To hai6 or not to xì? 係 is the question!

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2008/04/20 03:01 -04:00, original URI:

Content of Michael Kaplan's personal blog not approved by Microsoft (see disclaimer)!
Regular readers should keep in mind that all I said in The End? still applies; the allusion to the X-Files continues for people who understand such references....

I had a friend call me and tell me to watch Oceans Twelve last night, after verifying that I was still watching TV with closed captions on.

Mysterious, but I figured what the hell.

Right near the beginning I saw what he wanted me to notice.

Now I have made my peace with the fact that closed captioning does not support Unicode (an issue I have talked about before, e.g. here).

All of The Amazing Yen's parts were captioned with:

Yen speaking Mandarin

I saw it right away, even before the actor could be seen:

Yet the big inside joke of the Oceans Eleven remake was that Yen was speaking Cantonese, and that only Rusty understood him.

Mandarin? Was this yet another error in closed captioning?

Well, it depends, really.

I mean, by the time Oceans Twelve came along, everyone seemed to understand Yen -- so they had dropped that particular joke.

And no clues come back from Qin Shaobo (the actor) since he was born in Guangxi, China -- where Mandarin is one of only two official languages but where Cantonese is widely known. So really he might know both well enough for the part (I don't know Cantonese or Mandarin well enough to guess from the small sample, where none of my small vocabulary came up. :-)

There was one terribly funny joke in there. From the script:

     Yen pops his head out from a small tube and says something in Chinese.

     Frank shrugs...doesn't understand. Yen tries again.... This time he enunciates very clearly and talks very loudly (like Americans do when foreigners don't understand English).

     Frank nods, starts turning the handle of the water pump in the opposite direction. Yen climbs down out of the tube.

And that is funny. Notice in the movie how Bernie did understand him the second time. :-)

Compare that to the Ocean's Eleven script:

     Silence. For a moment, each man keeps his two dozen questions or more to himself. At last, one speaks up...

     The Amazing Yen.    In Cantonese.   Of course, no one understands him.    Except Rusty.

                         (in response)
                  No. Tunneling is out. There are Richter scales monitoring the ground for one hundred yards in every direction. If a groundhog tried to nest there, they'd know about it. Anyone else?

     Another silence. Either the guys are too dumbfounded by that bilingual exchange or too numbed by the task ahead of them to speak.

Any Chinese speakers see any of the three parts who can identify The Amazing Yen's language? Is this a case of an error in the closed captioning content, or a simple change from script to screen for reasons unknown?


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# q on 20 Apr 2008 7:05 PM:

I can't verify at the moment, but I'm fairly certain that Yen speaks Mandarin in all three movies.

# Michael S. Kaplan on 21 Apr 2008 1:29 AM:

Ah, so then it isn't a closed captioning bug -- just a change after the screenplay was done (ref: screenplay, here).

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