[New publication] Journal of Chinese Cinemas: 12 (3) 2018
Journal of Chinese Cinemas: 12 (3) 2018
Special issue: The translation and dissemination of Chinese cinemas
Introduction: The translation and dissemination of Chinese
cinemas by Haina Jin
Abstract: This introduction provides a brief historical overview of the translation of Chinese cinemas and explores how film translation facilitates the dissemination of Chinese films. It also gives a description of the purpose, structure, and the methodologies of the contributing articles in this special issue. Offering fresh visions and innovative studies on various important issues, including mistranslation, the dubbing of Hong Kong kung fu films, the dubbing of foreign films in China, the subtitling of Chinese dialect films, the subtitling of independent Chinese documentaries, and a vivid personal account of the translation and distribution of Chinese cinemas in France, this special issue aims to generate international dialogue by presenting diverse approaches to the translation
and dissemination of Chinese cinemas.
I am not Madame Bovary: Felicitous mistranslation by Bérénice Reynaud
Abstract: The title of Feng Xiaogang’s 2016 film, Wo bu shi Pan Jinlian, which literally means I am not Pan Jilian, was translated as I Am Not Madame Bovary for its international release. The film’s heroine, publicly accused by her ex-husband of being a Pan Jinlian, wages a 10-year fight against the bureaucracy of her county to obtain justice. I re-examine the story of Pan Jinlian and its different versions in Chinese culture, as well as the myth of Madame Bovary and how it was translated in twentieth century China, to discuss how the mistranslation of Pan Jinlian into Madame Bovary becomes a portal for cross-cultural exchange. I am borrowing the concepts of heterotopia, écart, montage and obliqueness from the work of French Sinologist François Jullien – as well as François Cheng’s ethical considerations about a necessary dialogue between Chinese and Western cultures. As Chinese and Western thought use different categories of logic, I argue that, beyond the literal accuracy of a translation, a resonance may be created, through an oblique approach, in the mind of the reader or spectator.
Dubbese fu: The kung fu wave and the aesthetics of imperfect lip synchronization by Aaron Han Joon Magnan-Park
Abstract: Dubbese fu recuperates the dismissal of the ‘poorly dubbed’ English-language voice tracks in the Hong Kong kung fu films that became globally popular and profitable starting in 1973 as a position that improperly valorizes only the perfect lip synchronization version of the audiovisual contract. Instead of one, there is a total of three possibilities with Italy representing a looser version and the films of Hong Kong’s kung fu wave representing the imperfect version. The internationalization strategy adopted by Shaw Brothers and Golden Harvest identified the necessity of voice dubbings into the target market’s language, which in the case of the United States, required English dubbings since the goal was to become appealing to mainstream rather than art cinema audiences. The history of English dubbing studios in Hong Kong, the key individuals who made it happen, and the working conditions of the dubbing process are recreated to uncover how imperfect lip synchronization became a new aesthetic norm.
Translation and distribution of Chinese films in France: A personal account by Marie-Claire Kuo
Abstract: In France, the diffusion of Chinese cinema was for a very long time limited to elite cultural circles. After the May 1968 Students Movement, a large number of students signed up to learn Chinese at University Paris 7. Chinese films were screened there weekly to help these students get a better understanding of China. After China adopted its ‘Reform and Opening’ policy, several important French film festivals began to screen Chinese films. The French public began to understand the importance of Chinese cinema, but the commercial distribution of Chinese Cinema only started in the mid-1980s, after films from the Fifth Generation attracted the interest of critics and the public. French audiences remain interested in Chinese films today, especially in films by auteurs. In France, almost all important commercial films from foreign countries are dubbed. For art and auteur films, however, are screened in their original versions with subtitles. All the foreign films, even when they are dubbed, have a subtitled version, preferably produced in France and it is the same on television. This work should be done by specialists whose mother tongue is French. The way the subtitles are added to Chinese films is crucial as few French people understand the Chinese language.
The Liberty Coerced by Limitation: On Subtitling Fengming: A Chinese Memoir by Akiyama Tamako
Abstract: This essay steps into the long history of translation theory, which is replete with examples of translators contemplating their own work of transporting a text from one language to another and deploying metaphors to theorize the task of the translator. The author, a student of Chinese aesthetics and contemporary philosophy, is also a veteran subtitler. In this essay, she describes her own subtitling of Wang Bing’s Fengming: A Chinese Memoir. She begins with a common observation about film translation: Facing extreme limitations in space and time, subtitlers often mourn the many limitations with which they must contend and look with envy at the translators of literature, who appear so free. But the strictures of subtitling can also produce a certain kind of freedom. Akiyama’s essay uses the subtitles for Fengming to illustrate the liberatory possibilities hidden within the act of translation.
Chinese-dialect film and its translation: A case study of The World (2004) by Dang Li
Abstract: Over the past few decades, China has produced a significant number of films that use dialect. Many of them have been screened in international film festivals or have been distributed in different countries. Focusing on Chinese-dialect films, this paper examines how dialects in such films are used to represent a reality often masked by a mainstream, Putonghua discourse; and how Chinese-dialect films travel cross-culturally through audiovisual translation. To address these questions, I use a case study The World (2004), a multilingual film made by Jia Zhangke, China’s most prominent art house director known for his consistent and ubiquitous use of dialects. Adopting a descriptive perspective, the case study investigates the multilingual elements of the original and translated film. It mainly focuses on the strategies adopted by the translator when dealing with multilingualism in the film, and the effects of such strategies on character and plot development in the translated version.
Exchanging faces, matching voices: Dubbing foreign films in China by Weijia Du
Abstract: This article is part of a larger project on dubbed foreign films, which were the Chinese people’s ‘window to the outside world’ during the Cold War era. Between 1949 and 1994, when Hollywood’s path to China was blocked by Cold War politics, the Chinese Communist Party dubbed and screened over one thousand films from the Soviet bloc, Western Europe, and beyond. In this article, I argue that despite the appearance of ventriloquism, dubbing is fundamentally analogous to Schleiermacherian literal translation in that dubbing requires bending domestic voices to match foreign lips and bodies. The Chinese dubbing practice, with its emphasis on synchrony or ‘matching voices’, produced voices within the Chinese soundscape that were uniquely ‘foreignized’ and ‘embodied’. The dubbing actors distinguished themselves from mainstream voices by focusing on the body instead of on articulated messages and emotions; their voices were rare instances of geno-voices amid the chorus of pheno-voices during the Maoist and post-Mao years. In the second part of the article, I examine ethical issues in the representation of the Other in the context of Chinese dubbed foreign films.