Me and subtitled movies

Passive? Dumbed-down? Moi? I was pulled up short yesterday, when I realised my viewing life is jam-packed with Big Brother, its offshoots, and high-end/high-concept DVD drama sets (American). The last movie I saw at a cinema was a CGI cartoon – Beowulf. Ooh, dragons. The last subtitled film I saw and enjoyed immensely, without major martial arts stuff happening, was the the amazing Pan’s Labyrinth directed by Guillermo Del Toro. And before that, a massive span of ten years since I saw the wonderful Ridicule which has a high old time dissing English “humour” and showing us how period drama should be made.

A new friend, let’s call him “Babe”, attempting to save my immortal soul from my cultural nose-dive along with the rest of the nation, presented me with a DVD of Celine and Julie Go Boating, a French film made in 1974 and directed by Jaques Rivette – in French! I mean, it’s not in English or even American. I bet no-one gets shot or says “fuck” and “shit” every thirty seconds. Just the occasional “merde” which sounds so much classier – I suppose that’s why our ancestors chose Anglo-Saxon, ’cause we rough types at the edge of the continent needed the catharsis and Romance is too romantic.

At three and a half hours, it’s a terrifying ordeal for a girl like I to contemplate. The last marathon viewing I did was the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy. And my mind even wandered with that. (Although I challenge anyone to follow the convolutions of the third movie. And if they did, kindly post bullet points here.)

But I’ve looked it up (on the net, natch!) and I see it’s influenced Desperately Seeking Susan, and I reckon I can spot a bit of Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures in there, possibly the best female folie a deux movie evah!

So fellow culture-vulture Louise and I are planning an afternoon and evening (three and a half hours – remember?) of Celine and Julie.

As it’s a lo-o-o-ong movie, I reckon it’ll require an early start, and plenty provisions – it’s gonna be a lengthy ride. It’ll probably go like this:

Convene 1pm – have something to eat. Then movie.

1.45pm – something to eat to accompany the movie.

2.30pm – something to eat. Possibly Sara Lee cheesecake eaten straight from the freezer to allay subtitle anxiety. More movie.

3.15pm – we’ll be feeling a bit peckish so something to eat plus film. Break open the crisps for a snack – must keep blood sugar up. Need fat to stay warm.

3.50pm – my eyes will be getting tired from reading the subtitles so some chocolate to freshen them up.

4.30pm – well, that’s coming up for teatime, innit? Something to munch and watch the movie. Maybe cakes. People before profiteroles!

With breaks and reveries and checking up on the blogs we’ll be hitting the halfway mark about now, so a little more refreshment and more movie.

By the end we’ll be wanting dinner so we’ll need a meal of some description. Perhaps a light roast. (Not in the Scottish politician/English footballer sense, I hasten to add.) And a bit later something hot to keep Louise warm for the journey home. My mother used to heat a brick in the oven and shove it in a sack when I had to go out into the cold and horrid. So we can do that.

All in all, I’m expecting a fab day’s entertainment.

Madam Miaow says … visit Anna Chen’s website here:


Anna’s food blog here:

29 thoughts on “Me and subtitled movies”

  1. Hi Dave,

    I saw Beowulf at the local cinema and only realised halfway through that it must have been made for 3D. Most annoying. I'll have to do the IMAX.

    Sweeney Todd was great.

  2. a very fattening film.

    we watched Beowulf the other day. That was hilarious. A friend of mine who saw it at the IMAX said that the 3D technology employed there was just made for Angelina Jollie in this movie.

  3. No problem babeuf. You're right, that tough love you gave me in the earlier comment paid off!

    Isn't it nice to a civilised discussion without bickering and insults. Left Bloggers should all be like us.



  4. "Yes. Just the sort of thing to float Louise's boat. Isn't it Louise? … Louise? … "

    What? Sorry, I wandered off and got distracted. But am back…

    What's that? Two Russian women hitching a ride with two morose Finnish men. Does it have any stunts, special effects and explosions?


