Blogs in this series

Life in Culebrón is a disconnected series of pieces about the banal and ordinary of everyday life in an inland Alicante village seen from my very British perspective.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

At the Flicks

We're just back from the cinema in Petrer. Maggie persuaded me to see something with Meryl and Tommie Lee Jones. Big mistake as a film but always good to get out to the cinema.

Spanish cinemas are just like modern cinemas everywhere.* Ten, twelve, fourteen screens built alongside some shopping centre. Worldwide the building design is similar. Always the ticket office is placed so that people standing in the queue to pay get tangled up with the people grasping their tickets and those milling around the foyer looking for friends or returning from the outrageously overpriced drink, popcorn and pic 'n' mix stand. I suppose the new trend to combine the sales of tickets and snacks at the same counter will either exacerbate or improve that situation depending on your view.

There are still a few cinemas that are single screens with a slightly musty smell and two week old films. They're usually in small towns - we used to go to a great on in Ciudad Rodrigo - they're cheap, have normal sized bags of sweets and sell popcorn at reasonable prices. Their days are obviously numbered so if you are ever in Caravaca de la Cruz on a Monday evening take the opportunity. Their creaky floorboard theatre is a treat.

In a standard multiplex tickets cost around 7.50€ and on one of the duff days of the week, either Monday or Wednesday the cinemas usually knock a couple of euros off the standard price.

Films are generally either Hollywood or Spanish with TV company money. Very occasionally there is a European offering. You might expect a reasonable number of Latin American releases but generally they don't make it out of Madrid and Barcelona to the provinces. I suspect that has something to do with the generally negative feeling that Spanish people have about hearing Spanish spoken with Ecuadorian, Mexican, Chilean, Argentinian and other American accents.

Titles are strange. The Road, for instance was called "The Road (La Carretera)" using both the original title and a direct translation. The Sound of Music though translates as Smiles and Tears and the one we saw today "Hope Springs" came out as "If You Really Want To." I prefer the titles to be in Spanish because then I can say the words reasonably easily. Trying to produce the Spanish pronunciation for an English title is really hard.

There are almost no subtitled films outside the art house venues in the biggest cities. Films are dubbed. This is very strange if you know the actor's voice. Imagine Morgan Freeman speaking Spanish and not sounding at all like Morgan. Or "You know how to whistle, don't you, Steve? You just put your lips together and... blow" but without Lauren Bacall. The voice actors who lip sync the Spanish voice versions of various stars usually stick with them through their career. So at the Madrid premiere of a new film there will be the voice star too - Michelle Jenner (English descent, Spanish born) was the voice of Hermione Granger in the first four Harry Potter films for instance. Ernesto Aura did Schwarzenegger for years. "Hasta la vista, baby" the line from Terminator 2 isn't quite so amusing for a Spanish audience and very few Spaniards know that Ernesto's "Sayonara, baby" was just for them.

One very strange side effect of this dubbing is when a Spanish star like Penélope Cruz, Antonio Banderas or Javier Bardem makes a film in English. They get dubbed back into Spanish for the Spanish market but not with their own voices. It must be very confusing for a Spanish person who knows what Penélope sounds like hearing her with someone else's voice. 

I should say that the newer digital film formats do allow a third option to subbing or dubbing which is playing a dual soundtrack. This allows the listener to choose between the original language or the dubbed language. I know of a cinema in Torrevieja where you can put on cordless headphones to listen to the Hollywood soundtrack whilst the general audience gets the dubbed version.


*Obviously I've not been to cinemas everywhere but I have been to similar complexes in the USA, France, Portugal and Mexico so I'm willing to take the risk of guessing that they are all the same.


Lonicera said...

The Sound of Music in Argentina was "La Novicia Rebelde". On TV all films were dubbed into Central American Spanish, and in the cinema you had subtitles, so in the latter we all got used to hearing and reading at the same time (seriously, that may have got me into enjoying translation as occasional work because I hated the mistakes). The subtitle treatment of the Carry-On films would leave you wiping your eyes. When I first came to England an unexpected thrill was to finally hear the sound of Cary Grant's voice, and other b+w era actors whom we had only seen on TV.
Re dubbing and Penelope Cruz - I'll bet there's a powerful union of dubbers that puts a stop to that sort of thing!

Chris Thompson said...

I went to the pictures this afternoon over at Petrer but in a different cinema. They had closed the ticket offices and were selling tickets from the Coca Cola/popcorn bar. Clever I thought. If you want a ticket and some popcorn you only have to queue once so it's good for customers, if you only want a ticket you may be tempted whilst you wait in line and eiither way the cinema saves on staffing and can actually appear to open more tills.