Monday, February 04, 2008

There ought to be a law...

As a huge fan of musical comedies, and a confirmed admirer of Johnny Depp, I found myself in quite the dilemma when Sweeney Todd came to Rodez in "version française" -- or dubbed.

Before making any decisions, my daughters and I checked out the most essential piece of information we needed before shelling out for a movie ticket: is the score dubbed in French?

The answer is no. So knowing that the sung portions at least equal and probably outweigh the spoken dialogue in the film, I decided to take my chances at the cinema. The other option was to wait for the DVD, and I knew this was going to be big screen stuff.

But s'il vous please -- how can a version française of this film even exist? I experienced total language disconnect as I listened to the score, sung in English but often peppered with spoken remarks in French. I ended up not understanding some of the French -- and even some of the English -- because the constant changing back and forth was just too neurologically complex.

So, if you live in France and have the chance to see Sweeney Todd in VF, should you bother?

I would still say yes -- but prepare to leave the theater in a state of linguistic confusion. And I suspect this problem is even worse for the French audiences.

23 comments:

tut-tut said...

Are ALL English-language movies dubbed into French rather than using subtitles? That does make movie watching somewhat problematic, I would think. But Johnny Depp . . . hmm; he's pretty beguiling.

Cécy said...

I had the chance to see it in the US. I didn't always understand the singing as it's always harder for me than simple talking. But I loved it.
I was wondering what it would end up like in France, you answered my question.
I have a hard time standing dubbed versions nowadays, and being that you are a native English speaker I say kuddos to you for even trying to watch it like that.

My Inner French Girl said...

Dear Betty,

I have yet to see Sweeney Todd but know that I must prior to the Oscars. Your experience does indeed sound very confusing, esp. when the actors break from their song for a moment to begin speaking. Could there a better alternative? I guess dubbing the singing would pose other difficulties, particularly with having to synch the lyrics to match the mouth movements.

Are foreign language films always dubbed in France? In the Philippines and Japan, they're generally subtitled. (In Japan, they do often release video versions of English-language films dubbed, but the cinema releases are subtitled.)

Salut,
Marjorie

Betty C. said...

Thanks for all of your comments and interest in this subject.

The blockbuster or action-type films in French are usually dubbed as their audience are often not that interested in listening to English, or reading subtitles.

A lot of movies, though, are released both in VO (version originale, with subtitles) and VF (version française, dubbed.) Depending on where you live or the cinema you go to, you can see one or the other.

Big cities tend to run more subtitled films. We get some subtitled films in Rodez, or sometimes they will run a film dubbed for a few weeks, then do a special one week run of the subtitled version.

As you can imagine, DVDs have been great for me! I actually prefer subtitled versions even if I don't speak the language...

spacedlaw said...

Dubbing is one reason why I have seen so few movies since I live in Italy.
I love Alan Rickman and I just can't accept to do without his voice, so no Sweeney Todd for me (have to wait for the DVD).

Randal Graves said...

Subtitles are always the way to go. I know when I watch a French film, I'd never want to have it dubbed, and if possible - which isn't always the case thanks to weirdo manufacturers - I'll put the French subtitles on so I can tie the sound to the words.

I couldn't even imagine having to go back and forth between two languages!

Le Tigre said...

I actually didn't realise this was a musical! I'm not a fan of Bonham Carter, she never seems to work well in Burton's films (I hate to say it but since he discovered his muse his movies have gone downhill!). I don't see movies at the cinema here unless they are in VO...which means I've missed more than a few I would have liked to see. Oh well, thank god for the dvd!

French for a While said...

You'll just have to watch it again when it comes out on DVD.

Colleen said...

I agree with the above. My group of friends likes to watch Japanese Anime. It's never the same dubbed in English. If you found yourself in Paris or maybe Marseille, you could take in the v.o.

Flutterby said...

How exciting - I just found your blog and I'm a Johnny Dep fan too. Your photos are wonderful and they are making me very homesick for France though I once lived in the southeast of France instead of the southwest. Exploring your blog on this dreary, rainy day will be a delight.

maitresse said...

