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humor: Movie Titles (Hong Kong)

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." .... 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 audience.

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.  .... 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.

Edited from The Wall Street Journal,
Monday, April 13, 1998
Possibly not real, but in the spirit of the above article.

"Face/Off" -- "Who Is Face Belonging To?
 I Kill You Again, Harder!"

"Interview With The Vampire" -- "So, You Are a Lawyer?"

"Scent of a Woman" -- "Great Buddha!  I Can Smell You
 From Afar! Take a Bath, Will You?!"

"Babe" -- "The Happy Dumpling-to-be Who
 Talks And Solves Agricultural Problems"

"Twister" -- "Run!  Ruuunnnn!  Cloudzillaaaaa!"

"Field of Dreams" -- "Imaginary Dead Baseball
 Players Live in My Cornfield"

"Titanic" -- "EEEEEAAAAHHHHH!  Here comes ICE-ZILLA!"