Watermelons, margoulins and wild horse: the improbable VF of Dirty Dancing

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Dirty Dancing
ESC Distribution

No, Baby doesn’t say “You don’t need to run the world after your destiny like a wild horse” in original version.

Dirty Dancing returns tonight on TMC. Success guaranteed for the channel, as the romance between Jennifer Gray and Patrick Swayze is cult! During the summer of 2019, the feature film made the cover of No. 8 of Première Classics, the mook that tells “the little history of great films”. On no less than 20 pages, it tells in detail how the mown bluette became a surprise blockbuster, then a cult film. The article returns in particular to the incredible French version of the film, which proves like few others that “to translate is to betray”. Extract:

Dirty Dancing Even though it is as cult in the United States as in France, it is not quite on the same terms. If you come across an American friend who is a fan of the film, don’t you dare try to translate Baby’s legendary advice to Johnny Castle, ” You don’t have to run the world after your destiny like a wild horse. “Uh …” Stop running after your destiny like a wild horse “? He wouldn’t understand anything, and that would be quite normal: in the original version of the film, Baby is content with a simple ” It doesn’t have to be that way “(” It doesn’t have to be like this “). And she says it with the voice of Jennifer Gray, much more mature and assertive, less “baby”, than that of her voice actor Virginie Ledieu.

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Incredible but true: almost all of the film’s anthological lines are in reality pure inventions of French translators, made even more memorable by the intonations of the actors, who “exaggerate” the original intentions. When Baby’s father, Mr. Houseman, returns in the night after assisting Penny and discovers his daughter’s made-up face, actor Jerry Orbach, originally, orders wearily: ” I don’t want you to hang out with these people anymore. And get that stuff off your face before your mom sees you.(“I don’t want you to have anything to do with these people again. And take that stuff off your face before your mother sees you. “). In French, it’s more brutal: ” I don’t want to see you hanging out with that bunch of sluts anymore. And take that dastardly makeup off your face, you look like a whore.

It was the 1980s, another era, when the French had fun hijacking and “pimping” a foreign material considered low-end. A time when we reinvented the dialogues of Nicky larson before its broadcast at Club Dorothée and where the French films of American series like Magnum or Starsky and Hutch became playgrounds for wild voice actors, twisting the original text to their mood. A practice impossible today but which was then commonplace. The author of the French version of Dirty Dancing, Henry-Paul Steimen, claimed his freedom of invention: “ I chose to introduce a little second degree so as not to fall into the tasteless bluette. A film adaptation is not a literal translation. It’s a spectacle.

A precept which obviously did not apply to Scorsese or Fellini films … But in the case of a consumer product like Dirty Dancing, it was passing… By playing today the small game of differences, it is difficult not to notice that the French version seriously distorts the initial point, making the heroine look more stupid than she is in reality. When Baby blushes after telling Johnny ” I helped him carry the watermelons She repeats the sentence to herself (” I carried a watermelon? ») As if to reproach himself for having had such a tart reflection. In French it’s : ” It’s not a crime to carry watermelons », Which makes no sense (but is funnier). The feminism of the film is completely lost along the way, Baby’s real name, Frances (” Like the first woman to enter government “, She explains, with reference to Roosevelt’s minister, Frances C. Perkins) becoming Frederique -” it can also be a guy’s name! », Enthuses the character, without knowing very well why.

Should we be offended? Paradoxically, this whimsical VF, although it dwarfs the film excessively, has contributed to its lasting cult in our latitudes. Because they have very often discovered it in the French version, fans of Dirty Dancing refuse to see it in their original version anyway. And the essential is except: ” Nobody puts Baby in a corner Was such a powerful line that even the smart guys in French TV couldn’t find better.

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