I’m getting closer to the belief that dubbing should come before subtitles.
The New York Times has been in the middle of this ongoing discussion about film – and I use the word “film” as purposefully as I use “movies” in the title of this blog. Film implies art and I really just want to talk about going to the movies – for me, a movie is mostly all about enjoyment.
In the New York Times Magazine on May 1 there was an article called,“Reaching for Culture That Remains Stubbornly Above My Grasp,” – Dan Kois wrote about watching critically acclaimed movies like Andrei Tarkovsky’s “Solaris,”and said that he wasn’t crazy about it but that it was like”eating his cultural vegetables”. The conversation began in the April 29 NYT with “Eating Your Cultural Vegetables” and then with yesterday’s “Sometimes a Vegetable is Just a Vegetable“. The question is this – Are some “serious” films and TV shows “technically good” but horribly boring to watch? And is it good for you to watch them; are they educational and will they challenge, teach, or otherwise shake you up in a way that will make you a more interesting person? Is this a good enough reason to watch something you hate?
I don’t know. I don’t even know if I care. I just don’t like the fact that foreign films are getting lumped in with the what is considered “tedious”. Sure, some Italian art house movies are boring, just as movies from all countries can be. But not all Italian movies that end up in art house movie theaters are “vegetables” – things to eat because they are good for you. Some of them are just movies. In yesterday’s article the author says “The suspicion that only certain kinds of people like certain kinds of movies slides into contempt for the movies themselves, which flourishes on both sides of the supposed high-low divide, and other divisions as well. Action movies are for guys; romantic comedies are for girls; animation is for kids; subtitled movies are for skinny people dressed in black. And so on.
I guess that’s what some people believe, but I blame subtitles.
Don’t get me wrong, I love watching movies with subtitles. I love hearing the actors’ voices and the language. But I study Italian; it’s not quite so much fun with, for example, a Korean movie. It’s true, I have to pay a whole lot more attention when I’m reading the whole time.Sometimes you just feel like painting your toenails and texting a little while you watch a movie – you can’t do that if you are reading subtitles. I have to be fully awake and in the mood to work when I watch anything but an Italian movie.
On any given day in Roman movie theaters there are movies from all over the world – Italians obviously love foreign film. But in Italy, the movies are almost all dubbed. If you want to see a movie in its original language you have to go to special theaters. So Italians have the world opened to them because they are not elitists about “film” and just want to go have fun at a movie.
It’s not the word “film” that I object to – but I have, on purpose, called this blog “I Love Italian Movies” because I want to emphasize that I love them all – even the ones that are not even close to being vegetables, or even close to being “good for you”.
Carlo Verdone is not a vegetable. Cinepanettoni. Aldo, Giovanni and Giacomo. Not vegetables – sweets. They seem like vegetables if you have the task of reading while you are having your dessert, but just because they have italian wrappers with Italian words they are still sweets.
As much as I understand the beauty of the subtitle, I think we have to stop being elitists and bring foreign movies to the masses. I don’t want to keep Italian movies to myself; they’re so good – I want everyone to see “La Banda dei Babbi Natale” and “Mio Cognato”. I don’t want to force feed vegetables to anyone – it’s none of my business what they do with their brains. I just think they’d enjoy Italian movies if they gave them a chance. And maybe they’d give them a chance without (what is perceived as ) pretentious subtitles.