Pedro Almodovar has a new movie out this week called I'm So Excited. It's a comedy that is rooted in Spanish politics and society - but how much do we miss out on when watching films from other cultures?

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  • Comment number 95. Posted by Butcher820

    on 13 May 2013 10:16

    One of my favorite British (very black)comedies of all time is Lindsay Anderson's brilliant 'Britannia Hospital'. It was made at a time of huge upheaval in the NHS and mired in the winter of discontent. Almost all references to the union, political and social issues addressed in the film will mean absolutely nothing to anyone outside the UK. Still great though!

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  • Comment number 94. Posted by nyhotep

    on 10 May 2013 20:00

    I must have failed to understand the cultural and intellectual subtexts of Jean-Luc Godard's critically acclaimed works, because to me they are flatulent, pompous self-important drivel. My loss!

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  • Comment number 93. Posted by Kristian

    on 10 May 2013 04:56

    First thing that came to me was the Leopard. One of the most beautiful, moving and boring movies I have ever seen. Though not boring in a bad way for some reason. My problem was I know nothing about Italian history, so the significance of the whole thing as completely lost on me.

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  • Comment number 92. Posted by Mike

    on 9 May 2013 15:00

    I've actually been thinking about something like this recently. This isn't quite what you were saying, but I recently watched TELL NO ONE, a French thriller based on a novel by US mystery writer Harlan Coben. I thought the movie was rather mediocre, as was the novel in my opinion, but it was greeted with a show of critical praise and adulation, one review I read even comparing it to Hitchcock. I have to wonder whether it had been an English language American film, if it would have been greeted with quite the same level of enthusiasm. Quentin Tarantino once pointed out that whereas you hear titters at Douglas Sirk movies at revival houses, you don't tend to when seeing Pedro Almodovar or John Woo's brand of melodrama, maybe because of how the subtitles break things down for the audience, or make it feel somehow more like opera, vs. just laughing at the "bad dialogue." Of course, a lot of that has to do with the director's handling of tone in any film.

    A touchstone example of what you're referring to is about specific cultural phenomenons. I, for instance, wouldn't have the first clue about a SPACE 1999 film, and once upon a time before it hit mainstream popularity in the States, a DOCTOR WHO film probably would've played completely differently. It's interesting to hear about how SENNA played in the States, where his megawatt celebrity, very well know in Europe, wasn't anywhere near as famous in the US.

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  • Comment number 91. Posted by pgdieselpower

    on 7 May 2013 10:44

    Memories of Murder (2003) which is an amazing Korean movie has two scenes which I believe non Koreans just won't get.
    1. A scene mid movie when the police are interviewing a potential murderer and they stop the interview to eat black noodles and watch a TV police drama all together. I've been told by Korean friends that this is hilarious as every Korean of the period would behave in exactly this way and the scene gives the movie so much cultural context. But as a Brit I just don't fully understand.
    And
    2. Towards the end of the movie when there is a close up of Kang-ho Song during a particularly tense scene while confronting the actual murderer he asks him if he has eaten. By western standards an odd thing to say in the circumstances but to a Korean completely natural.

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  • Comment number 90. Posted by cybermyth

    on 6 May 2013 23:36

    I remember going to see L'Auberge Espagnole (UK title: Pot Luck) in the West End. Not only was the film about students from different countries multi-cultural but so was the audience, as different parts of the audience were laughing at different times, eg the Spanish found the Frenchman speaking Spanish badly very funny.

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  • Comment number 89. Posted by The Vodka Yeti

    on 5 May 2013 17:05

    I remember in the 90's seeing Les Visiteurs which was a smash hit in France, lauded as one of the funniest French comedies ever. I sat in a packed cinema in Bradford where the patrons chuckled every now and then, but by the end we all felt let down. My French friends said there were many jokes around the French language that the subtitling didn't or couldn't convey.

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  • Comment number 88. Posted by dodrade

    on 4 May 2013 19:40

    Slightly off topic but I think many films get lost in translation due to the passage of time as well as language. For example Brief Encounter is parodied so often because the stiff upper lip attitudes held by the characters are so old fashioned and are almost alien to modern audiences. In Imitation of life the idea of a light skinned black girl wishing to pass for white in an era of segregation and discrimination made sense but the concept would seem absurd today. Chaplin was considered the greatest silent comic by contemporary audiences, but today's critics consider him too sentimental and largely prefer Buster Keaton. As L.P. Hartley put it the past is indeed a foreign country and when we watch many classics today much of their meaning is lost on us to the extent they may as well be in esperanto.

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  • Comment number 87. Posted by HVC

    on 4 May 2013 10:06

    I'm always most concerned as to what is being unnecessarily lost in translation due to choices made in the subtitling process. You'll always have some cultural elements that don't transfer from foreign films, whatever their theme, so the subtitling, and the rendering of the most precise or appropriate translations possible, should be the priority. I study German, French and Spanish at uni and so I've watched dozens of films in these languages, with English subtitles, over the past few years. I've yet to see a film that didn't suffer at some point from some clunky, awkward translation of dialogue into English. I can always, always tell when the person who's done the subtitling wasn't a native English speaker. You'll get one line of dialogue in American slang, and then the next will use a dialectical term specific to Britain. Even the grammar will jump about. It's just wrong wrong wrong and I always wonder how people who, unlike myself, don't obsess about language on a daily basis feel about it. Is this one of the underlying reasons why the general public doesn't want to watch subtitled films in this country, because the translated dialogue seems false and forced?

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  • Comment number 86. Posted by Anthony Quinn

    on 3 May 2013 20:16

    I think the Carry On films are films only the British will get because the humour is very british. That saucy seaside postcard humour doesn't translate well abroud, maybe america or australia. Some Japanese films i don't get, there was one called Gozu i saw last year, never understood any of it

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