Pi Attitude Zone: Flexibility

Foreign Movies? Sounds Un-American...

Imagine John Wayne as Genghis Khan, head encased in a spike-topped wok, and wearing baggy Mongolian trousers which stop four inches above his ankles. He claps his hands imperiously… bring on the dancing girls! His manly hand gripping the pommel of his scimitar (subtle movie symbolism, you understand), Wayne leers through narrowed eyes at Susan Hayward, who is swirling tempestuously in something diaphanous, and declaims the immortal words, “I feel this Tartar woman is for me, and my blood says: Take Her!”

Yessirree, this amazing American movie moment really exists. Since you ask, it was in a 1950s Hollywood extravaganza called “The Conqueror”, a jewel of the movie-maker’s art which all concerned doubtless spent the rest of their lives drinking to forget.

You think Genghis ‘Duke’ Wayne sounds funny in English? Wait until you hear him dubbed into German: “Dieses tatarische Weib ist für mich, mein’ ich….” Ouch! Indeed, according to aficionados of TWMMOAT (i.e. The Worst Movie Moments Of All Time), you haven’t really lived until you have sat through an entire John Wayne western dubbed into Japanese.

The trouble is, movie alienation can be a two-way street. American movies, like some vintage wines, may or may not travel well to other parts of the world, but movies from the rest of the world have a really tough time getting an audience in America at all.  Unless they are silent, like “The Artist”, which snuck under the radar.  Subtitles?  Forget it, Americans just won’t sit and read white writing at the bottom of the screen and call it entertainment. It’s a culture thing.

Which is a pity, because it means that wonderful movies, and an opportunity to watch how other cultures conduct their business, have been passing America by. US movies can take hundreds of millions of dollars at the box office in their domestic market alone, some powered by little more than fright-masks, adults behaving like kids, and fart jokes.  Foreign movies have to find worthier ways to get Americans’ attention.

The world is supposed to be getting smaller, and communications technology ought to be bringing nation closer to nation. Yet Americans have rarely seemed less interested in other countries and world-views.  Cultural isolationism is denying Americans the chance to measure their ideas against, and even learn from, other cultures.

The US media don’t help by neglecting to give coverage to good foreign films. Television simply doesn’t air them, convinced that no-one will watch, which of course becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s a bit like refusing to eat carrots saying “I’ve never tried them because I don’t like them”. DVD distribution and streaming companies like Netflix may be a solution, but so far very few movies watched this way in America are foreign-originated.

Like it or not, it looks like US-originated movies and entertainment will continue to dominate US screens. Maybe that’s what they mean about the world getting smaller.

Zone: Flexibility Country: USA / North America Product – Leisure