Monday, February 20, 2006

Its Just Not Funny

We need to recognize that we live in a world of many cultures and many languages, and certain aspects will never translate well from one to the next. Fine. This might manifest itself most commonly within humor. Now, I'm at the point now where I can watch a movie in Chinese and understand most of it, and if its got comedy then I can usually swing with it. This isn't much of a feat, as most Chinese comedies seem to ceiling at slapstick.

Last night I was watching "GoldenEye" as I make my way through the Bond collection I picked up a few months back. I couldn't get the subtitles off, so they kept distracting me throughout the film. Not too annoying, really. But what struck me was how lame the translation was. More than anything else, the sexual inuendos made little sense in Chinese, and often seemed to be, well, not so much innuendo as direct statements. Which basically boils down half of the dialogue in a Bond film to something like:
Any woman: "What are you doing?"
Bond: "I want to put my penis inside your vagina."

Chinese, I've said before, is an incredibly rigid language. This past weekend a father of a student taught me an expression that would directly translate as "The brain becoming rusty is not a good thing." He can't speak English, and I didn't know the word for 'rust,' but I understood when he said it was a red powder on metal that occurs after oxidation (yes, I know 'oxidize' in Chinese). Upon enlightenment, I jumped up confirmed that I understood his expression and immediately asked him if I could use the similar patter in other ways.
"What do you mean?"
"Well, if I don't use my Chinese ability, and it gets bad, can I say it gets 'rusty?'"
"No! Of course not! That makes no sense!"
"Well, what about other things?"
"I don't understand what you're trying to do, Bill. You can only say metal objects and brains are 'rusty.' Thats it."

Frustrating for an English speaker.

I'd like to end this post with a quick note on "GoldenEye." First, its a pretty good Bond movie, certainly better than some of the other atrocious Brosnan outings, and way better than one or two Moores. Not only that, but having not seen this film since the mid-nineties, I've probably got more memories about the N64 game than the flick. But watching the opening, I was shocked to see how well the game recreated the movie! The "facility" level, the first, is almost a direct re-creation of Bond's raid on the base. Some of the other sets were also well done by the game, but that facility really blew me away. Many of you know I played that game so much in high-school it got to the point that I was afraid of turning a corner in fear of a certain Soto waiting there for a shot to my head. Man, I loved that game. I'm on the verge of going to the video-game market here in Harbin and finding an N64 and a copy of "GoldenEye" just so I can re-live all those hours wasted in high school.

No using Odd-Job. Or that short Moonraker Guard. Thats just not fair.


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