There is an amazing art cinema in Bordeaux called Utopia. We have benefited from a cinema trend in France in which they have been limiting voicing over of foreign films with French. Instead, they have been leaving English movies in English and simply adding subtitles. That means most of the American movies that have come over to France have stayed in English and we have been able to see them and capture a bit of home. I was chatting with my colleagues about the benefit of having the subtitles rather than voice overs. Apparently, it is only recently that American movies have been subtitled rather than voiced over. In the US when I go see foreign films, they are always subtitled. I can't even imagine what it would be like to have English voice overs. Maybe it is the types of films I see but I really do think it is better to listen to the actual actors voice even if I don’t understand the language. It adds a depth to film that is lost when there is a voice over.
There are many American TV shoes that have been exported to France. I have to admit, my guilty pleasure is to watch the Big Bang Theory over here. Most of the TV shows have voice overs and not subtitles. I have a different standard when applied to TV. I find it hilarious to watch an already funny show with voices that don’t match the characters at all. The French have their own filler words like “um” and “like” and “duh” and “so”. They use “donc” and “alors” and “psh” and “uh”. The words are used in almost the exact same way that they are in English as they fill space before the next thought or express subtle emotion during conversation. Many of the French filler words come with a facial expression that are quite different than those we have in the states. So when I watch the Big Bang Theory, the facial expressions don’t match the French filler words and it really cracks me up.
Now if you are watching an art house movie and the emotion of the film is part of what is pulling you in to the story, those little blips of face not matching words are distracting. This was what my colleague and I were discussing. She was noting how nice it is to be able to watch a movie and have the words match the character’s facial expressions even if you have to read the subtitles to understand what is happening. I couldn’t agree more, I love watching French movies with English subtitles. I always read the subtitles but listen to the French too.
A couple of weeks ago my colleagues invited me to a showing of the movie Still Alice at the Cinema Utopia. It was an event planned for the ISPED (Institute de Santé Publique Epidémiologie et Développement http://www.isped.u-bordeaux.fr/) which is a research center funded by the French government and my host while I am here. The team has built up a good bit of expertise around dementia and held an incredible event around dementia awareness at the cinema. They brought in regional and city leaders to discuss opportunities to improve resources for families working through the challenges of dementia. Then they showed the film and after held a question and answer session about future directions for Alzheimer's and dementia research. It was absolutely incredible to see the researchers, government officials, and citizens together in one place discussing a complicated societal issue.
The venue made the whole experience even more incredible. The Cinéma Utopia (http://www.cinemas-utopia.org/bordeaux/) is in an old church way up in the rafters (I imagine it is quite hot in the summer). The seats are made of red velvet and very plush. It’s almost a royal experience. As beautiful as the chairs are, they aren’t as comfy as the recliners you now see in so many theaters in the US. Since I don’t really expect comfort in an art house theater, it’s no big deal because the ambiance is worth the slight rigidity of the chairs. Beyond the beauty, the Cinéma Utopia is located in a beautiful place (or square) full of cafes and lively activity. So when you come out of the movie, the whole place feels alive even at 11 pm on a Wednesday. If you are near Bordeaux, I highly recommend checking out a movie at the Utopia, it’s magnificent (c’est magnifique)!