Smoking/No Smoking (Alain Resnais)

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Donald Trampoline
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Smoking/No Smoking (Alain Resnais)

#1 Post by Donald Trampoline » Mon Feb 28, 2005 10:36 pm

There is a French Pathé DVD release of Resnais' wonderful Smoking/No Smoking movie (on amazon.fr), but I can't tell if it has English subs (or even French subs for the deaf). Anyone own it and know?

It says "partiel" under "sous-titres" on amazon.fr. What the heck does that mean? I saw the movie, and as far as I can remember, it was all in French. "Partiel" would make sense if there were some English scenes that had to be subtitled in French maybe, but I don't think there were any.

As an aside, does anyone know a good site that explains better what subtitles are available on French (or other) DVDs in general (besides DVDBeaver)? The site can be in French. I looked, but I couldn't find any kind of technical DVD review site in French that would discuss such things in perhaps the way DVDBeaver does here.

The foreign versions of Amazon are really bad at listing the subtitle information it seems to me (even if you click "fiches techniques).

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#2 Post by therainsong » Mon Feb 28, 2005 10:46 pm

According to French Films on DVD (an excellent source to see if a French Film has a DVD with English subs or not) the DVD does not have them.

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#3 Post by Donald Trampoline » Mon Feb 28, 2005 10:58 pm

Wow. That's a great site. Thanks tremendously. It's exactly what I was looking for.

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#4 Post by Donald Trampoline » Tue Mar 01, 2005 2:54 pm

Well, almost perfect.

I just remembered another factor I was looking for was a reliable site to tell me if French DVD releases of foreign films (like the Ozu box set and Suzuki films) have English subs or French or any subs.

(There's discussion over in the Seijun Suzuki thread with this same question that reminded me I forgot about this.)

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#5 Post by ola t » Wed Mar 02, 2005 3:44 pm

Much of the information about this DVD on FrenchFilmsOnDVD.com is actually wrong -- their list of extras is pure fiction. The actual extras are a half-hour audio interview with Resnais, an hour-long British TV documentary on playwright Alan Ayckbourn (subtitled in French, which may be the explanation for the "partiel"; the docu is not related to the films, if I recall correctly it actually predates them), a featurette with Sabine Azéma and Pierre Arditi talking about the films, a very good featurette on costume design, and the trailer.

However, it is true that the disc has no English (or French) subtitles, but you could buy the book(s) of Alan Ayckbourn's play(s) on which the films are based -- Intimate Exchanges, published in two volumes by Samuel French (UK) -- and use those to get a good sense of the most important turns of events in each scene before you watch it. That's what I did, and I enjoyed it immensely -- I find you don't have to understand every line to appreciate the delightful acting in these films.

Everything about this DVD, with the lack of subs the only exception, is top-notch and I recommend it enthusiastically. I can't think of a more enjoyable way to practice French.

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#6 Post by tavernier » Sat Jun 04, 2005 12:40 pm

I just got my SMOKING/NO SMOKING DVD set and I agree, it's a superb set - everything is top-notch, from the transfer to the extras; but why, oh why, no English subs, on this most British of Resnais' films?
I can get by for the most part without them, but I'm still surprised that Pathe decided to limit the set's reach by not putting English subs on such an obviously "British" work.

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#7 Post by colinr0380 » Sun Jul 20, 2008 10:20 am

Have spent the weekend rewatching Smoking and No Smoking. I was interested by the way the film was structured as a technical exercise that helped to give what could be mundane situations extra resonance and poignancy of missed opportunities or alternative possibilities.

I really need a flowchart to be completely clear about the various narrative branches (!) but I like the way that the structure never feels overwhelming. We always start with the house and end with the church with a middle act taking place in various different settings (I particularly like the golf course setting, which reminds me of the artificial green of a W.C. Fields short!)

After the initial Smoking or No Smoking branch (which decides the major throughline of whether Mrs Teasdale runs into either the handyman Lionel Hepplewick or her husband's friend Miles Coombes) we run through one complete iteration of a story (the initial scene at the house/five days later/five weeks later/five years later at the church), then do a small jump back in that story to a point in the five weeks later story where there is a possibility of a different choice for an alternate outcome, then a bigger jump back to the five days later section where we get a bigger alternate possibility, then a huge jump back to almost the beginning of the story where in the initial house section along with the decision to smoke or not another life changing decision is made. We then run through that whole story and do another similar couple of smaller and larger jumps backward to examine that timeline in more detail as well. It seems complex but actually works beautifully.

I also like the way that within each scene there only seems to be an edit on an emotional beat whenever a character is about to leave or be introduced into the scene. It might just be the practicality of all the characters only being played by two actors but it also adds a sense of expectation after a while.

It is interesting that the two films can play as completely separate from each other but both contain small resonances such as Lionel playing a small part in Miles's 'No Smoking' section and vice versa, or the seaside resort the Teasdale's visit in Smoking bearing comparison with the cliffside walk Miles and Sylvie take in No Smoking (both in their location outside the town and in their relative positioning near the end of each film).

I also really like the way that my expectations were manipulated by the film. In Hepplewick's branch, where the handyman falls for Mrs Teasdale, I got the impression that class was going to be a major factor of the films, which seemed to be confirmed by Coombe's branch, in which the respectable family friend has the possibility of falling for Mrs Teasdale, and would seem to be a more appropriate match. However while class barriers are an important element there doesn't seem to be any particular judgement that Hepplewick and Mrs Teasdale are inherently more unsuitable for each other than Coombes is. In fact in the second major iteration of each film, where the story is reset almost to the very beginning, Mrs Teasdale's maid Sylvie becomes the object of either Hepplewick or Coombes's affections.

