(originally posted on Always Dignity, Monday, October 17, 2005–read it in the original to see the comments).
The DVD pirates (arrr!) in China are fairly sophisticated in reproducing authentic-looking packaging. I’ve tried to buy DVDs only from reputable-looking merchants. I go to places with actual physical locations and shelves stocked with all sorts of DVDs, and I avoid guys camped out underneath the elevated subway, hawking DVDs out of their knapsacks. Still, you can never be certain that what you buy is good quality or poor until you pop it into your player back home. Some fakes, though, are more obvious than others. The copy of ‘8 Mile’ on sale at our local department store, for instance, is probably not a very faithful reproduction. The man on the box cover identified as Eminem is definitely not Eminem. He is carrying a large semiautomatic pistol, and the attack helicopters and exploding office buildings look like they were cut from a ‘Die Hard’ poster. In a case like this not only is the quality of the picture and sound in doubt, but you don’t even know what movie you’d be watching if you bought it.
The quality of English translations on box covers can also be a clue to the quality of the reproduction. Pirates seem to be pretty good at copying box graphics, but have more difficulty dealing with English text. Sometimes it seems that either the pirate in charge of a particular job does not read English at all, or is just too busy, and knows that most of his Chinese buyers won’t be reading the English anyway. Odd cut-and-paste mistakes are fairly common, such as the copy of Ang Lee’s ‘The Hulk’ with a plot synopsis on the back for the Wil Smith movie ‘Ali’ (Arrrgh! Ali SMAAASH!). Quotes from critics on the boxes are sometimes far more honest and even-handed than the American customer is used to. The box for ‘Catwoman’ proudly announced that Roger Ebert found the movie “Tired and Dated!” Another critic quoted on the back of ‘After The Sunset’ described the movie as a “Complete waste of time!” Caveat emptor.
The best English–and I use that term here in its broadest possible sense; maybe ‘best use of words used in English’ would be more accurate–I’ve come across so far is this description of the movie the ’40-Year-Old Virgin.’ I reproduce it here in its baffling entirety, without so much as a period removed or added (‘//’ indicate the original line breaks):
The already 40- year old condition of Anne is at last quite good, the person likes to work good attitude good, I // n his friend’s eyes, his unique blemish may be stillMale.Although the oneself of Anne does not feel that this // have what greatly not, can all day long is a lot of for the person whom he worry, a group of foxes companion // dog friend is also to think that the square tries to want forHe seeks a girl friend.However, very quick, the one // self of Anne found out the object-40- year old and single close mother’s west.Substitute him in the friends hap // py togetherHour, but they know Anne to have already reached the agreement ……that asexuality be in love wi // the west of
The copy of the movie was terrible, but it was worth 8 RMB just to read the box.