Monday, August 10, 2009

Public Enemies

The Biograph Theater and (adjoining businesses...Image via Wikipedia

It's a bit ironic that the first movie that I've gone to in France was filmed primarily in Chicago. In fact, the climax of Public Enemies occurs at the Biograph Theater in Lincoln Park, less than a mile from my condo. Spoiler alert: that is the site of John Dillenger's final apprehension and assassination. I first learned about Dillenger's fate on Lincoln Avenue on the Gangster Tour of Chicgo.

The movie, starring Johnny Depp, portrays the final years of Dillenger's life in true Hollywood style. Make the criminal the romantic lead; smudge the time line; and add a few extra rounds of ammunition to the gun battles. Disappointingly, the movie fails to explain the public following of John Dillenger as a Depression era Robin Hood.

Public Enemies Film MovieImage by louisvolant via Flickr

The public was informed of Dillenger's exploits via news reels that were played before motion pictures. In a time when few had money to deposit in banks, the robberies were rooted on as a chance to "take it to the man." Some legends claim that Dillenger never hurt a bystander and that he was especially kind with women. It was difficult to tell whether the movie was trying to depict the chivalric bank robber or the gritty reality. In trying to have it both ways, we never could figure out our "hero's" motivations.

Perhaps the confusion was a result of the picture being dubbed over in French. I had a very difficult time understanding the conversations. Even Mary Ann admitted that it was hard to follow because of all the slang. Idioms are notoriously difficult to translate, and sometimes sound ridiculous to non-natives.

I tried to follow by judging the tone of voice and the context clues. In doing so, I was really disappointed by the choice of the actor who dubbed Johnny Depp's character. Depp is known for his subtleties and unique portrayals, but the French voice 0ver was classic bombastic action hero. I guess I'll have to wait for the DVD to judge the performance.
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