La Classe américaine
Film collage and dubbing
On 31 December 1993, French pay TV channel Canal+ broadcast a 70-minute film called La Classe américaine, directed by Michel Hazanavicius and Dominique Mézerette. They took excerpts from about fifty Warner Bros. productions, edited them to build a story and had the characters (played by A-list actors such as John Wayne and James Stewart) dubbed over by well-known French voice actors, resulting in what is known technically as a ‘détournement’, combining the techniques of film collage and dubbing. This paper sketches the origins and the production context of this very unusual audiovisual object, relying on insights from film theory, with particular reference to adaptation techniques like remixes and collages. The analysis also shows how meaning and humour are created through the montage of originally completely disconnected scenes and the addition of funny or crude dialogues that one would not expect from cinema legends like John Wayne. A final part highlights the film’s cult status and its influence on the creation of more détournements.
Keywords: adaptation, détournement, dubbing, film collage, film remix
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Published online: 15 June 2017
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