Wednesday, May 23, 2012

All TV Is Better If You Don't Understand It

Today I am watching France's Direct8 network via Roku box. This is a channel that I took the trouble to load because my girlfriend is learning French. I myself took a little French in high school, then sensibly abandoned it because, you know, there are no French-speakers in SoCal except for French students.

Still, I've retained just enough to have some idea of what I'm watching, which is why the show that's on now Présumé Innocent, makes some sense to me. It's a realité/news show telling the story of a controversial crime, apparently. They have reenactments, they have interviews. Does it matter what they're actually saying? No. What matters is whether I'm being made to decide if the guy is innocent or not. To their credit, I'm not sure where they're trying to steer me on this one. So far.

This may be a better way to learn French than our previous strategy, which was watching classic French Movies on Hulu. The very predictability of commercial TV makes translation easy. It's one thing to watch Hiroshima Mon Amor and pick out what the hell is going on. Even if you do speak the language, that one is impossible. On the other hand Les Beouf -Carrottes, a detective series about a grizzled veteran cop and his young impulsive partner, is so predictable that you already know the ending five minutes in. You can work on understanding the words instead.

On the other hand, I don't envy my girlfreind trying to pick out sensible phrases in the commercials. French commericals look exactly like ours, though they lean heavily towards yogurt products. But I know from OUR commercials that you'll get a phrase like "it's health-licious!" once in a while. How can you tell something like that from a real word? It's a minefield.

Over the weekend there was a good, solid TV movie about a horrible truck crash in a Madrid resort town. Based on a true story, it was fascinating to watch. Not because the incident was so telegenic, but because you got perspective on how to tell a story like that. After all the actual crash (the truck blew a tire and roared onto a crowded beach, where it exploded) only took about a minute of time in real life. So what do you do with the rest of the movie? You make up characters of course, and pretend they were there, and show how the crash changes their lives. It was like a cute little French low-budget Earthquake. I'd see it again if I could remember the name.

(Cross Posted from Keepin' It Real Yo)

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