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September 07, 2014


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This looks fantastic, thanks for the heads-up Glenn.


The Zeman Museum also offers fine DVDs and Blu-rays of the original versions of several of his films. Use PayPal to order: http://www.hometheaterforum.com/topic/324451-karel-zeman-dvds/?hl=%2Bkarel+%2Bzeman


Are these actual screengrabs from the Second Run DVD? Very enticing if so.


Why do you hate Hugh Downs' estate?

This release could sell an UNTOLD number of copies, and that could make a major difference in the long-term solvency of Hugh Downs' estate.

Put simply, why do you hate Hugh Downs' great-grandchilden? This could make the difference between them enjoying a middle-class life, and growing up on porridge and being forced to work in a pin-factory at age 12.

Won't anyone think of Hugh Downs' great-grandchilden? How can you live with yourself?


Hugh Downs is still alive - are you sure it's his family that had his intro removed?


"Hugh Downs is still alive"

How do we REALLY know that? Have you hung out with him recently?

It's certainly in the estate's interest to claim he's still alive, so his image can continue to be used to sell unethical products to the elderly, furthering the estate's coffers.

Further, isn't this, at bottom, a metaphysical question? Is Shakespeare still alive since we still enjoy his work? Was Joan Rivers alive these past few years while she was brain-dead and on life-support.

In short, this is a far thornier question than what you posit.

Glenn Kenny

Knock it off you guys.

Anyway, Hugh Downs is a member of the Downs family, so super-technically I'm not wrong. That said, it hasn't registered that he's still with us.

I've an item coming my way from the Zeman Museum so I'll soon be able to report whether "Verne" holds up without Hugh.


"Knock it off you guys."

Will do, teach. And very curious about the movie. Just wondering: do I need to know full details on Hugh Downs for the final exam?


Happy that "x's Baron Munchausen" is now universally accepted as shorthand for 'visually imaginative, overstuffed, tremendously delicious, somewhat messy masterpiece'.

Hudsucker is the Coen's Baron Munchausen.

Zissou is Wes Anderson's Baron Munchausen.

And so on...


And this doesn't apply specifically to A Jester's Tale, but I always wonder why part of American Exceptionalism is that we HAVE to have subtitles instead of dubbing.

Most of the rest of world enjoys dubbed foreign language films. And personally, if given a choice between subtitles and competent dubbing, I'd choose dubbed about half the time.

It's hard to read and watch at the same time, especially for visually dense films. It's very 'un-cinematic' in a certain important sense. (Hell, when I first watched the most crucial Godard's, I needed to see them twice in quick succession; first pass to watch, and second pass to read.) But given that I never seem to hear about anyone sharing the same concerns, I must be some kind of extreme outlier.

Given the massive divergence with the rest of the world, I just wonder WHY essentially no one in the US seems to find this a valid or interesting topic.


There's no doubt 'The Adventures of Baron Munchausen' (1989) is a masterpiece, on several levels.


Petey--It's not that it's not a compromise, but that it's essentially the lesser of two evils. That's why there's not much more to say beyond that, usually. Godzilla movies? Sure, bring on the dubbing. But for more serious movies--or rather, for movies where the falseness of the sound does not add to the enjoyment but rather detracts--the integrity of the cinematic totality is done a greater diservice by the dubbing...in most people's opinion, anyway.


"it's essentially the lesser of two evils"

Well, that's subjective, of course. And I do get the appeal of subtitles. As stated, if I had my choice, I'd pick 'em somewhere around half the time, depending on the kind of movie, whether or not I'd seen it before, and my mood that day.

But my REAL confusion is why 'subtitles are definitively the lesser of two evils' is such American Exceptionalism.

Most folks in the rest of world seem to prefer dubbed films, while here in the US, (and perhaps elsewhere in the Anglosphere), pretty much everyone thinks along the same lines that you do.

(Tangentially, I've always thought dubbing would noticeably increase the US audience for foreign language films beyond hardcore cinephiles like us, but that's just a tangent.)


Dubbing is often a government initiative to keep that country's language strong against English. And don't forget, dubbing often used to be done here for foreign films, at least on VHS, and you had to check when renting from Blockbuster. To me the fact that it fell out of practice due to viewer preference has more to do with broadmindedness in regards to other cultures--wanting to hear the right context as well as the original acting (the latter no small matter indeed)--than with saying we are going to be different in our viewing habits as some form of American Exceptionalism (which would mean we knew or cared how other countries watched their movies, which we don't).


"And don't forget, dubbing often used to be done here for foreign films, at least on VHS"

In theaters, too.

And the fact that it used to done here is exactly how I developed my preference for dubbing in certain situations.

"To me the fact that it fell out of practice due to viewer preference has more to do with broadmindedness in regards to other cultures"

But, at least in Europe, broadmindedness to other cultures massively trumps ours. And yet audiences preference in Europe and elsewhere still seems to be strongly be in favor of dubbing.

