Hidden Fortress: Subtitles

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Greg_S_H, Sep 10, 2001.

  1. Greg_S_H

    Greg_S_H Executive Producer

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    Though I've had this disc since it's street date, I just got around to watching it last night. I have to question whether these new English subtitles are "improved," like the packaging claims. Now, the copy I previously had on VHS did NOT have the term "shitworm," but who knows. I've never heard the term, but maybe it's legitimate in Japan. It's a little more questionable when one of the characters calls another a "shithead" towards the end. But the ones I know were inappropriately translated are when one character says something like, "If he finds out about the gold, we'll be screwed!" and another point where one of the characters says, "This sucks!" Come on! You cannot convince me either of those phrases were in vogue in 1958 in Japan. Especially "This sucks!" I remember when that phrase began moving towards acceptance as a general term in the late '80s/early '90s. In high school, we would use it to the chagrin of our parents. After the Simpsons had been around a while, it became a term even the smallest of children could use without being reprimand. But, I digress. It's way too modern a phrase for Hidden Fortress and I wonder why Criterion allowed it.
    There were other problems with the subtitles, such as
    Spoiler:when the princess is facing execution and says, "I had a good time! The Fire Festival was fun!" That and the above threaten to kill the mood. Ultimately, they don't, though. I had more fun (to use the princess's phrase) this viewing than I did previous viewings. I guess that has a lot to do with the remarkable transfer. The beautiful locales really shone through. I've just got to say that, everything else aside, I'd love Kurosawa just for the locations he chose. In particular, I love the foggy woods surrounding the site of the Fire Festival. Simply remarkable.
    [Edited last by Greg_S_H on September 10, 2001 at 05:45 AM]
     
  2. Ken_McAlinden

    Ken_McAlinden Producer
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    It's probably a case of the subtitlers making some "cultural interpretations" rather than translating literally. My favorite example was in the Neil Gaiman dub of Princess Mononoke where a character's line was changed from the literal "This soup tastes like water" to "this soup tastes like donkey piss". It tried to convey the rudeness of the statement to a Japanese audience by elevating it to a level of rudeness that would be perceived roughly the same way by western audiences. I definitely have mixed feelings about this practice, but at least with the Mononoke DVD, you have two separate subtitle streams to compare the differences.
    If you really want to see fun with subtitles and translations between English and Japanese, check out the forthcoming Monty Python and the Holy Grail Special Edition. [​IMG]
    Regards,
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    Ken McAlinden
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  3. Ben Motley

    Ben Motley Supporting Actor

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    Yes, when I watched Hidden Fortress, I immediately knew this was an "updated" version. Very bad and irksome in my opinion. CC seems to need a little quality control. Otherwise, a nice disc.
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  4. Richard Kim

    Richard Kim Producer

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    In the Criterion Grand Illusion, when the main character is is complaining about his prison cell, the subtitles read "This place smells like shit!" Strange for a 1930s film.
     
  5. Jeff Kleist

    Jeff Kleist Executive Producer

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    Criterion's subs on Kurosawa movies are frequently in need of help. Too literal or just plain weak
    Jeff Kleist
     
  6. Aaron Reynolds

    Aaron Reynolds Screenwriter

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  7. Greg_S_H

    Greg_S_H Executive Producer

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  8. Doug Pyle

    Doug Pyle Second Unit

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    quote: When I watch a film from 1958, I expect the dialog to match that time period.[/quote]
    This didn't bother me at all. In fact, most subtitles are so literal and poorly translated for their cultural nuances that I'm impressed that any attempt is made to capture the feeling.
    I'm sure Japan 1958 was very different from United States 1958, so I wouldn't expect an American 1958 tone. America was rich and religiously/sexually conservative. Japan was in a very different situation. How do we really know how Japan dialog should sound back then, rendered in English - especially for a film set centuries earlier?
    An example of the difficulty of translation even without timewarps: I taught English in Japan about 13 years ago. Trying to help business-men (male, not female because that's Japan in 1989) learn how to sound familiar and approachable to West-Coast American businesspeople, I asked them not to address me as "honorable Pyle" ('Pairu-san') and to just use my first name. That's extremely awkward for many of these students, so I was called 'Dagu-san' ("honorable Doug"). That made me laugh but it didn't quite capture the casual familiarity many Americans equate with trust in a business relationship! (actually, whether I should say 'san' meant 'honorable' or just 'Mr' is culturally a tough call; since I was their teacher, and teachers are paid much better in Japan than the US, it tips the scales to 'honorable' [​IMG] )
    I for one enjoyed the subtitles of the Hidden Fortress especially since it reads much more naturally than the older version.
    ------------------
    • May you be happy and well!
    [Edited last by Doug Pyle on September 14, 2001 at 03:21 AM]
     
  9. Jon Robertson

    Jon Robertson Screenwriter

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    The word "fuck" is also used in Criterion's subtitle translation of Diabolique. Considering it was made in 1955, I almost fell out of my chair in shock!
     
  10. Brian Olson

    Brian Olson Extra

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    When I saw the term "shitworm" while watching Hidden Fortress, I immediately thought of the term maggot since that's a true shitworm. Perhaps that would have been a better translation (don't know for sure since I can't understand Japanese).
     
  11. Greg_S_H

    Greg_S_H Executive Producer

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    Doug,
    You certainly have greater knowledge than I about the Japanese, and I agree that attempting to capture the emotion as well as the literal words is important. I still object to using obvious modern American slang like "This sucks!" and "We're screwed!", though. It just seems so out of place, especially when you consider that this is not only a film from the late '50s, but also a period piece.
    Speaking of which, does anyone know at which period this movie is set? In other words, when did rifles come into play in Japan?
     
  12. JohnS

    JohnS Producer

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    I was shocked too, too see the word "fuck" being used in Diabolique(1954).
     
  13. Brook K

    Brook K Lead Actor

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    Guns (technically rifles weren't invented until the 19th century) were brought to Japan by Portuguese merchants around 1530.
     

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