Chapter

Reading subtitles: travelling films meet foreign spectators

Dimitris Eleftheriotis

in Cinematic Journeys

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print April 2010 | ISBN: 9780748633128
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748651269 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3366/edinburgh/9780748633128.003.0009
Reading subtitles: travelling films meet foreign spectators

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By focusing on subtitles, this chapter maps out and delineates critical positions as they emerge within film theory and ‘world cinema’ in order to investigate their limitations. It proposes an understanding of ‘foreign spectators’ as characters encountered in the travels of films but explores this metaphor with a shift in point of view away from that of the traveller. It views subtitles as the marks of a journey, imprinted on the bodies of travelling films and read by the spectators that they encounter. The reading involved has a double frame of reference: it is an act of consumption of the literal meaning that the subtitles provide but also a critical and productive act that reads the subtitles as incomplete signs and instigates cultural syncretism and semiotic engagement with the films. The chapter uses Emir Kusturica's Black Cat, White Cat (1998) to posit the engagement of a fictional character, Grga Pitić (played by Sabri Sulejman), with Michael Curtiz's Casablanca (1942) as an idealised and emblematic instance of the ‘foreign spectator’.

Keywords: Emir Kusturica; Black Cat; White Cat; Michael Curtiz; Casablanca; foreign spectators; world cinema; subtitles; travelling films; spectators

Chapter.  7209 words. 

Subjects: Film

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