Brett Halliday, Shane Black
Screenplay and direction:
Silver Pictures, Warner Bros.
Warner Bros. Italia
Italian dialogue and dubbing direction:
Dubbing sound technician:
Sound mixer technician:
Technicolor Sound Services
Robert Downey Jr.
Harry Lockhart, a petty New York thief, finds himself, by chance, auditioning and taking part in a police thriller film. At Los Angeles he meets Harmony, with whom he was in love in high school, and the two of them get involved in a series of mysterious deaths. Together with Perry van Shrike, a gay private investigator who is also the cinema production advisor, they try to shed light on the situation. The film – whose title is a quotation from Duccio Tessari’s 1966 film – alludes continuously to classic American noir films, from the scansion in chapters whose titles quote Chandler’s novels to the narrative voice of the star which is constant throughout the whole saga.
The dubbing of the film is exemplary, in the sense that it’s the worst example of how a film is dubbed: the dialogues are poor and often meaningless making the story even more confusing than it is already and renders the film, more than a homage to its genre, a parody of itself. The direction isn’t any better: the dubbers seems to be there by chance, they don’t seem to know what they’re saying and above all why they’re saying it (helped by lines out of place, totally improbable expressions and dialogues just about understandable). I’m told that nowadays dubbing is done completely separately. A risky business, seeing as the physical absence of the interlocutor means that the actor has to imagine that he is there and means the director is forced to pay maximum attention both during the cutting and assembling: well, this film seems to have been dubbed over the phone and anyway without any kind of coordination.
But let’s proceed by grade and example. To begin with, the narrative is set out in chapters; a stylistic structural element of the film, but in the Italian version the title chapters have not been translated (despite the fact that the Italian titles of Chandler’s novels are available), and this is the first sign of carelessness.
The meeting between the star and his childhood flame who in the meantime has become an aspiring actress is monstrous: okay we find ourselves at a Los Angeles swimming pool party and the party atmosphere needs an easy and superficial dialogue and you can get away with lots of “drinks”, but expressions like “sei veramente fuori come un balcone” (you’re as far out as a balcony/you haven’t understood) and “sono emozioni che possono far sclerare” (emotions which could make you go mad) hurl us suddenly from the West Coast to a houseboat on the Tiber river in the beginning of the ‘90s. Traumas which the paying public do not deserve. Even the quip “la tua bocca è il ritrovo consigliato per ficcarci un calzino ripieno” (your mouth is the right home for a stuffed sock), besides being so twisted so as to take the smile off your face before it appears, characterizes the star as a Simpson spectator in a dubbed version (how odd, dubbed by the same person). Like saying: the sock was nice, now we want another one?
Elsewhere it seems that every effort has been made to destroy any sign of humour and irony, with remarks which are not funny, or worse still, amateurish. Here’s an example of the dialogue between Robert Downey jr. and Val Kilmer: “Se cerchi idiota sul dizionario, sai che ci trovi?” (if you look up idiot in the dictionary, you know what you’ll find?) “Una mia foto?” (a photo of me?)“No. L’esatta definizione di idiota ce l’hai già scritta in faccia”. (No. The exact definition of idiot is already written on your face). What does it mean? When are we supposed to laugh? Or: “Avrei dovuto aggiungere delle cose, ma lei non sputava mai” (I should have added some other things but she never spat). Either the pun is immediate or it isn’t. Why make us think there’s someone who spits between lines when talking so that the other one can intervene? Still on the spoken theme: “Secondo me non sapresti da dove si mangia se non aprissi così tanto la bocca a vuoto” (I reckon you wouldn’t know how to eat if you didn’t open your mouth up so wide). In both cases, the attempt to be witty or clever, if there is such an attempt, has failed. Further on, the line “Se io ti tocco una tetta, l’affare s’ingrossa” (if I touch a breast, the deal gets bigger) sends us relentlessly right back again to trivial Italian humour.
The embarrassment is complete when we hear from the same characters expressions which would like to be appreciated such as “Non ti ho mai detto quanto lui la trattasse male” (I never told you how bad he treated her), “È l’ultima volta che l’hanno vista con la testa intera e non devastata” (it was the last time she was seen with a whole head and not a ruined one) or the awful contradiction “Mi dispiace averti fottuto” (I’m sorry to have ------- you).
Here’s an example of confusing dialogue because of the references and, but not because of this, inconclusive. There are three characters: an ill-intentioned pair (one white and one black guy, whom I’ll call W and B) and Robert Downey jr. (whom I’ll call jr). My notations are in brackets.
W: Siamo qui per te. Ike, Mike e mostarda. We’re here for you. Ike, Mike and mustard. (After searching the internet I understood that Ike & Mike is an American sweet brand, not found in Italy. The reference is unclear so the link to mustard is incomprehensible, nor who is who).
jr: Che diavolo vuol dire? What the he-- do you mean?
B: Senti, devo dire che stavolta ha ragione. Listen I have to say that this time you’re/he’s right (This time? It’s the first time they ever see each other)
W: Che cazzo dici? Lo sento dire continuamente. What the ---- are you saying? I’m always hearing that.
B: Davvero? Really?
W: Sì, certo. Yeah, sure.
B: Dove, a un club di centenari? Where, at an old aged people’s club? (Obviously, I only got that because of the above-mentioned research, the reference is to the fact that Ike & Mike is an “historical” brand, still in existence and whose products are sold on-line)
W: Io sono la padella per friggere e il mio amico è...I’m the frying pan and my friend is….
B: La mostarda. Io sono mostarda, baby. The mustard. I am the mustard baby. (Now we get who mustard is. And Ike and Mike, where have they gone?)
W: Lui è il fuoco. Vaffanculo, mister Mostarda. He’s the fire. F--- off, Mr. Mustard (I didn’t get this one)
B: Ti pareva? Really? Whaddya know?
In short, a dubbing which has been unable to grasp neither citations nor registers, a dubbing best to be forgotten.
[original review in Italian by Giovanni Rampazzo]