Wednesday, September 22, 2004

¡Hijo de Una Gran’ Puta!

Shrieked, memorably, at the retreating form of Clint Eastwood by Eli Wallach, the New York Jew who inexplicably became the late Sixties film world’s go-to guy for playing Mexican banditos. Yeah, I was watching The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly last night, watching as I watch many DVDs—while ironing a pile of shirts, late at night, when everyone else in the house has gone to bed.

It’s been a long time since I watched the film, and I was struck by how its many bizarre incidents and images (e.g., the riderless coach careening across the desert, or the Union battalion gray and ghostly with the dust), which would, in a lesser film such as Cold Mountain or Dead Man, come across as whimsical or pretentious, never seem particularly outlandish in context. For all that his style can accurately be called operatic, even epic, Sergio Leone’s real genius is in keeping the movie grounded. Every bloody betrayal, every ghastly surprise, seems entirely plausible.

But I digress. I meant to talk about closed captions.

So I had the volume down to a whisper, out of courtesy to the wife & kids sleeping upstairs; and as I am wont to do, when watching TV with the sound turned down, I had switched on the closed caps. CC’s are kind of cool. Firstly, they’re generally in all capital letters, so it makes watching TV sort of like reading a comic book. And since they’re intended for the hearing-impaired, they convey a lot of information that simple subtitles don’t, things that a hearing viewer might pick up from a foreign-language film even if he doesn’t speak the language, but that a deaf viewer might not; closed captions are rife with indicators like [Sarcastically] or [Laughs nervously] or even [Romantic Ballad plays].

Imagine, then, my delight when the following captions appeared on my screen as the famous credit sequence began:





My jaw dropped: were they going to attempt to replicate the entire score in text form? I awaited captions reading [MANIC SURF GUITAR] and [MANLY GRUNTS], but soon a single line came up: [THEME TO “THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY” PLAYS].

Which is a hell of a time-saver, when you think of it. By that logic, they could have handled the whole movie with a single caption reading [DIALOGUE AND SCORE FOR “THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY” PLAY].

And the rest, as they say, is silence.

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