So the class element is turned on its head, but all with similarly disappointing results. Hepplewick might be better suited to Slyvie and Coombes to Mrs Teasdale but even then the relationships do not work out much better! So while class is important the film is not exactly conforming to notions of people of the same class having to stick together, but neither is it suggesting that love across class divides is always as romantic as it may be suggested to be in novels!

Which I think brings us to another important aspect of the films and their various 'branches' - none of the stories end particularly badly, but neither do any of them end particularly happily. Like life, people are still muddling along with the consequences of various decisions that have led them to various points at the end of each iteration. There's no opportunity for we in the audience to say "Ah! That's the path they should have gone down in order to have the fairytale romance and happy ending!" just as no branch avoids Joe Hepplewick's death - just postpones it a couple of years at best so he dies at 77 rather than 75.

Circumstances change - people get married or don't; have children or have a career; emigrate or stay where they've always lived, and so on, so there is no real way to judge that one choice was 'right' and the other 'wrong' - it's just a little 'different'. There may be a chance to avoid particularly unnecessary alcohol related or accidental deaths by taking a different path but it still doesn't change the fundamentals of the character's relationships, just modifies them. Mrs Teasdale's husband remains an alcoholic, just to a greater or lesser extent depending on what occurs; Rowena Coombes still rejoices in casual affairs with half the town whether Miles is loyal to her or leaves her!

It is a beautifully structured film, simple yet complex (and a good reason for making the details of the stories relatively broad and easily graspable - alcoholism, affairs and class relations - so that the plotting doesn't complicate matters too much).

Though I was left with the feeling that the Smoking/No Smoking conundrum was something that came much too late in the character's lives to be able to create anything much happier than situations where characters try to restart their circumstances from scratch - we'd need to go back even further to earlier choices to be able to find a branch that might lead to a generally happy ending, though that is probably the point, and the tragic dimension of the film - that even the paths not taken are never truly happy in a holistic sense.

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#8 Post by tavernier » Sun Jul 20, 2008 10:41 am

The structure of Resnais' films comes straight from Ayckbourn's plays "Intimate Exchanges," each of which have two possible endings.

Here's your flowchartshowing the structure of Ayckbourn's monumental effort--which Resnais beautifully approximates with his two films.
Last edited by tavernier on Sun Jul 20, 2008 11:14 am, edited 1 time in total.

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#9 Post by colinr0380 » Sun Jul 20, 2008 11:13 am

Brilliant! Thanks tavernier! =D>

Is the play structured in the same way as the film, with the "or else he/she said" resets? Would a play do all the iterations or just a couple of them and depending on what night you saw the play you'd see things play out differently? And if the play ran through all the iterations in a performance would it be split up into one 'half' then the other as the film was? Fascinating!

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#10 Post by godardslave » Sun Jul 20, 2008 1:22 pm


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#11 Post by tavernier » Sun Jul 20, 2008 1:29 pm

colinr0380 wrote:Brilliant! Thanks tavernier! =D>

Is the play structured in the same way as the film, with the "or else he/she said" resets? Would a play do all the iterations or just a couple of them and depending on what night you saw the play you'd see things play out differently? And if the play ran through all the iterations in a performance would it be split up into one 'half' then the other as the film was? Fascinating!
When the plays were done in New York last summer (by two brilliant actors, Bill Champion and Claudia Elmhirst, co-directed by Ayckbourn), each of the eight plays had 2 different endings, so you could conceivably sit through 16 different performances to see the different permutations. Obviously--as that chart shows--only the last 5 minutes of those 16 would be different.

The theater gave a list of performance dates with the varied endings, so you wouldn't have to sit through any repeats. (I just saw all 8 plays once.)
Last edited by tavernier on Sun Jul 20, 2008 1:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Smoking/No Smoking (Alain Resnais)

#12 Post by LQ » Sun Jul 20, 2008 1:29 pm

Donald Trampoline wrote:The foreign versions of Amazon are really bad at listing the subtitle information it seems to me (even if you click "fiches techniques).
I've emailed amazon.fr a few times about the subtitle question, and they've always given a timely and correct response.

sjh

Re: Smoking/No Smoking (Alain Resnais)

#13 Post by sjh » Mon Nov 17, 2008 11:21 am

You might also want to try this page. Even if you don't want to go through the rigmarole of 'demuxing' the DVD to reburn it with these subtitles (something I've never managed to do), it's still useful if you open it with notepad and use it as a reference whilst watching the film.

Best
Simon

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Re:

#14 Post by channy8 » Tue Aug 31, 2010 7:51 am

tavernier wrote:Here's your flowchartshowing the structure of Ayckbourn's monumental effort--which Resnais beautifully approximates with his two films.
The link has changed to
http://intimateexchanges.alanayckbourn. ... ucture.htm

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Re: Smoking/No Smoking (Alain Resnais)

#15 Post by channy8 » Tue Aug 31, 2010 8:10 am

sjh wrote:You might also want to try this page. Even if you don't want to go through the rigmarole of 'demuxing' the DVD to reburn it with these subtitles (something I've never managed to do), it's still useful if you open it with notepad and use it as a reference whilst watching the film.

Best
Simon
The link is outdated. Here is an actual one:
http://www.opensubtitles.org/de/search/ ... dmovie-990

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Re: Smoking/No Smoking (Alain Resnais)

#16 Post by Stefan Andersson » Sun Oct 23, 2016 2:03 pm

Flowchart (in French) from what seems to be a good film site. Much material on Resnais, including in-depth description of Hiroshima mon amour.
http://nezumi.dumousseau.free.fr/film/smoking.htm" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;


In English:
http://intimateexchanges.alanayckbourn. ... age18.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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