Hong Kong Box Office
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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Tue, 14 Apr 98 03:18:09 -0700
Subject: Hong Kong Box Office
Forwarded-by: "Keith E. Sullivan" <KSullivan@worldnet.att.net>
Excerpted-from: The Wall Street Journal, Monday, April 13, 1998
by Hal Lipper, Staff Reporter of the Wall Street Journal
HONG KONG -- When it comes to translating movie titles, not every name will
do. So Hong Kong's movie distributors have created a cottage industry to
rename Hollywood titles for Chinese audiences.
"Major studios think up titles that are flat, boring and don't tell
audiences what movies are about," says Doinel Wu, who has spent more than
a decade renaming Western movies. "We create titles that are more
Hence, the Cantonese title for the film biography "Nixon" is "The Big Liar."
The title for "Boogie Nights" can be interpreted as "His Powerful Device
Makes Him Famous."
Since many of Hong Kong residents don't know Fargo is a city in snow-blown
North Dakota, the movie "Fargo" became "Mysterious Murder in Snowy Cream."
The words "snowy cream" are pronounced "fah go" in Cantonese.
The stakes are huge since English-language blockbusters dominate Hong Kong's
movie market and Chinese translations help sell the films to a wider
Mr. Wu's title are touted as among the best in the business. For the arty
thriller "The Professional," about a killer befriending an orphaned girl,
he concocted "This Hit Man Is Not as Cold as He Thought."
"The English Patient" was problematic. Few Hong Kong residents knew of the
novel and marketers say a faithful translation, like "The Sick Englishman,"
wouldn't have drawn audiences. Mr. Wu's title, "Don't Ask Me Who I Am,"
captured the story's mystery and passion.
"Good Will Hunting" was equally challenging. Mr. Wu's Chinese title,
"Bright Sun, Just Like Me," uses characters to imply more than can be said
with words. The first half alludes to the Chinese title for "Dead Poet's
Society," ("Bright Sun in Heavy Rain") which also starred Robin Williams
and was set at a school. The second half denotes a movie for young people
who boldly do what they like.
"Titanic" and "Air Force One" needed no translation, distributors decided.
But some of the local idioms don't travel well. "The Full Monty," a comedy
about six unemployed steelworkers who become strippers, uses a Cantonese
colloquialism meaning "Six Stripped Warriors." The Mandarin interpretation
is "Six Naked Pigs."
And some translations simply defy rationale. The Hong Kong title for "As
Good As It Gets," a comedy about a mean-spirited novelist, is "Mr. Cat
Poop." Its distributor declined comment.
© 1998 Peter Langston