Plot summary[ edit ] The novel, written by Dai Sijie, is about two teenage boys during the Chinese Cultural Revolution , Luo, described as having "a genius for storytelling",  and the unnamed narrator, "a fine musician". Residents of the small farming village are delighted by the stories the two teenagers retell from classic literature and movies that they have seen. They are even excused from work for a few days to see films at a nearby town and later retell the story to the townspeople, through a process known as "oral cinema". Luo and the narrator meet Four-Eyes, the son of a poet, who is also being re-educated.
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Search Menu Abstract This article examines the novel and film Balzac et la Petite Tailleuse chinoise, by the Franco-Chinese writer and filmmaker Dai Sijie, the story of which takes place against the background of the Cultural Revolution.
I then move on to investigate the linguistic aspects of the various translations between the novel and the film in French, Mandarin Chinese and Sichuanese. The aesthetic effects of dubbing, in particular, will allow me to investigate new possibilities of reading exophone literature. Dai began his career as a filmmaker after moving to Paris to study cinema in He had already made three feature films before publishing his debut novel Balzac in This French-language novel was then adapted by the author as a film in predominantly Sichuanese dialect in However, in those works dealing with the relationship between the novel and the film, there is a general critical tendency to examine the film from the perspective of the novel.
The following analysis will hope to make clear, in the first instance, how the film illuminates and dramatizes the special texture and aesthetic and, to some extent, the structure of the novel. They almost categorically ignore the linguistic material of audio-visual translation in the filmic version, i.
There are two main reasons for us to pay closer attention to such translation material in relation to the novel when debating the issue of cross-cultural mis reading in Balzac: firstly, most francophone viewers would have to rely on subtitles to understand the film; so would the vast majority of sinophone speakers, as the film was shot predominantly in a dialect that is by no means readily intelligible to Mandarin speakers despite its relative similarity phonetically to Mandarin compared to other major dialects such as Cantonese.
I will emphasize in particular the central role of oral storytelling through various forms of translation: interlingual as well as intermedial. Intermedial storytelling Let us begin with the role of cinema in the story of Balzac. Just like the Western literature and musical instrument in this story i. The novel itself frequently manifests features of a film script. The most typical example is the use of parenthetical remarks within dialogue, which provide action or attitude direction for a character: — On continue, me dit-il en se levant.
Ses dents crissaient. Mais ne vous en faites pas trop. There must have been a dozen in all. Finally, the narrative structure of the closing section of the novel can be seen as directly informed by the technique of film editing, with fade or dissolve effects. The narrator witnesses from a distance the final communication between Luo and the Petite Tailleuse and mentally mixes this scene with a previous oneiric vision of his.
What ultimately unites the novel and the film is the act of oral storytelling. Critics have exhaustively studied the cross-cultural intertextual references in Balzac and their various diegetic interactions with the story, as well as their extradiegetic implications.
Such values are simply presented as superior and worthy of adoption. The performative aspect of oral storytelling has received little attention. The various regions have their own specific traditions of storytelling told in the local dialects.
Towards the end, not only is Ma able to choose independently a story of his preference — Le Comte de Monte-Cristo — to tell the old tailor, a story that even Luo does not yet know; he also becomes much more conscious of his strategy of articulation.
The film significantly enhances the orality of the story of Balzac, as though the act of reading written literature is of secondary importance. Figure 1.
Balzac et la petite tailleuse Chinoise de Dai Sijie