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Cross-cultural Comparison through Film

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Presentation on theme: "Cross-cultural Comparison through Film"— Presentation transcript:

1 Cross-cultural Comparison through Film
Sabine Levet Foreign Languages & Literatures, MIT

2 Teaching Culture Culture is the logic by which I give order to the world. Part of this logic is ‘tacit, invisible,’ it is ‘everything that goes without saying. Raymonde Carroll, Evidences invisibles Silent Language, Hidden Dimension (Edward Hall)

3 Comparative Approach Juxtaposition of two cultures
Comparing a variety of materials with Cultura: questionnaires, statistics, newspapers, images, and films.

4 Comparing a Film and its Remake
Because it unfolds within a limited time frame, a movie must work from a large number of implicits common to the film makers and the audience, a large number of things which are ‘self-evident’. R.Carroll

5 Comparing a Film and its Remake
The variations between the foreign film and the American film are the result of deliberate choices. Analyzing these differences can reveal the underlying cultural presuppositions upon which the original movie and its remake are built.

6 Remakes We are led to believe that European films adapt, readapt, cite, pay homage to, parody, but do not remake, the former activities being linked to artistic and literary traditions of high culture, the latter being representative of American films and their ties to commerce and commercial interests.

7 Remakes The truth is that every national cinema is both a business and a producer of art. The remake is integral to an understanding of the relation between the two positions. (Forrest and Koos)

8 Comparing a Film and its Remake
It is important to put aside value judgment in order to let both remake and original unveil the mutual enrichment that only emerges from a juxtaposition of the two. (Claire Vassé)

9 Comparing a Film and its Remake
Our goal is not to decide which version is best, as some critics would do, usually evaluating a movie against ‘the original’, which becomes the norm, or the real thing. It seems more interesting to underscore the cultural differences which come out when two versions of the same story are juxtaposed. Brigitte Humbert

10 Comparing a Film and its Remake
We do not hand our students a list of differences between the American or French cinematic tradition. We ask them to look, compare, and make sense of what they see. They discuss it in class and with their online partners.

11 Homer’s Odyssey The Simpsons Exported to Middle East

12 The Simpsons Exported to Middle East
The issue of adaptation. Is it still the Simpsons? Can it work?

13 Trois hommes et un couffin Three Men and a Baby

14 Trois hommes et un couffin Three Men and a Baby
Students are asked to watch the French film before the remake, and ideally to watch both films in one sitting or in close succession. They receive a list of questions to show that have seen the movie and to pick up on vocabulary.

15 Trois hommes et un couffin Three Men and a Baby
Two steps: - global analysis of the differences - scene-by-scene comparison

16 Looking at the differences
The storyline. The relationships between the men, and between the men and the baby. The relationships between the men and the others: women, friends, the police What is different? What has been added, removed, or changed in the American version? Watch retour de Jacques/Jack’s Return

17 Looking at the differences
When comparing the two movies, you will probably have to use comparatives. But make sure to avoid value judgments. Avoid statements such as “movie X is funnier,” “scene X is less interesting”. Compare only to present objective facts, such as “there is more action in the American movie.”

18 Looking at the differences
The main goal to observe and analyze (not judge) the differences, and try and understand the underlying reasons behind these differences. After we list these differences, we will try to answer the following question: what caused the American director (L. Nimoy) to make these changes?

19 Trois hommes et un couffin Three Men and a Baby
Students work in class and online They work alone and in small groups - they share their observations - they discuss with their partners to make sense of the differences

20 The story line - forum “The most obvious plot change I noticed was how the drug exchange finally played out. In the French version the dealers got their drugs and the police were left out of the loop. In the American version the police are able to capture the drug dealers. I wonder if this difference can be associated with the perception and treatment of police in France versus the United States.”

21 The story line - forum “Although I can see how the difference adds more action to the American version, I think the portrayal of cops in each movie reflects the cultural viewpoints towards them. For example, it seemed to me that in the French version of the film the cops were portrayed as stupid and that they make a lot of mistakes - such as when the cop did not pay close enough attention to realize Michel snuck the drugs to the man in the park. Based on what we have seen from the questionnaires, it seems as if this portrayal of a cop would be more appealing to French culture.”

22 The story line - forum “Cela me fait penser à  d'autres films où les flics ont l'air de parfaits abrutis : je ne sais pas si Luc Besson est connu outre-atlantique (c'est lui qui a fait "le cinquième élément" et "taxi"), mais il est spécialiste de la démagogie en ce domaine, avec des policiers crétins et caricaturaux, tous plus débiles les uns que les autres. A bien y réfléchir, je ne retrouve pas dans ma mémoire de films récents où la police est mise en valeur. Retournons aux bons vieux classiques avec des commissaires et des inspecteurs intelligents et les Maigret ! Maigret c'est notre Columbo à  nous !)”

