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Monday, November 26, 2012

Comments on Poirot

My latest anti-insomnia programming has been ITV's Poirot.

Two comments:

1) David Suchet as Poirot is excellent. But Hugh Fraser as Hastings is an absolute disaster, so bad I can barely stand to watch him on the screen. Yes, he is cast as Poirot's Watson, someone of lesser intellect who puzzles over how the brilliant detective arrived at his conclusions. But he is still supposed to be somewhat smarter than a mentally defective baboon, which is about how Fraser plays him. And the range of Fraser's acting abilities apparently extend to one facial expression, of stupid surprise, and one tone of voice, of supercilious vacuity.

2) Two of the episodes supposedly took place in French-speaking countries. This faced the producers with a problem: Poirot's character is somewhat defined by his Gallic-style of speaking English. How should he speak in France and Belgium? And how should the "French" and "Belgians" speak? Normally, I think it is fine for everyone in a foreign setting to simply speak English -- the audience can imagine that they writer has kindly translated the original dialogue for them along the way. But then what to do about Poirot? If we are supposed to be hearing him speaking French, but translated for us, then why does he have this French accent in translation? They could have tried having everyone speak English with a French accent, but that usually sounds ridiculous, and simply multiplies the previous problem: if we are listening to a translation of their French, why is it be translated into accented English? But to have Poirot speak unaccented English would have been consistent but untenable as well, as it would have required to much adjustment on the part of the audience.

My solution would have been: skip those episodes, as the problem is insoluble, given they did not want to make use of subtitles and have all the actors speak French. But the producers simply ignored the problem, and so we have Poirot speaking to supposed French speakers in heavily accented English, and them answering him in natively accented English, with occasional English butcherings of French phrases thrown in to make the cognitive dissonance more jarring.

3 comments:

  1. Actually Hastings in the books is considerably dimmer than Watson ever was. One reason why AC phased him out I think.

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    Replies
    1. Well, perhaps Fraser is a good actor playing a bad character?

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  2. I liked Hastings when I read my first AC in grade 7. I found him annoying later, and indeed found Hugh Fraser annoying when I watched a few episodes. Ellery Queen's dad was a good Watson.

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