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Top Gun + Japanese Film Practices


A couple of additional points from watching Top Gun on Japanese T.V.:

1) Lyric Translation: Most Japanese films will translate the lyrics to background music in scenes without proper dialogue. So when Maverick and Kelly McGillis are finally having “carnal knowledge,” the bottom of the screen is filled with the italicized translation of the lyrics to “Take My Breath Away.” I find this quite interesting in that we native viewers tend to unconsciously take in the words of background music, and I’ve never considered whether they are actually crucial for understanding the plot. So seeing them explicitly printed on the screen struck me as odd at first, but I can understand why they may be necessary, or at least, why viewers may want to see what is being sung.

(By the way, the gated-reverb snare drum of “Take My Breath Away” essentially sums up the entire 1980s.)

2) Immediate Credits: When new characters pop on the screen, the Japanese subtitlers take it upon themselves to label them. For example, when “Iceman” shows up for the first time, the screen says 「アイスマン」, and then get this: under it, they write the actor’s name (ヴァル・キルマー). This goes back to the idea of commerce taking great precedence over art in Japan. How could one enjoy a foreign film without knowing immediately who the actors are? Personally, I can’t imagine finding Goose funny without knowing he is portrayed by Anthony Edwards, late of ER fame. I feel sorry for the Americans who had to sit through the entire film wondering whether that was indeed Tom Skeritt playing Viper. (It was!)

Marxy wrote a lot of essays back on his old site Néomarxisme. This is one of them.

5 Responses

  1. Dave Says:

    I wonder how well the translation to 「アイスマン」worked with Japanese viewers.

    Looking at the Japanees version, am I the only one who wonders if his middle name is Cream?

  2. Chris_B Says:

    Bzzzt. Sorry, wrong answer. AFAIK the announcing of actors is something that goes back to kabuki. IIRC Donald Richie has covered that. If’n I’m wrong, I’ll eat my words with an extra helping of crow.

  3. marxy Says:

    Interesting. Still gotta be some kind of fan-related commercial concern behind it, though. (Not that I think that’s wrong, Momus.)

  4. ndkent Says:

    For what it’s worth domestic silent movies all over the world did exactly that with intertitles on a regular basis.

    I suspect it’s a combination of tradition and the desire to emphasize a prestige production.

  5. Chris_B Says:

    I watched Star Wars Ep2 on TV the other night and noticed that they “introduced” characters/actors with on screen subs. I guess the practice lives on…