Dubbing in Italian Cinema

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zedz
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#1 Post by zedz » Tue Jul 12, 2005 5:45 pm

mute nostril agony wrote:Interesting, I never would have guessed the Italian version was dubbed.
To the best of my knowledge, practically all Italian films (at least in this period) were dubbed. Fellini has often been hailed as a seamless practitioner, but it generally seems pretty obvious - and sometimes awkward - to me with his films. Pasolini's dubbing is almost surreally disjunctive at times, but it's so brazen it becomes part of his aesthetic.

Does anybody know of any major Italian filmmakers who didn't follow this practice?

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david hare
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#2 Post by david hare » Tue Jul 12, 2005 7:14 pm

Maybe nit picking but it would be truer to say Italian movies have been traditionally post-synched. Dubbing really implies a version aimed at a "foreign" market. Some directors obviously payed more attention to the actors in this regard, notably VIsconti who, even with international casts in - say- The Leopard is very careful with the lip-synching of all the actors, including Delon and Lancaster. Other directors like Pasolini, however, are seemingly incredibly sloppy in this regard - although he was so often working with non-professionals this was inevitable. Fellini is another case in point - sometimes VERY careless in this regard. Remember Valentina Cortese's joke in Day for Night about being directed by Fellini and being told to count numbers to 20? Also, remember that Rossellini, for instance, made several movies in more than one version - Stromboli, Viaggio in Italia, Germania anno zero, etc. And Renoir made Italian, English and French versions of The Golden Coach. Argument can ensue about a preferred version but it has to be based on general acclaim, I think. For instance Viaggio in Italia was "read" in English by both Sanders and Bergman, ditto Europa '51, by Bergman and Alexander Knox, and despite the Italian settings the movies play best in English. Thus, I don't agree the native setting is always the best language choice. Contradicting my argument of course, is 1900 - given the sheer volume of Italian supporting actors in it, I am happier with the Italian version than the English version, despite the prominence of Sutherland, De Niro, Depardieu and Hayden (this a very small part really).

Again, I had some fondness for the French version of Il Conformista with Trintignant's and Sanda's own voices, and would love to have this soundtrack available as an extra on any forthcoming disc.

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#3 Post by Arcadean » Tue Jul 12, 2005 8:42 pm

I don't remember where I got this info but I remember I heard it somewhere. Some of it might be wrong because I am going just on memory here. Someone correct me if I am wrong.

The reason all Italian films were dubbed is there were no soundstages in Cinecitta . When sound came in, Italy decided not to join in. If you were to record sound in Cinecitta I don't think it'd sound very good (you'd probably hear lots of echoes). This also gave Italian filmmakers a lot more room to maneuver and they didn't have to worry about recording the voices. It also just became tradition because they could have soundproofed the studio. I think they actually did soundproof it when they remodeled it.

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david hare
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#4 Post by david hare » Wed Jul 13, 2005 5:43 am

This is completely wrong - Cinecitta certainly maintained soundstages throughout the 30s - and probably used the Dekla Klangfilm system, which other masters like Renoir and Carne in France used. (see Max Ophul's magnificent La Signora di tutti from 1936.) The war left a considerable level of destruction on Italy (just as the bombing of Billancourt in France by the Allies totally fucking blew away virtually many of the negatives of 30s French cinema), but I think the Italian reliance on post-synching comes down to two things. One was the convenience for a cheaper shoot (fewer takes) and, by the fifties, the chance to make multiple language versions of titles. Remember Europe, including the UK, was in a state of total deprivation after WW2 - particularly France and Italy. Germany's post war humiliation is another story altogether and has to be told somewhere else.

I must say however Cinecitta's Musical sound recording systems are certainly wanting. (they are usually credited to an RCA system) In almost every Italian movie through to Visconti in the late sixties (probably Vaghe stelle dell'Orsa) the sound is frequently raspy, or actually breaking up (the one exception is the quite good available soundtrack of La Signora di tutti, which of course relies so much on the progression of a 78rpm and the music for the narrative. )

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der_Artur
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#5 Post by der_Artur » Wed Jul 13, 2005 6:31 am

I never heard of the lack of soundstages, but of the fact that the studios were not soundproof. So what about this? Where is this contradicting information coming from? I feel a little bit unsettled about what to believe concerning the development of Italian cinema.

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skuhn8
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#6 Post by skuhn8 » Wed Jul 13, 2005 2:42 pm

golgothicon wrote:I never heard of the lack of soundstages, but of the fact that the studios were not soundproof. So what about this? Where is this contradicting information coming from? I feel a little bit unsettled about what to believe concerning the development of Italian cinema.
Lack of soundproofing is correct. If I recall Cinicitta is near some significant airport traffic and has been since the war, though I don't recall if that was specifically the greatest concern soundwise. I believe the 8 1/2 commentary addresses some of the post-synch issues in the first half of the film.