Oh, it must be VO. Sweeney Todd in alternating French and English? That sounds like the wrong kind of horror film!

Let us know what you think! ST is one of my all time favorites, and I hold Stephen Sondheim close to my heart.

you know what would be really freaky? tim burton doing "Into the Woods." now THAT would be interesting. ST was too obvious a choice. johnny depp as the wolf!

Linda said...

I saw this as a play on Broadway but I just didn't want to see it as a movie. I think it would be very bloody.

Betty C. said...

Linda -- It was very bloody. I didn't really like that about it, but I still think it's a successful film rendition of a musical. I imagine on stage the violence is (has to be)more subtle.

Rosie said...

I cant bear to go to the movies since I have lived in France, the dubbing is too frustrating (with television even worse since all voices are dubbed by the same four actors, or so it seems!)
Roll on the DVD I say..

Tinsie said...

I really don't see the point in dubbed films. I watched the latest Harry Potter movie in the version française when I was in Switzerland last summer, and it was OK, but you really can't beat the original version.

Surely reading subtitles can't be that hard a skill to master?!!

wcs said...

I'm a bit late, but here's my two centimes. I prefer vo whatever the language. I will usually pass on a movie that's dubbed. I can't really get the feel for what the actors are expressing if I can't hear them talking the way the director intended.

We have satellite tv in our house with something like 8 cinema channels. Most times a movie will be offered with your choice of vo or vf (they call it vm or version multilangue). The also often give us the option of switching off the subtitles (nice) and the picture is always in its original format (i.e. widescreen) and our tv is has a widescreen option as well.

As for needing the big screen experience, I can count on one hand the number of films that I've really wanted to see on the big screen. I've gone to Paris for that (in vo, of course!).

Sorry to ramble on...

Betty C. said...

I see there are a lot of unconditional VO fans out there. I'm the same for most films -- I have never gone to the cinema to see a Woody Allen film in French, for example -- but since there is plenty of English in the musical part of this film, I still think the big-screen experience was worth it. And I may be going back again today with daughter number two!

It's kind of funny with France making so many proclamations about getting the country's English-speaking up to European-level snuff that it wouldn't try to increase the number of V.O. screenings.

poppy fields said...

It's coming to our town in VO, but I am afraid of the gore....

Betty C. said...

Gory it is, Meredith -- I had to close my eyes for parts of it. Certainly don't take the kids, LOL! But I do think it's a pretty great movie, although I can see why some wouldn't care for it.

Jann said...

I would watch Johnny Depp even if he was speaking Yiddish~ subtitles sometime distract me.... I enjoy seeing a movie in a different languge, desparately trying to figure out what is going on- a challenge for me that sometimes I do enjoy.I better watch this movie so I know everyone is talking about~ I loved your "linguistic confusion" phrase! That may happen!

IslandGirl4Ever2 said...

VO VO VO VO!!!! I would NOT see this movie in VF.. I see most movies in VF and I simply HAD to listen to JD's voice in English.. hehe.. it was British but HEY!!! I can say that there were many parts of the film where I didn't not understand something spoken because of the English accent or the experessions that were used.. But, I did LOVE JD and Alan Rickman... I recently watched Stardust in English with French subtitles... and I liked the English version MUCH better.. I thought that I understood the film well enough when I first saw it in French.. but after watching it in English, I realized I had lost a lot of it!! Hope you can get some more films in VO... Take care, Leesa

hellboy said...

Dear Betty, why didn't you come to Toulouse ? (not that far)
The movie was played in english and it was a pure moment of bloody happiness.
Hope to see you there soon.;)
(en fait, ceci est mon premier message, je découvre ce blog mais je le trouve très charmant, bravo !)

Betty C. said...

hellboy -- When you have a job and family, like I do, it's not that easy just to go to Toulouse for a movie! We thought about it...

We are going to Montpellier today and will catch "Juno" in V.O. But that isn't the main reason for going.