Archive for Language and the movies

A recent Shanghainese movie

[This is a guest post by Zihan Guo, who was a student in my "Language, Script, and Society in China" class this past semester.]

A movie titled "Àiqíng shénhuà 愛情神話" ("Myth of Love / B for Busy") just came out on the 24th in China, which soon became warmly received by the public. It narrates the story of three distinctive Shanghainese women who come to know each other through one man. Here is a trailer

The most attractive aspect is the usage of the Shanghainese topolect throughout the movie. The main actor, Xu Zheng 徐崢, himself is a Shanghainese director who always appreciates films with regional characteristics. The three actresses are also Shanghainese, so they speak in a perfect tone, which appeals to locals very much. But of course there are subtitles to cater for a broader audience. People with no knowledge of the topolect like it as well, maybe because the accent itself is amusing. Most of them are not bothered by the unfamiliar language, since it has long become habitual for people to read subtitles even if they can understand the language, as we have also discussed in our class.

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Dubbing and subtitles

From an anonymous correspondent:

G and I have always enjoyed foreign films, but only if they're subtitled. We shy away from films that are dubbed into English. The dubbing clearly adds another layer of clumsy artifice that stops me from entering into the film.

The Italians, and I believe most Europeans, prefer dubbing when they're watching foreign films. Their voice actors are a highly-paid group. A few years ago, when the Italian dubbers went on strike, no new foreign (i.e., American, British, French, etc.) films were released for months, maybe years.

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Korean language in Chinese film

Until Chairman Xi started going after the entertainment world, and especially foreign entertainment, the Chinese people were deeply enamored of Korean soap operas, boy bands, K-Pop girl groups, and so forth.  They idolized the Korean stars, watched their performances, and would even go on pilgrimages to important places associated with them.  Moreover, as with J-pop, manga, and anime, which inspired many young Chinese to learn Japanese language, so were Chinese youth inspired by Korean pop culture to learn Korean language.  So it is not altogether surprising to hear a Chinese film star switch into Korean.

First listen, and see if you can distinguish between the Mandarin and the Korean.  Below I'll give a rough account of the background to this scene.

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Botched dubbing of a Taiwanese Mandarin film on the mainland

From Eoin Cullen:

This is a really fascinating story:  a Taiwanese film ("Dāng nánrén liàn'ài shí 当男人恋爱时" ["Man in Love"]) where the main character has been dubbed for the mainland Chinese release. The film is mostly in accented Taiwan Mandarin and the protagonist peppers his speech with Southern Min (Taiwanese / Hoklo), so someone decided there’d be a comprehensibility issue for mainland audiences (despite the fact that there are Chinese language subtitles on all films, Chinese or otherwise). In the dubbed version the protagonist has a notable mainland Mandarin accent, which is hilarious for Taiwanese netizens. This to me would be like if the film Trainspotting had been dubbed into American English for its US release.

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Ancient bronze inscription in a modern film set in China

Philip Taylor writes:

At around 07:08 into the extraordinarily stupid film The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008), the witch holds a scroll engraved with pictograms.  Is this a real example of an early Sinitic script, or just a nonce script created for the film?

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Barbarian Language in a Chinese movie

From Alex Baumans:

I'm getting more and more interested in Chinese pop culture, so I keep discovering things.
 
I recently watched Painted Skin 2, which is your typical fantasy action movie, with star crossed lovers, a princess, a fox spirit and a lone outpost of the area surrounded by barbarians.
 
When these barbarians (and they are truly depicted as barbarians, straight from Hyboria) came on screen, I pricked up my ears. As I said in an earlier mail, my Chinese is next to non existent, but I have watched a lot of reality shows with The9 these last weeks, and this didn't sound like any Chinese I was used to.
 
Even more bafflingly, I had the impression I could make out some Indian sounding words like 'rajaputra' [VHM: "prince"] and 'deva' [VHM:  "god; deity"] which would be appropriate in the context. These may be mondegreens, as I don't know any Indian languages. I have only watched a fair bit of Bollywood cinema and have a background in Farsi.
 
So I thought this little enigma (if it is one) would amuse you.

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Chinese: what do you hear?

[This is a guest post by Jonathan Smith]

Here's an audio passage from a film I've been watching:

If you know Chinese, test yourself to see how much of it you understand.

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"Mulan" is a masculine, non-Sinitic name

There is much hullabaloo over the new "Mulan" trailer:

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Sienna Miller's southeastern PA accent

Adam Hermann, "Sienna Miller talks nailing the Philly accent for 'American Woman' on Jimmy Fallon", Philly Voice 6/15/2019:

British actress Sienna Miller has an accent when she talks, but it's decidedly not something you normally hear from an eastern Pennsylvania resident.

For the film "American Woman", which comes out next week and is set in "a small, blue-collar town in Pennsylvania", Miller had to figure out what people from around here talk like.

It wasn't easy, because the Philadelphia accent is so dang weird, but she clearly had some help, because she kind of nailed it.

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The Sinophone

I think about the problem of the Sinophone every day, but I haven't written about it very often on Language Log (see "Readings" below).  We have Anglophone (English-speaking), Francophone (French-speaking), Hispanophone (Spanish-speaking), Germanophone or Teutophone (German-speaking), Italophone (Italian-speaking), Lusophone (Portuguese-speaking), Russophone (Russian-speaking),  Hellenophone (Greek-speaking), Arabophone (Arab-speaking), etc.  So why not Sinophone, since diasporic Sinitic speakers are spread widely around the world?

About fifteen years ago, several of us who were interested in the subject independently started to use the term "Sinophone", but credit is usually (and I think rightly) given to Shu-mei Shih for coining and popularizing it in written publications (2004 and especially 2007).

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Only the Communist Party can save the earth

Movie ticket for "Liúlàng dìqiú 流浪地球" ("Wandering earth"):


(Source)

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Subpar subtitles

This is a full length martial arts action movie (English title "Sword Master"). You probably won't be able to stand watching much of it, and you have to put up with some pretty atrocious fighting scenes, but if you stick around for a few minutes of the Chinglish subtitles, you'll find them to be quite bizarre, although most seem to be just poor automatic translation.

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"I Want to Eat Your Pancreas"

Seen by a friend of Jeff DeMarco in Sydney, Australia's Chinatown:

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