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#7 Post by macaca » Wed Aug 08, 2007 2:00 am

Why is it that most films with not-so-good ADR are always directed by Italians? (Battle of Algiers, Bicycle Thieves, 8 1/2, The Good the Bad & the Ugly, etc). I'm sure theres a technical reason, but I'm not sure what it is.

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david hare
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#8 Post by david hare » Wed Aug 08, 2007 5:32 am

It's historical, if not hysterical.

Go to something like Wikipedia and check under Italian film Industry, and /or dubbing.

As Fellini said to god knows what or who during La dolce vita (oh of course it's Truffaut's gentle parody in La Nuit americaine) Valentina Cortese explains thus:

"He always gets me to read the numbers ... uno, due, tre, quattro, cinque..."

FAR more interesting topic is Italian directors who either do live/wild soundtracks, or refine their often multilingual cast dubbing. Visconti comes to mind first up.

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#9 Post by MichaelB » Wed Aug 08, 2007 5:50 am

macaca wrote:Why is it that most films with not-so-good ADR are always directed by Italians? (Battle of Algiers, Bicycle Thieves, 8 1/2, The Good the Bad & the Ugly, etc). I'm sure theres a technical reason, but I'm not sure what it is.
In the very early days of sound, Mussolini insisted that all films be shown in Italian, lest subversive messages get through in foreign tongues. And while that edict was ultimately scrapped, Italian filmmakers had already got into the habit of shooting films silent (often with multilingual casts) and dubbing them afterwards - not just into Italian but every other language that would be required for international distribution.

And because this was standard practice in commercial Italian cinema, it became equally common in so-called "art" cinema, compounded by people like Fellini habitually casting people for their appearance rather than their acting ability (Pontecorvo did the same in Battle of Algiers), so you'd get that situation regardless of the film's nationality.

But Italy is by no means the only offender - you should try watching 1970s and 80s Hong Kong films!

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#10 Post by kinjitsu » Wed Aug 08, 2007 6:02 pm

MichaelB wrote:In the very early days of sound, Mussolini insisted that all films be shown in Italian, lest subversive messages get through in foreign tongues.
That's not entirely true:
Dubbing was a way to evade dubious elements in foreign films: it was easy to change dialogue that denigrated Italy in any way or could pose other potential menacing influences. Hollywood films, however, did not suffer any particular prejudice, since they too were subject to the comprehensive restrictions of the Production Code ...

A good example of how cinema, under Freddi, became a tool through which the government promulgated its policies was language. The regime's agenda of Italianzation manifested itself on a linguistic as well as a geographic plane. The standardization of language, spearheaded by Achile Starace, became an integral component of collective unification. The attempt to eliminate the use of regional dialects in favor of "standard" Italian, to decontaminate the "standard" of barbarisms, and to substitute the personal pronoun "Voi" for the Spanish-influenced "Lei" in formal situations all aimed to purify the Italian spirit and abolish difference ... cinema, like other mass media, became the tool through which the government promulgated its policies.

—Jacqueline Reich, Re-viewing Fascism: Italian Cinema, 1922-1943 - Mussolini at the Movies: Fascism, Film and Culture
Italian is a language spoken only by dubbers. —Ennio Flaiano

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Don Lope de Aguirre
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#11 Post by Don Lope de Aguirre » Thu Aug 09, 2007 4:41 pm

Does anybody know of any major Italian filmmakers who didn't follow this practice?
If memory serves correctly (from the extras of Partner) Bertolucci prided himself on not following this practice. (He was very influenced by the nouvelle vague).

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#12 Post by ambrose1am » Wed Aug 22, 2007 12:15 pm

I took a film class at the University of Pavia in 2001 and was shocked to find myself watching a dubbed version of REAR WINDOW. In a film class! I asked my professor, a Bunuel scholar, why there was so much dubbing in Italian films and he said there were three reasons:

1. Lack of soundproofing and money for expensive synching.
2. Mussolini's desire to purge the language of foreign elements.
3. The industry of dubbing itself, which puts a lot of actors to work and therefore perpetuates itself.

Dubbing is still routine in Italian films, though they have good soundstages now. The industry of "dubbing actors" continues to grow so it's unlikely things will change. The Italian film industry is doing a disservice by not promoting and releasing films in V.O.
Last edited by ambrose1am on Wed Aug 22, 2007 12:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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#13 Post by MichaelB » Wed Aug 22, 2007 12:55 pm

I took an Italian friend to see Il Postino when it came out, and she was astounded that it was in her native language - she expected it to be in dubbed English. In fact, she'd never even seen subtitles up to that point.

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#14 Post by ambrose1am » Wed Aug 22, 2007 1:01 pm

MichaelB wrote:I took an Italian friend to see Il Postino when it came out, and she was astounded that it was in her native language - she expected it to be in dubbed English. In fact, she'd never even seen subtitles up to that point.
Hilarious. Case in point--a disservice to Italian speakers.

