Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Swinging Both Ways

In the wake of Arcade Fire's now infamous French/English thank you speech at the Grammys AND the sound mix of the frankly fantastic French version of our film, let me tell you, "Bi" is in, baby!

Okay, time for full disclosure here - I've always been straight. Always liked my movies the old-fashioned way : original, the way the creator intended them. Don't give me any of this foreign monkey business - laying strangers' voices over actor's faces. It's just wrong. And downright unnatural.

Here in Quebec, this kind of thing is a far more common occurrence than many of you living in less "bi-friendly" places may realize. For example, all the big Hollywood films are dubbed into French by local actors so that when Tom Cruise or Julia Roberts or Brad Pitt opens their mouth, someone else's voice and language and even breathing comes out!

Lots of people are fine with that. But for my money, even if the whole movie's in Serbo-Croatian, it's always better to experience the original version with subtitles. That way, even if the specific meaning of their words escapes me, I still hear the actual actors' voices, intonations, colours, subtleties. So I can rest assured that the original intentions of the people on the screen - and behind the scenes - are intact.

Well yesterday, I took a walk on the wild side and have to come clean about something ...

It's actually not so bad once you try it.

But - and this is a big but - it really depends on WHO you try it with.

And as I understand it, ours was not your run-of-the-mill dabble in alternatives. This one was special. Yes, we had a wonderful director and team taking care of us. And yes, we had great actors who specialize in the very particular art of oral filmmaking - the most outstanding of whom is Macha who can actually "dub" herself...

But the final outcome still goes far beyond just a reasonable French "copy" of the original. It is instead, its very own, original "version" of the original. With its very own particular charms and subtleties and delights. The French version of our English film is, in my wide-eyed opinion, every bit as faithful to the creator's intentions as the original.

And like I say, it all depends on who you do "it" with. There's no doubt in my mind that this first experience and the finished product was largely so gratifying and successful because Barbara never once lost sight of the film's essence, never once let go of any step in the process - from the translation to the casting to the performance. Not a single detail. Along with a team that was able to rise to this rather unprecedented challenge, she achieved what could be, and hopefully will still become, the gold standard for this necessary step in our national cinema - creating a living, second language alternative that can stand toe to toe with the original. And offer up its own set of goodies for those in the club.

Dolly has a line in our film that goes something like this: "I don't care if you're black or white. Or both. I don't care if you're gay or straight, bisexual or whatever... Whatever you are, just be that. And be good at it!".

As usual, Dolly has her finger on the right pulse...