05 June 2010

TSR: Abé Mark Nornes

I've skipped forward in TSR to look at this, because the 60s/70s was getting boggish, with discussions about basic terminology and concepts that was reading like Les Liaisons Dangereuses, pretentiousness fans, in that the shadow of a revolution was upon it. There was (inevitably) an extract from Steiner, looking more than ever like a relic of a different age.

Nornes' piece is about subtitling films into a different language. This is something he does professionally, and so there's a lot of fascinating stuff about the technical limitations: how many characters can you fit into a line; how long should the line be on screen, etc. Obviously he finds that subtitles are generally inadequate, but offers some evidence that the inadequacy becomes ideological. In a very specific example, he shows how Japanese verb-forms femininise the speech of female protagonists.

But the most intriguing passage concerns anime films. He talks of fan activity, where people (viewers) create and circulate their own versions of subtitles. Using computer animation techniques, these can be much more adventurous than the usual line across the bottom of the picture. He says that some even give long descriptions of unfamiliar terms - effectively footnotes - which the viewer can choose to read by pausing the video, or can ignore. It's that kind of thinking about how we can use modern technology that excites me.

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