  5. Thanks, d.b., I won't underestimate you again.

    But at least my comment prompted you to prove what you could do, and that was well worth reading. You were just unlucky that I hadn't read anything of yours before and so I couldn't calibrate my irony meter.

  6. Cheers, DB. That's fair enough.

    I also think you were absolutely right in your first post in taking the rise out of the way "intellectual" sex is considered more acceptable than raunchy sex and can be, in some cases, a sneaky way of allaying the guilt of deriving pleasure from such filthy practice.

    Could have been worse, though. Imagine the English making it. With Hugh Grant as the photographer.


  7. "The touching tale of two ebullient Russian women hitching a ride with two morose Finnish men."

    Yes. Just the sort of thing to float Louise's boat. Isn't it Louise? … Louise? …


  8. Another one I really love, and I haven't seen this for years, is Take Care Of Your Scarf, Tatjana. The touching tale of two ebullient Russian women hitching a ride with two morose Finnish men. It does take a certain sensibility, but I like it.

  9. Someone taped it off the telly for me but then someone else taped over it before I watched it. I definitely want to see it after what you just wrote, Babeuf.

  10. Madam Miaow said: Anyone seen Burnt By The Sun?

    Missed that earlier. Yes, MM, it was wonderful. The blissful summer day at the dacha, until the time for killing comes. Mikhalkov not only gave the victim great human depth, but also the killer, without for a moment tempting us to take the killer's side.

    He lets us see that the killer hasn't been turned into mindless cadre, longs for the old days, but still fulfills the demands of the system. And he makes us feel the horror of pumping a bullet into the brain of someone who loves and is loved. That gunshot undoes the brutalizing effect of the hundred previous gunshots we've experienced on film.

    Mikhalkov, surprisingly, was regarded as a tame establishment artist in Yeltsin's Russia – not the meatgrinder that Stalinism was, but a meatgrinder nonetheless. Still, he showed more humanity in this film than he did at all the state dinners and galas he attended.

    Thank you for reminding me of this film, Madam Miaow. I think I should watch it again soon.

  11. Oh dear.

    Yes, you've nailed the underlying meaning of feisty very well. But I feel this wasn't DB's intention. (Correct me if I'm wrong, DB.) I thought he meant it as someone who wasn't cowed.

    Un Homme Perdu is described on one cinema website as being about, "… the sulphurous and secret East." Well, that's half the problem, isn't it? We're there on screen as exotic "Other", not existing in our own right, but to represent something mysterious, most certainly sexually repressed, in western man; a means for white intellectuals to get their jollies and then return to the pristine lily-white fold of the family which remains unsullied.

    But there's a down side as well.

    Substitute Gary Glitter for the handsome photographer and you'd probably have something closer to the true picture.

    Now, about that invitation to model for National Geographic …

  12. d.b. said: a feisty and sexually empowered young 20-something.

    Ah, "feisty" You should have watched Daria in the 90s – they tore that word to shreds there. So what does it mean? Maybe something like "You fight back, girl, but not nearly enough to make me feel threatened". A bit like the Spice Girls. Feisty. And where did that get them?

    d.b. again: Basically a French photographer goes On The Road Jack Kerouac-style, shagging his way around Lebanon, Syria, Iraq etc. accompanied by a Lebanese refugee who is distant, confused and sad throughout.

    Now why would this refugee be "distant, confused and sad throughout". Perhaps at having to make ends meet by accompanying a Western sex tourist looking for exotic kicks, without being able to say anything against that?

    d.b., you're web-site shows you've got spirit. But some of you is stuck back in … well, 7 bis, Rue du Nadir-aux-pommes. Try to get out.

    Sorry if I've cast a cloud over a cheery thread, Madam Miaow.

  13. D.B. Oo, er. I like it when intellectuals depict sex. There's always something so miserable about it that it's always good for a laugh. Leaves the rest of us to have fun.

