classic film on the big screen subtitled...

Roland Domenig roland.domenig at
Fri Apr 9 21:01:10 EDT 2004

> I'd really like to second Roland's suggestion of watching films without
> subtitles.

to avoid misunderstandings: i was specifically talking about two films,
yoshida's EROS + GYAKUSATSU and jissoji's MUJO, that in my opinion both
suffer damage from subtitles superimposed on those parts of the de-centered
composition where most of the action takes place, which is obscured by the
subtitles. in general i'm not against subtitles at all. for those who cannot
understand the language - be it japanese, polish, russian, cantonese,
mandarin, farsi, or portugese - they are a necessity (or an necessary evil,
if you want). however, i also think that one can appreciate certain films
without understanding the language, though of course the experience is
different then from when you understand what is spoken.
i also believe that there are limits to what subtitles can do. i recall the
film FUTARI GA SHABETTERU (two people talking, 1996) from inudo isshin,
which won the grand prix at the sundance film festival in tokyo and inudo
the director's guild of japan newcomer award. a certain japanese film critic
very actively advocated the film and recommended it to several foreign film
festival that all declined because of too much dialogue. the film is about
two girls who want to become manzai professionals and - as the title
suggests - it is all talking. aside from the question whether the cultural
distinctiveness of manzai works in a different cultural framework, it is
simply a very tiring and unpleasurable experience to read all the subtitles
that more or less faithfully follow the high-speed talking of the two
protagonists. in my opinion this is an example of a film that simply doesn't
work if you don't understand japanese (and if you don't know manzai). it is
the exact opposite of a film like HADAKA NO SHIMA.

roland domenig
institute of east asian studies
vienna university 

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