Monday, February 22, 2010

Dumbing Down the Titles

One of the more irritating little things in Mexico is the tendency to perform radical surgery on the titles of movies, virtually always making them more anodyne, trite, or, obvious (and sometimes all three at once). Anything that smacks of subtlety or mystery is removed; in its place some bit of inanity or over-literalness is inserted. One good example is No Country for Old Men, which became Sin Lugar para los Débiles, or (roughly) No Space for the Weak, in the Mexican edition (though only with the movie title; the book was translated faithfully). But the best example is The Informant, which turned into El Desinformante in Mexico, which is to say, the exact opposite of the original title. As a result, the pleasant uncertainty about the protagonist's own shady doings, which was clearly a purposeful element of the film's first half, disappears. In addition to undermining the director's intentions, I don't see what would be the reason for the dumbing-down. Do the title translators somehow assume that the Mexican public would be driven away by an indirect title? Is the theory that calling the movie El Informante would have lowered ticket sales? It baffles.


Mr. Trend said...

Brazil would do this sometimes, too. "There will be blood" became "Black blood," which wasn't so terrible, but you could have kept the literary sound of it better.

However, "Out of Africa" became "Between Two Loves"; "The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly" became "Three Men in Conflict" (though everybody still called it "O Bom, O Mau, e o Feo".

The winners? The Ocean's 11 trilogy. Admittedly, that little possessive-play on words wouldn't work in Portuguese, but still, the replacements were homoerotic doozies:
Ocean's 11 - "11 Men and a Secret"
Ocean's 12 - "12 Men and Another Secret"
Ocean's 13 - "13 Men and One More Secret"

pc said...

Aaaaaa There will be blood was another good one, I forgot about that. Here it was Bloody Oil, but the book was the same. Personally, assuming I know nothing about it, I'll take a movie called There Will Be Blood over Bloody Oil any day of the week.

Funny that you mention Ocean's 11 (and that's really, really bad in Portguese), that's another one that I could have mentioned. Here it was La Gran Estafa, or the great heist. But that's kind of a default title for any robbery movie, so there are other movies that are really close to that title. Another example of that is Me Quieren Volver Loco (They want to drive me crazy), which has been used as the title for more than one flick. One was an Ice Cube with kids movie, but I can't remember the other.