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Update: Stephen Chow sold for 14,542 yuan


In an earlier Danwei post, we mentioned that Shi Banyu, the Mandarin voice of Stephen Chow, was selling "a phone call from Stephen Chow" in several eBay auctions, with half the proceeds going to a school for the deaf in Beijing.

Though some had feared a spat over image rights, Stephen Chow didn't complain, and the ten separate auctions went for a total of 14,542 yuan (US$1795), with a top single price of 2850 yuan.

BQ has an extensive interview with Shi Banyu in its latest issue; excerpted and translated below are some segments dealing with his dubbing work on Chow's movies.

Intro: In 1989, Stephen Chow and Andy Lau shot All for the Winner, and the production company wanted to find someone with an unusual voice to do the dubbing for Chow to distinguish him from his costar Lau. Starting with that movie, Shi Banyu has worked with Stephen Chow for 17 years, completing 28 movies.

In recent years, apart from dubbing movies, Shi Banyu has gotten enthusiastically involved in English education for children. He has recorded a set of American English instructional tapes using a Stephen Chow-like voice.

BQ: How do you understand the world of Stephen Chow's movies? What do you think he's trying to say? What is he giving to the audience? What about yourself — is there a difference between you and him?
Shi: This question is a little too scholarly, isn't it? Really, his movies are not entirely farcical; behind the humor there's a deep theme — affection, friendship, or love. Look at the brotherly affection in A Chinese Odyssey for example — you can see what different people take from it. I think that Stephen Chow's most outstanding quality is that in all of his movies these days, from the start to the finish and all the details in between, everything is done in a "Stephen Chow" style. In the past he made movies for other companies, and his style was only evident in his own acting. But now you could say that he's established a sort of system. Like setting up a school of kung-fu. There is nothing mythical in his movies, nothing glamorized — his films only express the experiences of the common people close to us. What he really wants to convey is not something for which I can speak for him — I'm afraid I won't say it right.

I personally believe that when people go into a theater it's for laughs or to have a good time. If you feel happy after you watch a movie, then the movie's basic goal has been achieved. Movies are essentially meant to be entertainment, and if you are able to find something else during the process, then so much the better.

What I want to give to people is happiness.

BQ: Do you think that Stephen Chow's movies have been "overanalyzed", and completely misunderstood? And what contribution do you think your flubbed line "I 服了 You" ["whatever you say"; the English was a mistake that Shi said during recording, but it was preserved and has become popular slang] made to Chow's status as a "postmodern master"?
Shi: Movies are one form of art, so it's a good thing for people to analyze them. As for my contribution to post-modernism, I think that if you've sung "Only You," what does "I 服了 You" matter?

BQ: Although his movies are funny, it is said that he's rather serious in private. How do you see him?
Shi: It might be that he's cautious when dealing with the media. Lots of people think that he's serious, but in private he's very humorous and easy-going.

BQ: Give us an evaluation of your relationship with Stephen Chow.
Shi: In truth, he's my boss, and I'm just an employee, so it's a master and servant relationship. Our cooperation has a history, and it's gone through trials, so I thank him for being willing to give me this opportunity.

BQ: Do you think he's a good boss?
Shi: In general, yes.

BQ: Can you tell us a little about your work process? Many people don't really understand dubbing work.
Shi: It's like this: first I get the script, read it over, and get a sense of the main content of the story, the characters, and their language usage. On the page, the Mandarin script is really no different from the Cantonese script. Then we get together to come to an agreement on what style to use for the dubbing, and after that I start watching the movie. Then it's the actual work, and after the whole thing is finished, I watch to see how it looks, and make changes and corrections to details.

BQ: Before you dub, how many times do you usually watch the movie?
Shi: About three to five times.

BQ: If you run into problems or have suggestions during your work, who do you usually talk to?
Shi: Right now I always have an managing director working with me, and after I finish, Mr. Chow certainly will want to look things over. If he thinks it's OK, no problems, then the movie can be released.

BQ: Do you talk to Stephen Chow?
Shi: If there are places I don't understand or have questions about, I'll ask him, because after all he is the creator, and I need to absorb and adapt his ideas, and put them out in sound.

BQ: In Cantonese, there are lots of words with special meanings that are absent in Mandarin. How do you address this problem?
Shi: In Cantonese, the different pronunciations of a character will all have different meanings. And there are lots of words that mean one thing on the surface, but there's a hidden meaning underneath. These need to be modified. If they are not "repaired" then the humor doesn't come out. If the adapted words don't match the Cantonese lip movement, then everyone needs to get together to discuss how best to address the problem.

BQ: The movie censors in the mainland, Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan are all different. Do you have to avoid "direct translation" of sensitive or vulgar language? What's the primary type? Could you give us some examples?
Shi: It's usually the vulgarities. In Cantonese, vulgar language has a humorous aspect to it, and this needs to be dealt with. For example, the phrase 香蕉你个芭拉 [in Mandarin, "Banana your guava"] is rather vulgar, but there's nothing like it in Mandarin, and a direct translation would be offensive ["F*ck your c*nt"]. At the time, I thought about lots of different fruits and vegetables before finally deciding that this one wasn't too bad. But now if you say this, everyone knows it's a curse.

BQ: Some of Stephen Chow's movies, like Shaolin Soccer and Kung-fu Hustle, have shown in North America. Your English is pretty good, have you ever thought of doing the dubbing for the English versions?
Shi: No. Really (laughs). Doing Mandarin well is enough by itself.

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