Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A New Way Of Reading Films - Caption Swap

What a delightful website - both in its design and its content. While it describes itself as "..a multilingual resource for anyone on the Internet interested in movie subtitles", it really gives you, for all practical purposes, a stripped-down screenplay. It omits everything but the dialog. There are no character descriptions, not even character names. Simply the sound of people talking. This is cinema distilled into pure conversation.

This act of reproducing just the dialog (or "subtitles", as a non-English speaking person might call it) produces an interesting effect. It instantly separates "interesting" character voices from the uninteresting ones. So from the pens (or typewriters) of geniuses like Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett, come lines like these:

I'm Michelangelo molding the beard of Moses.
I'm Van Gogh, painting pure sunlight.
I'm Horowitz, playing the Emperor Concerto.
I'm John Barrymore before the movies got him by the throat.
I'm Jesse James and his two brothers, all three of them.
I'm W. Shakespeare.
And out there it's not Third Avenue any longer.
It's the Nile, Nat.
The Nile and down it moves the barge of Cleopatra.
Come here.
Purple the sails, and so perfumed
that the winds were love-sick with them.

Just how ON EARTH did they write like that?

Well, ponder over that and other questions while you read some madcap comedy or some Thackeray or as you tell yourself a little Tokyo Story...

Reading films this way is so much fun. Thanks, kind people at cswap.com!

I casually browsed through for some of my favorite films. Not all of them are there and not all titles loaded up yet but I am hoping they will come up soon.

9 comments:

lekhni said...

It is. I hadn't realized how much the actors actually detract from the screenplay, in some movies.

I just checked out You've Got Mail. Some of the lines are quite funny. I hadn't realized.

GhostOfTomJoad said...

Sounds interesting..will check. But, just as a reaction to the comment above, about actors detracting, I was thinking exactly the opposite the other day as I was watching a William Hurt film. I can't get his dialogue from Kiss of the Spider Woman out of my mind. If I remember correctly, in thgis particular shot, the camera pans over the prison cell as we hear him talk...I think it was just great.

??! said...

Lekhni/GoTJ:
You could argue both ways.

There are some scenes which are memorable because of the way they were spoken ("You do know how to whistle, don't you?"/"Fight! Why don't you fihgt?"). While some could just as easily stand on their own ("I coulda been someone"...which I think anyone could have done as well).

km said...

To all:

Shouldn't the actor's voice uncover (or add to) the subtext of the screenplay? Good actors elevate "merely good" lines to great. (Like that scene Ghost is talking about. Or the Marlon Brando scene that ??! is referring to.)

Though I think this is how scripts must appear to actors before they start shooting a film. Pure, raw words, unblemished by costume, music, sets, camera angles and editing.

??! said...

Though I think this is how scripts must appear to actors before they start shooting a film
Woh Space Bar ko poochho. She should know.

GhostOfTomJoad said...

Absolutely! Even good actors can't rise above a bad script...not by much, anyway :-)

Space Bar said...

??!: :D that a whole post there. And you wnat one measly comment?!

even scripts before they're shot don't look like that, by the way.

See, for example, A Clockwork Orange in this place and the script.

??! said...

Space:
I NEVER said one comment. And why would we be not telling you to post more? Post, baba, post.

km said...

sb: what ??! said.

If any of you like to read screenplays, Drew's Script-o-Rama has tons of early drafts. Not always as polished as shooting drafts, but still lots of fun.