23 The story line - forum This reminds me of other movies where the cops look completely stupid. I don’t know if Luc Besson is famous on your side of the Atlantic, (he shot the Fifth Element and Taxi) but he is used to this type of demagogy, with completely stupid and caricatural police officers, each one more stupid than the others. Now that I think about it, I can’t recall a recent movie where the police would have a good role. Let’s get back to the good old classics, with clever police commissioners and inspectors and the Maigret stories! Maigret is our very own Columbo.

24 The story line - forum “A propos de la différence dans le traitement de la drogue dans les deux films: On retrouve ici une des différences entre les cultures française et américaine dont on avait parlé lors des questionnaires : les Américains ont tendance à faire appel aux autorités dès qu'il en ressentent le besoin, tandis que les Français pensent plutôt que les lois sont faites pour être transgressées.”

25 Comparing Scenes Découverte du bébé /Discovery of the baby
Retour de Jacques / Jack’ return Mère de Jacques / Jack’s mother Retour de Sylvia / Sylvia’s return Scène Finale / Final scene Watch mère de Jacques/Jack’s mother

26 Comparing Scenes Teams of students
Work with clips of specific scenes and with transcription Look at differences individually then work in group Discuss with their online partners and connect their observations with what they have observed so far about the other culture

27 Jacques/Jack and his Mother
Interaction between the characters Dialogues Non-verbal communication Background, music, rhythm, etc.

28 Sylvia’s Return - forum
“[It was] interesting to see how much more enthusiastic Sylvia was in her body language and comments in conversation with Mary directly and the men in the English version. It appears as though she is genuinely happy to be reunited with her daughter. In the French version, it's not that she is unhappy to see her daughter, but she does not express the same level of enthusiasm and excitement upon her arrival.”

29 Sylvia’s Return - forum
“I think that might be just because the French (from the Cultura questionnaires) seem to be not as open and expressive with their emotions.”

30 Other observations (sample)

31 Les hommes français se touchent, les américains se regardent
Couffin, 2:19 et 2:23 Baby, 0:51 et 2:34

32 Les hommes français offrent de l’aide; la Sylvia américaine la demande
Sylvia: Dormir, d’accord, mais quand? Pierre: Mais vous nous laissez la petite quelques jours [...] Sylvia: J’ai amené ses affaires pour quelques jours. Sylvia: [...] I need help. I need someone to help me. Michael: We’ll help. We will help! [...] Sylvia: I was hoping you would say that.

33 La famille française a des problèmes, la famille américaine respecte la morale
Sylvia: Mes parents, je suis fâchée avec eux, et puis d’abord, ils sont en Bretagne et puis, ils s’en foutent de moi. Peter: [...] Mary should move in with us permanently, we should be her family. [...] She needs a full-time mother. That’s why we think that you should move in too. [...] Michael: Yes, of course, four is better than three.

34 Le film français est plus sombre et classique, l’américain est dynamique et moderne
34 Rubens Rembrandt Lichtenstein Couffin, 2:23 Baby, 3:26

35 Film critics Students read film critics after they have worked on the film French film in France, and in the US American film in the US, and in France Sometimes as a way to test how much they have uncovered about each movie/culture.

36 Film critics Serreau's real problem is her inability to tell a joke. Unless you find the mere idea of a man changing a diaper automatically hilarious, Three Men and a Cradle has precious few laughs. Shot in a strangely grave, twilight style ill suited to the sitcom premise, the movie plods dully from one foreseeable irony to the next. Yes, little Marie is adorable, but can one cute kid be responsible for an entire nation losing its esthetic marbles? C'est un grand mystère. David Ansen, Newsweek.

37 Comparing two trailers of a same movie
La marche de l’empereur March of the Penguins (see also Movie are made to be seen, Canal+) See: ComparisonEmpereurPenguin.doc

38 Comparing two trailers of the same movie
Images Music Text Overall impressions? What type of movie? Message? Why these differences?

39 Comparing commercials for a similar product
“Faire du ciel le plus bel endroit de la terre,” Air France “Going Home,” American Airlines

40 Remakes in many languages
Long list of remakes . Working with posters, trailers, scenes, film critics. Additional materials (focus on culture).

41 Bibliography and Online Resources
Books: Carroll, Raymonde. Cultural Misunderstandings. The University of Chicago Press, 1988 Fabe, Marilyn. Closely Watched Films, An Introduction to the Art of Narrative Film Technique. University of California Press, 2004 Forest, Jennifer and Koos Leonard, eds. Dead Ringer, The Remake in Theory and Practice. State University of New York Press, 2002 Verevis, Constantine. Film Remakes. Palgrave MacMillan, 2005 Articles: Carroll, Raymonde. Film et analyse culturelle: le Remake. Contemporary French Civilization, 13:2 (1989): Humbert, Brigitte. Films français, remakes américains. The French Review, Vol.82, No.5 (2009): Online: Film Reference The Internet Movie Database Cultura > Learn About Cultura > Teacher’s Guide > The Modules > Films


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