have such a hard time with foreign films, when many other cultures than ours put up (with reading) or “shut up” (watching the orignal English or having US films dubbed).  I for one hope, after the fall elections, the more the US begins to open up to the world, the more we let the world in.

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