Sunday, January 22, 2012

Happy Year of the Dragon!

Today is the eve of the new year in the Chinese lunar calendar. So, we are set to embark upon 16 days of almost relentless revelry to try to get this Year of the Dragon off to an auspicious start.

As a little China-themed holiday treat, I therefore give you.... the opening scene of Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom, wherein Kate Capshaw (as this movie's heroine, Shanghai nightclub singer Willie Stone) performs Cole Porter's Anything Goes in Mandarin Chinese. I just learned that Ms Capshaw really did sing this herself. Good job, Kate! [I wonder who her dialogue coach was. We never remember the really important people in the credits.]

Of course, there's also a Lego version (although the song's in English, for some reason).

I just posted a rather more traditional salutation over on Froogville.


The Weeble said...

I have a theory that at some subconscious level, all English speakers believe that all foreign languages are really just French. How else to explain the way people pronounce "Beijing" not as it's spelled (which would be more or less in the ballpark, pronunciation-wise), but rather as a pseudo-Gallic "Bei-zhing?"

The same applies to the lovely Ms. Capshaw's attempts at Chinese here. A couple of words are more or less intelligible if you know the original song, but mostly this sounds like baby-talk nonsense as processed through an unconvincing attempt at a French accent.

Froog said...

Ah, I thought we might prod you out of your hibernation with this, Weeble. It was one of the reasons why I posted it.

I was being mildly sarcastic in praising the efforts of Ms Capshaw and her language coach. I am in no position to comment on how good or bad her pronunciation is, but foreigners attempting to fake their way with a phonetic guide are rarely all that impressive. I can't see it having been much of a priority for Mr Spielberg to get her Chinese sounding really convincing. And I imagine the young lady had quite enough on her plate with finding herself in a blockbuster movie for the first time, and having to open it with a huge song-and-dance number.

I'm easily impressed by people who can fake the language even a little bit. Faking it in song is an extra degree of difficulty.

And I don't suppose her pronunciation is so very much worse than that of a lot of the full-time Mandarin students Beijing is deluged with these days.

Froog said...

I started to fret about this as soon as I watched the clip at the weekend, though.

I hadn't seen it since first viewing back in the '80s (well, late 80s or early 90s: a Christmas film on TV; I never bothered to catch it in the cinemaa); and I wasn't paying any attention at all to the language.

When I listened to it again just now, I couldn't make out what language it was. All the online articles I found discussing this scene suggested it was Mandarin - but I think this was mere supposition by non-Mandarin speakers.

It didn't sound like Mandarin to my tin ear. I wondered if perhaps it was Shanghainese (more authentic) or Cantonese (more likely what the extras on a Hollywood studio backlot would have been speaking 30 years ago; I mean, it wasn't filmed on location, was it?).

If the Weeble identifies it as bad phonetic Mandarin, I'll take his word for it.

The Weeble said...

Honestly, it's pretty hard to tell. I can hear some Mandarin words in there, so I'm going to go ahead and call it for Mandarin. Shanghainese would've been an interesting choice - and possibly easier for her to fake pronunciation of - but Shanghai chanteuses of that period were mostly singing in Mandarin anyway, I believe.

Paul French might be the guy to ask about this, since Shanghai during that period is one of his big interests.