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Lost in Translation? September 24, 2009

Posted by kellyparry111 in Uncategorized.

Hey everyone!

I was surfing YouTube and found this interesting video! I’m not sure where this video came from or how legit these translations are, but I think its interesting to see that people have translated this scene in so many different ways. Also, read the comments below…it is funny to see the arguments about translation!



1. bri66 - September 24, 2009

I thought the one where the translation was, ‘He said you’re a scumbag’ and she answers ‘what’s a scumbag?’ is the most interesting/and “you make him want to puke,” “what is “puke?” It’s not necessarily the most exciting translation, but it follows the pattern throughout the film where he’ll say a word and she asks for clarification. However, her rubbing her finger over her lips, an act that we saw Michel do throughout, almost signifies that she’s taken his role. Actually, I’m not quite sure what I think it means, but that seemed a possibility. Either way, the translators of what Michel say do not accurately communicate his message. Perhaps this is for Patricia’s benefit.
On another note, I really enjoyed this scene. Not for the plot (it is a little depressing), but because of all the close ups that show us what these characters are thinking. Especcially the last shot of Patricia. It’s beautiful. You see her face, the emotions she’s trying to keep in control, and as if she can’t take it anymore, she abruptly turns from the camera. I thought that was great!

2. Prof. R - September 24, 2009

Kelly: I’m glad you found this! There has in fact been a lot of disagreement about what the final scene says/means. And this confusion is particularly key in a “foreign” film. We’ll see more of this during our next section on Bollywood.

Bri: Excellent points. I think the primary confusion is whether Michel blames Patricia or the world for what happens to him at the end. If he calls her a “scumbag,” or more likely a “bitch,” then the story is about her betrayal. But if he says something to the effect of “life sucks,” then he’s lashing out at the world for not accommodating a guy like him. And I too love the last shot of Patricia; she’s quite awesome in expressing a kind of absence. If this film is about “style,” then that’s all we’re left with at the end.

3. kieao - September 24, 2009

It seemed to me that in the end he had, if not forgiven her, understood her position and came to accept it as just another sucky aspect of life. The reason I was left with this conclusion is because when he is talking to his friend (the one who tries to give him the gun) he confesses that he is still thinking about her.

Also, even more powerful than this is his last gesture towards her. He “plays sour apples”, making different facial expressions as he had done throughout the film. This leads me to believe that his feelings towards her have not changed.

Finally, when she confesses her betrayal, he does not seem mad or taken aback, but only upset at her logic. They have a civilized, reasonable conversation, as though aware of eachother’s plights and motivations.

So, though there are these different interpretations, I thought that he was commenting more on the world than on her individual action. I think that this might make it easier for her to adopt his role, indicated by repeating his signature gesture, after he is gone.

4. Zach - September 24, 2009

I feel like there probably isn’t a great way for a non-French-speaker to completely pin down the ending based solely on what they’re saying. A big point of the movie seems to be the impossibility of communicating exactly what we want to say, and I think the ending only strengthens that theme. The only thing I can really say for sure about the ending, regardless of the translation, is that even though the exact meaning of the dialogue might have been lost on me, I think I felt the ending in the actions and facial expressions of the main characters that Bri described. Sense that feeling was so strong, I’m not really all that interested in exactly how to interpret the language, and I think that may be the point.

5. elisemccarthy - September 24, 2009

I agree with Zach here that there is an issue of communication. The first time I watched this ending, I was really bothered by the fact that the last words of the man were, “You’re a scumbag.” How could these be the last words to the woman he loves? However, I think that is the point. Both waiver in their feelings for one another in the movie and their communication of this is just as jumbled.

6. lillyrice - September 24, 2009

While the communication barriers that Michel and Patricia encounter so frequently are significant, the conversation lost in translation seems minute in the final scene. Instead of privileging the dialogue, it is rather the game of “sour apples” that we remember as spectators. No matter the accuracy of a translation, there is inherently a distance between the original and its translation. So clearly, it is through this physical interaction of facial expressions that Michel and Patricia can communicate most effectively. Not only does it eliminate the error of miscommunication, but also as everyone has mentioned, it allows us to understand the situation through non-verbal, seemingly universal, communication.

7. jasdev00 - September 24, 2009

This seems to happen throughout the film too, Patricia is always asking him what he means. I feel as though the first one where he calls her bitch would make more sense, but in the end he gives up so maybe he is not blaming Patricia but the world or the kind of life that he lead.

8. mccbr - September 24, 2009

I too am convinced much of the movie is about communication barriers and where words fall short. Methods of communication are a common motif throughout: everyone’s always reading a newspaper; the screens display messages to passersby; and Patricia is a journalist.

People have already commented on this, but I wonder what we can gather from Michel’s final gesture of “playing sour apples” when it is combined with the question posed earlier on in this string of replies about whether or not his final comment is one about specifically Patricia or life in general. What does the final lingering idea of sour apples say about both their relationship and life? It is a reference to a scene earlier in the film that focused on Patricia and Michel’s relationship. It is a gesture directed at Patricia by Michel in the end. But I just feel like an apple has many powerful connotations. I hate to do it, because it’s not particularly new, but can we consider tying Adam and Eve and the apple into this? On one hand, it’s forbidden fruit (as a happy life together is for Patricia and Michel), and on the other, it’s the source of “original sin” and on some accounts, the reason humans are mortal. (This thought relates back to the quote Michel reads about humans being dead men on leave. I don’t remember who it was by…perhaps Lenin?) It’s inescapable, and it isn’t pretty.

Does anyone actually know what “playing sour apples” entails? I can kind of guess, but there a game I’ve never heard of, or is it the non-specific, just “playing [with] sour apples”?

Another, very broad question that might be worth entertaining: how is this film commenting on its own time? The couple’s relationship seemed nuanced very much by cultural differences and contemporary movements. I don’t know that it was a focus of the film, but there are side notes about women’s issues and their changing role. Abortion is addressed at one point, and Patricia talks about how she wants to be an independent woman as she’s trying to sort out why she told the police Michel’s whereabouts. Throughout the film, many comments are made about “women do this” or “men are like that.” Did any one else think the film was trying to do something with contemporary issues? Patricia is supposed to be a journalist addressing current affairs.

9. Prof. R - September 24, 2009

You’re all raising some really interesting points here, especially regarding the problems with communication and translation. Playing sour apples also seems to relate to the notion of pretense, acting, and attitude; we discussed their roles as “criminal” and “criminal’s girl.” Playing sour apples seems to be Patricia pretending to be upset; Michel seems to mock her for being too dramatic, which is not an attitude that would belong in this world/diegesis.

Bridget: you’re absolutely correct to pick up on the film’s references to contemporary gender issues. In fact, we are seeing nascent second-wave feminism here, although Godard has sometimes been criticized for his attitudes toward women. I like also your association of Patricia with current affairs, which she takes seriously, unlike Michel, who never seems to read what’s in the papers–and he’s only interested in what they say about his future.

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