One of the best things I saw whilst living in France was the fabulous animated film Jack et la Méchanique du Cœur, generally translated as The Boy with the Cuckcoo-Clock Heart. It is totally bizarre and magical and one of the most creative things I've seen. France makes some really corking animated films, in my opinion, so whenever I'm there I watch any that are showing.
I went into the cinema without knowing a thing. Only after I absolutely loved it did I do my research. It's based on the concept album/illustrated novel by Dionysos and their front man, Mathias Malzieu. If you want some French music in your life, that is a great one to start with.
Jack is born on the coldest day in Edinburgh and his little heart is frozen. A problem that can only be fixed, in this topsy-turvy world, with a cuckcoo-clock replacement. Poor little Jack must follow three simple rules:
Premièrement ne touche pas à tes aiguilles
Deuxièment ta colère tu devras maitriser
Et surtout ne jamais oublier quoi qu'il arrive, ne jamais se laisser tomber amoureux
Jack must not touch the cuckcoo-clock's hands. He must control his anger. And, quelle surprise, he must never ever fall in love. Alas, the teenage boy falls for a bespectacled singer, Miss Acacia, and so he starts on his quest across Europe to Andalucia.
Why I do love this film? Well, it's so imaginative. A flying train, a two-headed mermaid, a cinematic icon, a xylophone-spine, amazing Burtinesque animation and a cracking soundtrack. However, one of the main things that I loved was that it was in French, Spanish and English. Because of that and with all of its crazy wordplay, I find it hard to imagine them ever creating a successful dubbing or subtitling. I really hope that I'm wrong and they do manage.
It's actually a favourite topic of mine and I wrote an essay at university about the untranslatablilty of one of my favourite films (Le Mepris). I've watched it with the subtitles and it's fine but I still think you lose something in the translation. I think we can be honest that Dr Seuss in another language, although still fabulous, won't be Dr Seuss. The Cat in the Hat is translated as Le Chat chapeauté. It makes perfect sense and they've got the repetition of the at/at cha/cha sounds but in a different order that doesn't seem to please the ear in the same way. And don't get me started on the Italian Il gatto col cappello. See! Amazing language, it's worth learning another just to get their poetry and literature because some things are so easily lost in translation.
Two English lyrics from the Jack et la Mécanique du Cœur album:
My motherfucking heart does, clic-cloc-ding-dong
She smells/smiles (?) like when you eat a rotten cheese
The strange and wonderful lyrics this band creates are so bizarre outside the French context. Would they keep that in an English language version? Or would they have to 'translate' that too? Young French people love knowing English, it's an impressive thing. And all the more so if you know the swear words. All the teens will be singing along and feeling kick-ass. But over here.... maybe not.
So everybody watch this film and listen to the album! Whatever language you can find it in, you don't need to understand the words to wonder at the animation.
Andalucia, Anda, Andaaaaaaaaaaaa