(I'm not aware of ANY government initiatives that force dubbing overseas, let alone widespread efforts to do so, though I could be utterly uninformed. English skills tend to be prized by most governments. There are certainly subsidies for local filmmaking and caps on foreign films overseas, but that's a totally different flock of seagulls.)

If I had to venture a theory as to why dubbing disappeared via American Exceptionalism, it's that a larger part of the demand for foreign language films here is among hardcore cinephiles, precisely due to the overwhelming LACK of American broadmindedness to other cultures. And I fully admit that American hardcore cinephiles are almost exclusively on your side of the debate rather than mine. Thus we entered a self-reinforcing process where reduction of dubbing drove the rest of the US audience away from foreign language films, which created a stronger preference among the remaining remnant for subtitles, which eventually fully eliminated dubbing in the US. But I'm just venturing a theory.

What I do know is that there is correlation between the elimination of US dubbing and the fall in the US audience for foreign language films, which proves nothing, but is worthy of note...


"In France, where the Joinville studio was converted into a dubbing center, the supremacy of dubbing derives from the nation's cultural mission to preserve and protect the French language in the face of foreign (especially American) influence, and the prevalence of French as the lingua franca for a populace accustomed to hearing it in its own films. For the other countries of the FIGS group, culture and political ideology were determining causes. Italy, Germany, and Spain, all of which faced cultural boycotts in the mid-1930s and were ruled by fascist governments, only allowed dubbed versions of foreign films. The dictators of these countries understood how hearing one's own language served to confirm its importance and reinforce a sense of national identity and autonomy. In Italy especially—where most people, including the filmmakers themselves, spoke dialect rather than the official Tuscan—dubbing forged the synthetic unity of a shared national language.


For whatever worth you find that to be. I know in Italy the dubbing is so deep a tradition that the most popular voice actors are stars in their own right and closely associated with the Hollywood stars. I think there might even be voice acting dynasties, but maybe I'm misremembering...


Guess it was never popular here:
So it's just a question of cultural entrenchment--Europe's and ours.

Some other nytimes links in regards to Italy:


Thank you VERY much for those links, Andy. Clears up a lot of my confusion.

"So it's just a question of cultural entrenchment--Europe's and ours."

Yup. Path dependency.

I still do tend to agree with Evil Harvey that if American audiences (or maybe just critics) could somehow be re-educated into getting accustomed to dubbing that it would noticeably expand the audience for foreign language films here. But that seems an unlikely thing to ever happen unless we apply the Ludovico technique to all film critics. (Perhaps I need to get a Kickstarter going for that.)

So until then, I guess I'll just have to remain the extreme outlier who both watches foreign language flicks and is annoyed that they're all subtitled.


Btw, I don't think the division is as simple between you and "us" as you might think it is--because while I prefer subtitles 97% of the time, I am usually aware of the disruption and perfect-world undesirability of them. One time I was watching Last Days of Disco and reran a scene with the subtitles, and was struck at how much even the presence of them (without reading them) destroyed the impact of a very cinematic shot, creating a layer of remove from the immersion I had just experienced of the unspoiled shot...luckily, at least, I am a very fast reader of subtitles. I usually laugh a beat ahead of everyone else in the theater...


I noticed your comments on the end of Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide at Roger Ebert's website. I think the Scorsese movie Maltin could barely improve his opinion of was not RAGING BULL but TAXI DRIVER, though he also gave NEW YORK, NEW YORK a BOMB rating.


I think Partisan's right - my 2013 (most recent Maltin I have) has RAGING BULL 4 stars, NEW YORK, NEW YORK 1½ stars and TAXI DRIVER 2 stars.

Glenn Kenny

Well, memory does play tricks on one.


A bit off the subject, Glenn, but I heard a two-year-old podcast where you mentioned that you had never seen SATAN FOOTPRINTS TO SATAN (1929). It's on YouTube, albeit with Italian titles, if you're still looking for it.


Michael Brooke

I normally much prefer subtitles to dubbing, but I made a major exception for an English-language version of Jan Švankmajer's 'The Fall of the House of Usher' that I caught on 35mm last year.

But there were very specific reasons for this. Firstly, all spoken content in the film is delivered in voiceover, so there are no synchronisation issues. Secondly, given that Švankmajer was explicitly attempting to make a "tactile portrait" of Poe's story, I imagine he personally preferred dubbing to subtitling (Jacques Tati is also on record as a subtitle-phobe, for not dissimilar reasons), as the near-continuous English subtitles will invariably distract attention away from the visual magic elsewhere. And thirdly, English arguably is the original language to begin with, as the Czech soundtrack merely consists of a translation of Edgar Allan Poe's original story.

