Documentary on Brazilian poet, playwright, critic, diplomat, composer, singer and lyricist Vinicius de Moraes (1913-1980), internationally famous lyricist of Bossa Nova hits like "Garota de Ipanema" and "Insensatez" and writer of the play which originated the film "Black Orpheus" (1959). Archive images combine with up to date interviews with members of his family, friends, partners (Chico Buarque, Edu Lobo, Carlos Lyra) and also musical numbers with famous Brazilian singers. Written by
Wonderful movie, but kind of "lost in translation"
I've just watched "Vinicius" this weekend, during the Miami Film Festival and, being fluent on both Portuguese and English, I couldn't help but feel sorry for people who had to rely exclusively on the English subtitles to understand what was being said and sung.
A lot of the more subtle messages and word play of Vinicius poetry and lyrics were obscured by translation, but that would be understandable, almost expected... after all, movie subtitles hardly ever receive the attention a book or poem collection does. What's not understandable, though, is that too many of even the most trivial comments got warped beyond recognition - and I'm not talking here about the never-ending debate about "literal" and "non-literal" translation, or about the reading time constraints specific to subtitles.
One very simple - but very telling - example can be seen in the confusion between "sow" and "sew", when one of the guests is saying Vinicius sowed ("semeou", Portuguese for sowing seeds) the Brazilian culture with this special style, and the subtitles said he "sew" ("costurou", like with needle and thread) the Brazilian culture, or something to that effect. Sincerely, I can't imagine those subtitles were written - or at least reviewed - by a native English speaker.
Certainly this is not the first movie I see that shows that kind of problem, since the neglecting of subtitled translations is nothing new. One early Brazilian version of Blade Runner comes to mind, specifically the scene where android Roy Batty calls Tyrell "father" right before killing him - the caption said something like "Seu f.d.p.", literally "You s.o.b." which means the Brazilian translator understood - and translated - "fu**er", not "father", thus changing completely the significance of a dramatic moment, stripping it of its duality.
Now, considering the time and effort (oh, yes... and the money, too) that is spent on making a movie, would it be too much to ask they get a translator that is good enough to make sure its message doesn't get totally mangled?
"Vinicius" is a wonderful movie, deserved correctly translated subtitles... So the movie is a 10, but the subtitling is a sore 5, at best.
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