  14. Sounds good to me. On the rare occasion I end up watching foreign language films, I usually enjoy them more than most American/English ones I see. I agree though that the subtitles demand more concentration.

    Did anyone happen to catch any of the recent 'Unveiled' season on More 4? Five films exploring "the politics of love and sex in the Arab world." Who could resist?

    I only managed to catch two, both French: Viva Algeria which was excellent, a story about 3 independent-minded women trying to negotiate their way through life in a religiously conservative culture. Definitely the better of the better of the two, very poignant and tense but fun too thanks to Lubna Azabal as Goucem, a feisty and sexually empowered young 20-something.

    And the other one I saw was Un Homme Perdu which was, quite frankly, porn. My gaawwd. How I enjoyed it, not just for obvious reasons (ahem) but because it opened my eyes to a side of the Middle East I hadn't realised existed. It's all a bit pretentious, but interesting. Basically a French photographer goes On The Road Jack Kerouac-style, shagging his way around Lebanon, Syria, Iraq etc. accompanied by a Lebanese refugee who is distant, confused and sad throughout.

    So, er, yeah. If you ever fancy some "erotica" but need a political/artistic pretence, I recommend the above…

  15. Sounds too intellectual for moi. Can't we watch some shoot 'em up film…? Please, pretty please?

    Talking of shot 'em up, I really really would recommend, 13 Tzameti (France/Georgia production).

  16. Splinty said: Mmm, why not try Kusturica's Underground?

    A fine recommendation, Splinty, and thanks for reminding me of it. Hope you're well on the way to full recovery.

    A fantastic picture if a bit on the long side. Big epic sweep, lots of action and pathos… a little lost in the subtitles as the Serbo-Croat gets a bit salty from time to time, but that's probably unavoidable.

    Every blog needs an expert on salty Serbo-Croat. I propose, Madame Miaou, that you appoint Splinty as your consultant in this area forthwith.

  17. Still looking out for it, Phil. Hoping it'll turn up on cable. Please do let me know if you see it scheduled anywhere.

    Thanks, Splinty. Didn't know Costa Rica had a Tube but will try it out.

    Must move on from Japanese horror.

    Anyone seen Burnt By The Sun?

  18. Re: "high-end/high-concept DVD drama sets (American)"

    Have you given The Wire a go yet? If not, it's a must. You will not find a better drama. Guaranteed.

  19. Mmm, why not try Kusturica's Underground? A fantastic picture if a bit on the long side. Big epic sweep, lots of action and pathos… a little lost in the subtitles as the Serbo-Croat gets a bit salty from time to time, but that's probably unavoidable.


  20. Well, try imagining a secret director's cut of Thelma and Louise where the car sails safely over to the other side of the canyon. And even better, the other side is a land where the oppressors have been defeated. (Although it was an alternative ending to May 68 that they had in mind when they made the film.)

  21. Salut, Madame Miaou, ça cartonne? Samedi soir, on a bien kiffé. Hé, Louise, ça gaze pour toi?

    Céline = MM
    Julie = LF

    Julie, follow the white rabbit, and see where she takes you.

    Forget the cake and crisps. If you're ever going to get inside 7 bis, Rue du Nadir-aux-pommes, boiled sweets are what you need, like this:

    But once you're in, for as long as you take the ghosts seriously, you'll be stuck with them. They'll try to drag you down, but don't worry, Céline, you've managed to escape once already. And then the ghosts, for all their outrage, won't be able to touch you.

    OK, enough cryptic clues. Not a single word of that will make sense until you start watching. And if it still doesn't make sense afterwards … ben, supposez que je suis raide-def.

  22. So no fight scenes or special effects….no? Darnit!

    Well, I will need to keep myself hydrated. I will bring that bottle Cava and we should drink a toast to "Babe"…!

    This time I will be wearing thermals!

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