The fact is that most people don't like to read anymore. I am highly unusual in my affinity for the written word (I not only read books, but write them as a hobby), in my love of conversation as an art form. A small percentage of America likes that. This is the latter half of the 20th century. The information age where the only things that we like to read anymore are web pages. Our stories are told to us through movies. Our book reports are done courtesy of Cliffs (who, don't ask me why, did Slaughterhouse-Five, one of the easiest reads ever).
Who really blames anyone nowadays for having "subtitle-itis?" I have a friend who wouldn't see Life is Beautiful until his editor demanded it, and he's a critic. Perhaps this is partially because we have this association in our minds with subtitles being "high brow" and "intellectual" films that, much to my personal pity, the general public is not interested in. Perhaps it is just because literacy has been shelved.
Kurt Vonnegut said in Slapstick that in 20 years there would be scribes -- a select few which would be able to read and write -- once again. Of course, that book was written more than 20 years ago, but who cares?
Back to the subject of "subtitle-itis", this new epidemic has existed for years. We have this expectation that we don't have to read more than a few notes when we go to movies. Hell, some people have a problem that Trainspotting didn't get dubbed into American English because of heavy Edinburgh accents. The subtitle translates to the average person as a stay away sign because it means that they'll actually have to use their brains at a time when they normally wouldn't. Not to mention the films that people associate with being translated are the ones that are touchy-feely stories without any macho lines.
To address this I offer a film review and a factoid. The factoid, for guys who think foreign films have nothing to offer them, is that 1939's Ecstasy, with Hedy Lamar, was the first film to feature nudity. So there. The film review is that of 1994's Il Mostro (The Monster), an Italian sex-comedy from the director of Life is Beautiful.
Loris (Roberto Benigni) is a short con man who does odd jobs and slacks off on his maintenance bill. Through a mishap with thinking an old lady is a nymphomaniac and a later mishap with a chainsaw going out of control, Loris becomes suspected of being Il Monstro, the serial killer stalking the streets of the city. An obsessed detective assigns Jessica (Nicholetta Braschi) to trap him by using her... charms to catch him red handed. As put by the detective, "we need to trap his hand in the cookie jar, and one of you needs to be the cookie."
Almost as childish as There's Something About Mary, I can assure you that there is absolutely zilch that is high brow or ultra-intelligent about Il Mostro. It's childish, it's fun, and you can get it without understanding a single word of Italian... well, maybe not the third part but you still don't have to use your brain all that much.
For those who didn't want to be depressed by the Holocaust in Life is Beautiful, The Monster is the Roberto Benigni film you should check out. It's a guaranteed cure for "subtitle-itis."
Aka Il Mostro.
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Also starring: Roberto Benigni, Michel Blanc, Nicoletta Braschi, Dominique Lavanant, Jean-Claude Brialy, Laurent Spielvogel, Ivano Marescotti, Franco Mescolini, Massimo Girotti, Yves Attal, Vincenzo Cerami