Although I generally watch American/British movies in VO, the other day I had a go at the movie “Chef” in Italian. Poor choice! Every now and then, I would think “mmm, this doesn’t sound quite right”… . I know audiovisual translation has to take into account many more factor than simple translation, and I am no expert in this field; yet, I think a more accurate terminology could have improved the experience for viewers. Since the movie in question was about food, I thought I’d add my two cents on what did not add up for me.
When the Chef goes to get his produce, he goes to the Farmer’s market, which was translated as mercato del contadino. As far as I know, this type of market in Italian are called mercati contadini, without the preposition (so that the noun becomes an adjective), or mercati agricoli, although they are not quite like the ones in the UK (and in the US, from what I’ve seen from the movie). A few scenes later, the main character, Carl, tells his son “Ok, we’re going to the market but to shop but we won’t eat anything”. This in Italian sounded quite odd: buying groceries is what you do when you visit in a market. You might sample something, but it is unusual to go to a market only to eat. Farmers’ market in Italy are different from Borough Market in London, for example! There are some stalls who would let you taste their produce, but you would not go there to have a meal.
At a point, the characters see a food stall selling sausages and they use the expression “the sausage man”. This was translated (in a very literal way) as “l’uomo delle salsicce.” I don’t know about the Italian speakers, but to me, this sounded like a straight calque of the English. They could have chosen il venditore di salsicce (the sausage seller) or il baracchino delle salsicce (the sausage stall), as they were referring to the establishment rather than to the person.
A couple other things that left me thinking was their decision to leave the term carne asada as such. The movie is set in California and some other areas- Miami, Austin, New Orleans- where Spanish is widely spoken, and this word might sound familiar: probably many Americans living in these areas know what carne asada is. In Italy, this is not totally obscure: you would still understand they’re talking about meat because it is carne in both languages, but asada is not easy to guess. They could have used carne alla griglia (grilled meat), which albeit not being exactly the same, is more intelligible for an Italian audience. I would really be interested in knowing why they chose to keep this touch of exotism. Using the foreign word was appropriate in other scenes, such as when andouille and beignet were mentioned, because there was an explanation following (these terms are not crystal clear to all English speakers, either), and also because the product was actually shown, but the non-translation of carne asada still remains a mystery to me.
My final source of stupor was their decision of leaving “food truck” as such in Italian. They could have used furgone, furgoncino, baracchino, chiosco… but they chose to leave it in English. Maybe because the words I proposed make people think of greasy spoons and low-quality meals while that served on the movie’s food truck was top quality? I don’t think that’s justifiable, because street food is becoming more and more popular in Italy, and food truck serving delicious dishes can be seen around the biggest cities, and even have their own festivals in Rome and Milan. Was it maybe to sound trendy, because we have this annoying tendency to copy English anytime we can? Maybe. But I can’t help thinking that an average Italian, when first hearing “food truck”, would go like “Fu-what?”.
In spite of being distracted by translation choices, though, I enjoyed the movie and I recommend it to anyone who’s a bit of a foodie! I’d like to know your thoughts on the translation of this movie in your language, and if you think of another food-related movie I should watch, let me know, I’ll be happy to learn more!