I'm also much less bothered about subtitling if there's effectively no original language (for instance, if the film was shot in multiple languages on set and entirely post-synched), or indeed if there's a stronger case for favouring English. For instance, Fellini's 'And the Ship Sails On' is narrated onscreen by the great (and utterly inimitable) Freddie Jones, and so the Italian version (which I saw second time round) just sounds wrong to me, no matter how "authentic" it is in terms of chiming with Fellini's own native tongue. Annoyingly, every DVD version that I'm aware of (Criterion in the US, Infinity Arthouse in the UK) has opted for Italian only.

But if we're talking a sync-sound film with actors speaking their native language in their own voices, it's subtitles all the way as far as I'm concerned. Oh, and English-speaking European countries like the UK and Ireland massively favour subtitling over dubbing - it's not just an American thing.


"For instance, Fellini's 'And the Ship Sails On' is narrated onscreen by the great (and utterly inimitable) Freddie Jones, and so the Italian version (which I saw second time round) just sounds wrong to me, no matter how "authentic" it is in terms of chiming with Fellini's own native tongue. Annoyingly, every DVD version that I'm aware of (Criterion in the US, Infinity Arthouse in the UK) has opted for Italian only."

Yup. And the only way to fix this is to subject all US film critics to the Ludovico technique to get them to accept dubbing. Do that, and DVD's will start to feature dubbed versions.

"Oh, and English-speaking European countries like the UK and Ireland massively favour subtitling over dubbing - it's not just an American thing."

Yup, again. As Andy helpfully clued me in, this is all about path dependency. If your country mainly used subtitling 50 years ago, it does today. And the same for dubbing.

That's why the Anglosphere is subtitled today, while Continental Europe and most of the rest of the world is dubbed today.

Neither is necessarily "correct", (though, in reality, dubbing is MORE "correct"). It's just what you country is used to.



Imagine this alternate timeline:

1) Continental Europe used subtitling instead of dubbing.

2) Godard and Truffaut watched a few subtitled Hitchcock and Hawks films, and went, "meh".

3) Godard and Truffaut then tried to make 'tradition of quality' films, failed, and went on to become accountants.

4) The Nouvelle Vague never occurred.

5) May '68 never happened, and De Gaulle is STILL the President of France.

6) As the butterfly flapped its wings, it resulted in the Kinney Company still owning Warner Brothers, and HBO/Cinemax Original Programming never happening.

So, the question becomes: why do hate the Nouvelle Vague and love parking lot companies? Why, oh why, Andy?




Cassavetes, Chabrol, Malle, Oshima... something akin to the Nouvelle Vague would still have occurred even if Godard and Truffaut had never cried "Action!" in their lives.


Chabrol and Malle were raised on dubbed.

Both would've become dentists instead had they lived in our benighted system...


So how do you explain Cassavetes, Shirley Clarke, Monte Hellman, Andy Warhol, etc.?


Guys, guys...you are falling for his thing.
In fact, I was reluctant to respond to Petey originally but it appeared he was being serious for once, which I still believe (save the last part).
Incidentally, I own a few dubbed prints on 16mm (Godzilla movies notwithstanding). I couldn't watch Investigation of a Citizen after a while...too off. I knew it was a bad idea to buy it. I have somewhat higher hopes for Seduced and Abandoned and 8 1/2, which I have, respectively, watched only a little of and not yet received.
Having seen The Sicilian Clan subtitled first, and then dubbed on my print, it did not lose a lot, given the nature of the picture, though I would choose subtitles if I could. I bought 8 1/2 bc it looks to be a gorgeous print, and you could run that silent and it would be worth it! I have read a few good things about that dub, but we'll see. If I ever have the chance to replace it with a subtitled print, off it will go, unless it turns out to be interesting in its own right. But it doesn't exactly fit the "unserious fun" model of films that I can usually quasi-accept the unreality of dubbing in. Five Dolls is a good example (no, I don't have a print; I wish).


"In fact, I was reluctant to respond to Petey originally but it appeared he was being serious for once, which I still believe (save the last part)."


Last part was definitely written to be absurd. And I really did do my very best to make that obvious for readers. (Though I will seriously posit that the insane robustness of French/German/Italian new wave cinema could well have SOMETHING to do with the fact that all the filmmakers were suckled on dubbing instead of subtitling.)

And, yes, you are correct that I was indeed being dead serious in our original dialog, and I learned something significant in the process, for which I yet again thank you, andy.


I'm curious how the competently dubbed 8 1/2 will play for you. Seems like an excellent test case, given the crazy gorgeousness and intricateness of the visuals, which dubbing could well allow a viewer to have significantly more consistent focus upon.

Personally, I've always wanted to see a competently dubbed print of The Conformist, which I adore and have seen multiple times, but always felt I was missing lots of the visual experience while I was busy reading.

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