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Friday, December 7, 2007

Cahiers de Paris - Traduction 2

Continuing the Judd Apatow theme of these post headings, we have the poster for Superbad, which was released in France on Halloween (not that that matters to them) and here is titled Supergrave, which basically means the same thing. What I really like about this poster is the addition of "On veut du cul* *C'est pas gagne" at the top of the poster (this version is missing the asterisk addition, but the ones in all the metro stops had it), which translates to "We want ass* *(It won't be easy...)," which is not just delightfully obscene, but definitely unimaginable on an American poster. Finally, it's worth noting that the top of the poster indicates it is "From the creators of The 40 Year Old Virgin, which is translated fine in French, but which sounds a little wonky when over-literally back-translated, literally, "40 Years, Still a Virgin."

Anyway, since it's later and I'm tired, I won't try to find posters for everything tonight, I'll just cover the next batch of wacky translations. I have to say, since I got most of them out of the way last time, there are slightly fewer now, but hopefully they are no less enjoyable.

--A Nightmare on Elm Street
- "Les Griffes de la Nuit" [The Claws of the Night] - actually not too bad.

--What the Bleep do we Know? - "Que Sait-On Vraiment de la Realite?" [What do we Really Know of Reality?] - in addition to losing a good deal of its color in the translation, this one proves particularly irritating-cum-funny to me in that it employs, through essentially useless inversion, something called the "style soutenu," which is an elevated form of language used mostly in academic theses, and something I struggled with at the beginning of the quarter. Beyond that, anyone who knows any background on this film will also know that it is about as deserving of the style soutenu as Supergrave.

--Youth Without Youth - "L'Homme Sans Age" [The Ageless Man] - too on-the-nose

--Peeping Tom - "Le Voyeur" - see above.

I'm fairly sure there are a few I'm forgetting right now, so I'll try to plug them in later when I can. Just something to keep the blog alive while I'm busy in France and Matt is...presumably busy in America, though flagrantly ignoring his duties nevertheless.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Cahiers de Paris - The Hawks and the Sparrows

The Hawks and the Sparrows (as Des Oiseaux Petits et Gros, or, "Of Birds Small and Large")
Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1964, 88 min.

Pasolini's fourth feature and only comedy, Uccellacci e Uccellini (literally "Bad Birds and Little Birds," though translated in various manners as evidenced above) proved to be his rejection of the idea of the sacrosanct peasantry espoused in his first three features.

The story centers around a father (Toto, a famous Italian comic) and son (Ninetto Davoli, Pasolini's romantic fixation and muse for many years) on an unexplained journey through the wasteland of the Italian countryside. Along their way, they meet a talking crow which tells them a story about two monks (also played by Toto and Davoli) who are assigned the task of converting the hawks and the sparrows to Christianity. They succeed in this, though find that, much to their chagrin, the hawks continue to eat the sparrows just as before, despite their ideological conversions.

Fairly blatant with its metaphor in its broader aspects, Uccellacci e Uccellini is nevertheless a fairly difficult, if not impossible, film to decipher when it comes to specifics. Clearly, of course, Pasolini's broad message is that humans have it in their nature to further their own gain and that no matter what philosophy they try to adopt or have imposed on them, they will continue to behave in their own best interests, no matter how negatively this will affect the good of society as a whole.

Nevertheless, frequent digressions and metaphoric tangents abound, and, even having done a class presentation on the film, I can still say I'm stymied by a lot of its particular episodes. Nevertheless, it's this enigmatic nature that keeps the film interesting after all these years, and I find that it, like much of the rest of Pasolini's work, continues to reward repeated viewings, always offering up new ideas and viewpoints without ever producing a coherent ideological whole (which I'm sure many would claim to be simplistic as it is).

Beyond this, the film features a delightful performance by Toto, who deftly mixes blue-collar provincialism with strained affectation in an almost Chaplinesque manner (though which proves, in the end, more entertaining to me than I have ever found Chaplin to be). The crow, too, is a wonderful comic invention, and the film itself contains enough memorable and ridiculous set-pieces and episodes that it sticks with the viewer long after it has finished.

Watching this again, for, I believe, the third time (is it only the third?), in a surprisingly crowded theater with a French audience was a real treat, as it served only to underline how genuinely funny the movie is. When watched at home alone or with a few close friends, the film's comedy can often get lost in its ideological pretensions; but when immersed in a theater setting and that rendered free to laugh, the viewer is this liberated and allowed to explore the film's more comic nature and to stop taking it so seriously. All in all, one of Pasolini's most delightful films, and probably a very good introduction to the man and his work for a beginner (though one really can't beat starting out with Salo...).

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Cahiers de Paris - The Gospel According to Matthew

The Gospel According to Matthew (as L'Evangile Selon St. Matthew)
Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1963, 137 min.

Pasolini's third feature was, in some ways, a marked departure from his previous two neorealist films set among the pimps and whores of the Roman borgate; nevertheless, it's actually remarkable how stylistically consistent this film is with the rest of Pasolini's early work.

Recounting the events of Matthew with as much fidelity as possible (the film is said to contain no dialogue not spoken in the actual gospel, though being fairly ignorant of religion, I really can't confirm) the film tells its story beautifully, with Pasolini's trademark mysticism suiting the subject matter perfectly. There are, to be sure, no glowing spotlights from heaven nor howling choruses here: the life of Christ is treated with an austere reference that surely replicates it much more faithfully than the awestruck revisionism of a Hollywood biblical epic.

Nevertheless, Pasolini's film remains his own, despite being so faithful an adaptation. The inclusion of a violently anachronistic soundtrack, for instance (composed of both Pasolini's trademark Mozart pieces in addition to folk and tribal selections), should by all rights seem jarring, yet Pasolini manages to choose pieces are that so similar in theme or passion that they end up perfectly complementing the events in screen and, rather than taking the viewer out of the story, only serve to draw him further into it. In the end, this bizarre scoring touch ends up being one of the film's most memorable aspects.

In addition, the film is famous for being shot almost like a documentary, and, in this sense, it definitely manages to remain in the (particularly Pasolinian) neorealist canon. Of particular note is the scene at Jesus' trial before his crucifixion, which is interestingly viewed from a great distance, with the camera planted amidst the group gathered to watch the proceedings and peering around bodies and over shoulders just as any excited observer or documentarian would have been at the time.

The film also remains quite steadfastly an element of Pasolini's "reverence for the poor" phase, as the poverty of Jesus himself is stressed, as is his love for the downtrodden. A great part of Pasolini's pseudo-religious mysticism was a belief that the poor were somehow more pure by virtue of being removed from the corruption of society at large, and with this in mind, it should be easy to see how well the film fits into this ideology. (This would all change with Pasolini's next feature, which shall be addressed as quickly as is possible.)

All of this praise is not to say that the film is perfect, however. It does drag in the middle (though this may be by virtue of the source material), and I once again found myself nodding out around reel 4, despite the fact that I had been really excited to see the entire film again. Nevertheless, the film is a beautifully-crafted paean to both the poor as a whole and to the mythos of Christ himself, with whom Pasolini (and, as a result, this viewer) is able to sympathize with and appreciate in spite of his atheism. All in all, even if it is a little slow in the middle, this is a beautiful film in every sense of the word (as well as, aparently, a key influence on John Waters' Multiple Maniacs), and deserves to be seen by everyone, regardless of religious conviction.

And besides, when Christ looks like this, the two-plus hours fly by a lot faster than you'd think:

More to come soon, and in the meantime, maybe we'll even hear a little preaching from our own Matthew...