Can you place that funny accent?

Reel Time
Dale Hill

            Have we had the conversation about vampires and werewolves and zombies, oh my? The one where we scoff at Hollywood’s collective lack of imagination? The one where we point and jeer at the endless retreads the producers come up with to get a little more mileage out of the same tired old supernaturals? I think we have.

            And since we have, it might seem rather pointless to point out that you can now trudge through the snow and ice to catch the fourth (FOURTH!) episode in the Underwear saga, I’m sorry, I mean the Underworld saga in which Kate Beckinsale uses up a lot of ammo trying to make the world safe for vampires and incidentally somewhat less safe for Lycans, a sort of advanced werewolf clan which sounds like just what we all need.

            Beckinsale started out as a dewy-fresh heroine named Hero in Kenneth Branagh’s 1993 Much Ado About Nothing, and has since grown into a tall, graceful, husky-voiced, competent actress. She opens this movie with a voice-over narration of the “but then a new darkness arose” variety that will have you wondering if you stepped into a revival of Lord of the Rings. The Lycans here could be mistaken for orcs, or wargs, or some damn thing, and they spend a lot of screen time fanging people to bloody shreds, which is how the producers intend to attract big audiences. It may have that effect; I couldn’t say.

            It doesn’t really matter that this is the goriest of the series, because it’s so dark in this movie you can’t see anything anyway, and the 3D just makes things darker. What does matter is that this stinker clocks in at 88 minutes, so you can be fanging your own way through a roast chicken with barely an hour and a half lost from your evening.

            In fact, the main reason I opted for this howler, aside from its brevity, is the fact that it’s co-directed by two Swedish guys who have interesting diacritical marks over the vowels in their names. My fascination with accent marks arose a few weeks ago with my review of Spielberg’s Tintin movie. When I typed the name of the author of the original stories, I typed H-e-r-g-e-with-an-acute-accent. Up to now I’ve had no trouble inserting accent marks, and they always came through just fine in the typeset edition. But now that the FJ’s layout and typesetting has been moved to the parent company in Lewiston, an interesting sea-change has taken place, and H-e-r-g-e-with-an-acute-accent has become Hergé. If you’re reading that as Herg-and-a-bunch-of-letters-and-symbols, that means that the software they’re using at the mother ship does not have the support to render special characters. That’s why I went to review this movie, to see what sort of hash the outsourced program will make of Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein. Seems funny that the big parent company can’t handle a job that gave the local johnnies no problem at all. Practically agaçant you might call it if you were in a French sort of mood.

            And while in that mood, you might be tempted to quote some of the lovely lines from your favorite play, such as:

                        Vous voyez la noirceur d’un long manteau qui traîne,

                        J’aperçois la blancheur d’une robe d’été…

Or perhaps:

                        Laissez-moi votre main, voyons, elle a la fièvre.

                        Mais moi j’ai vu trembler les aveux sur sa lèvre…

Just to see what happens when they hit those little marks.

            And, oh my! The Met Live in HD productions are in full swing, and I may very well have to write about Robert Lepage’s spectacular and controversial production of Wagner’s Ring, which culminates with the broadcast of Götterdämmerung on February 11.

            This year the Met is also producing one of my favorite Czech operas, Věc Makropulos by the great Leoš Janáček. Soon I hope they will revive another of my favorites, Russalka by Antonín Dvořák.

            And what of our own language, but a much younger version? Let’s try:

                                    HWÆT, WE GAR-dena in geardagum,
                                    þeodcyninga þrym gefrunon,
                                    hu ða æþelingas ellen fremedon!

And was that just me being nasty? Why, si, señor! And we never even got to the lovely Ǖs and Ǿs…So thank you for joining us on our brief tour of the Land of Diacriticals. If a lot of this page looks like gibberish, it may alert the typesetters that they need to update their software. Don’t get me started on italics.