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#15 Post by MichaelB » Wed Aug 22, 2007 1:04 pm

ambrose1am wrote:Hilarious. Case in point--a disservice to Italian speakers.
Mind you, Philippe Noiret was fairly blatantly dubbed, so even the supposed <i>versione originale</i> was hardly a model of linguistic authenticity...

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#16 Post by kinjitsu » Wed Aug 22, 2007 1:08 pm

This is a Frenchman playing a Chilean in exile on an Italian island, so what other language would you expect him to be speaking? Esperanto? :wink:

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#17 Post by MichaelB » Wed Aug 22, 2007 1:12 pm

kinjitsu wrote:This is a Frenchman playing a Chilean in exile on an Italian island, so what other language would you expect him to be speaking? Esperanto? :wink:
Yes, I suppose the traumas of exile must have caused a fundamental disconnection between his lip movements and the sounds that actually emerged.

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kinjitsu
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#18 Post by kinjitsu » Wed Aug 22, 2007 1:46 pm

A pity because I enjoy listening to Noiret's voice, and also because he very likely spoke a passable Italian, albeit with a French accent. From what I can recall, his voice was dubbed in all of his Italian films.

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#19 Post by MichaelB » Wed Aug 22, 2007 1:49 pm

Talking of eccentric dubbing practices, there's a fascinating nugget on the Terence Stamp interview on the upcoming BFI DVD of Teorema in which he reveals that everyone was asked to speak English while shooting (despite Pasolini not speaking a word of English)...

...after which Pasolini completely rewrote the script from scratch and dubbed totally new dialogue in Italian.

If true, Pasolini presumably realised that it would paradoxically be less jarring if everyone was obviously dubbed than might be the case if he was having to dub new Italian dialogue over different Italian lip movements.
Last edited by MichaelB on Wed Aug 22, 2007 1:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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#20 Post by tryavna » Wed Aug 22, 2007 3:21 pm

ambrose1am wrote:3. The industry of dubbing itself, which puts a lot of actors to work and therefore perpetuates itself.
Apparently, it's the same case in Germany. I remember a German friend telling me he had seen O Brother Where Art Thou in dubbed German. Since (whether you like it or not) so much of that movie's "point" lies in its characters use of language and accent, I can't imagine it making any sense at all -- it must have been an entirely different movie altogether.

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#21 Post by david hare » Wed Aug 22, 2007 5:35 pm

Talking of eccentric dubbing practices, there's a fascinating nugget on the Terence Stamp interview on the upcoming BFI DVD of Teorema in which he reveals that everyone was asked to speak English while shooting (despite Pasolini not speaking a word of English)...
This is certainly interesting and reminds me of course Teorema is a film with virtually minimal dialogue. As I recall there are barely more than 900 words of spoken dialogue in the entire movie. Paso's novelization (for want of a better word) is also very light on dialogue.

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#22 Post by LionelHutz » Wed Aug 22, 2007 7:02 pm

tryavna wrote:
ambrose1am wrote:3. The industry of dubbing itself, which puts a lot of actors to work and therefore perpetuates itself.
Apparently, it's the same case in Germany. I remember a German friend telling me he had seen O Brother Where Art Thou in dubbed German. Since (whether you like it or not) so much of that movie's "point" lies in its characters use of language and accent, I can't imagine it making any sense at all -- it must have been an entirely different movie altogether.
You're touching a painful subject here... In Italy every damn foreign film is only available dubbed in theaters (except for festivals and special showings). They even dubbed Letters from Iwo Jima, just to give you an idea. This is just terrible and people here got so used to that they think it's impossible to read subtitles while watching a film. Oh, the humanity!

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#23 Post by lord_clyde » Wed Aug 22, 2007 7:30 pm

I actually rather enjoy the dubbing of Dario Argento's movies, as the English dialogue sounds rather natural and seamless. Well, not seamless, it's obvious it's a dub but it doesn't take me out of the movie. The 'Deep Red' DVD however, with it's constant switching back and forth between English and Italian was a pain in the ass.

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#24 Post by Sortini » Wed Aug 22, 2007 8:30 pm

I remember reading somewhere that there was a version of Godard's Contempt that was dubbed in English. Since one of the characters is an interpreter, the American distributor made up new dialogue for her to say since she no longer could be translating. Anyone knows if this is a true story?

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zedz
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#25 Post by zedz » Wed Aug 22, 2007 9:13 pm

Sortini wrote:I remember reading somewhere that there was a version of Godard's Contempt that was dubbed in English. Since one of the characters is an interpreter, the American distributor made up new dialogue for her to say since she no longer could be translating. Anyone knows if this is a true story?
I've never listened to it to know if that story's true, but the English dub is on the Criterion disc, so somebody here can surely verify.

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