Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Welcome to the Sticks

If I am not blogging so much you will know I am at the movies. There has been a wonderful spate of French movies out recently and I went to see the latest tonight - Welcome to the Sticks - good for a belly laugh.

The humour is organized around two premises. First, through a series of mishaps, the main character ends up being transferred to the north of France instead of the Riviera as he had hoped. We can identify here, and all the "north" jokes go over well with a Canadian audience.

Second, in the "north" they speak a regional dialect somewhat reminiscient of a dialect I am familar with from Noranda, Quebec. This dialect also has a parallel in Judges 12,

    Gilead then cut Ephraim off from the fords of the Jordan, and whenever Ephraimite fugitives said, 'Let me cross,' the men of Gilead would ask, 'Are you an Ephraimite?' If he said, 'No,' they then said, 'Very well, say Shibboleth.' If anyone said, 'Sibboleth', because he could not pronounce it, then they would seize him and kill him by the fords of the Jordan. Forty-two thousand Ephraimites fell on this occasion.
Here is one of the main dialogues,

    Philippe (Kad Merad) : Mais pourquoi il est parti avec les meubles ?
    But why did he leave with the furniture?

    Antoine (Dany Boon) : Baaaah, ch'est p'tête les chiens...
    Uh, maybe they were his/the dogs...

    Philippe : Quels chiens ?
    What dogs?

    Antoine : Les meubles...
    The furniture ....

    Philippe : Mais pourquoi il aurait donné ses meubles à des chiens ?!
    But why would he give the furniture to the dogs?

    Antoine : Mais non : les chiens ! Pas les kiens [en ch'ti, "ch" se prononce "k" et inversement] il les a pas donné à des kiens ! Il est parti avec.
    No, his. Not the dogs. He didn't give it to the dogs. He left with it.

    Philippe : Mais pourquoi vous m'avez dit qu'il a donné ses meubles à des chiens ?
    So why did you tell me that he had given his furniture to the dogs?

    Antoine : Mais j'ai jamais dit cha !
    But I didn't say that/cat!

    Philippe : Quoi des chats ? Vous m'avez dit des chiens ?!
    What do you mean "cats?" You told me dogs!

    Antoine : Bah oui ch'est les chiens !
    Yes, they are his/at the dogs.

    Philippe : Ah... les siens !
    Oh, they are his!

    Antoine : Oui, les chiens, ch'est cha !
    Yes, his/the dogs, that's it/cat.

    Philippe : ...les chiens, les chats... Putain, mais tout le monde parle comme vous ici ?
    Dogs. Cats! Shit, does everyone talks like you here?
Anyway, you can see how untranslatable this is. The entire movie depends on this kind of silly word play. My neighbour had seen the movie and she complained about how she couldn't understand why the subtitles were so poorly translated because they were not a literal translation but tried to create a similar wordplay in English. I thought they did a reasonably good job with the subtitles, but the dialogue in French was very funny - although perhaps it wore thin towards the end.

It was a heartwarming plot in any case, and if you love the sound of the carillon, the movie will be worth it for you on that account alone.

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