“Alain Delon is Speaking French” (in Russian)

 

alain delon

“Mother teaches heart phone morgue” is how google-translate renders the seventh line of another glasnost-era Russian pop song that recently caught my attention. I had a Russian radio stream playing as I puttered around the house one day this summer, but wasn’t really paying attention until a repeated line in the chorus of a song grabbed my ear. I stopped what I was doing and thought, did they just sing “Alain Delon speaks French?” In fact, that was exactly what they were singing. I felt the urge to know why a Russian band would record a song about a French actor speaking French. A little research into this song revealed a degree of cultural interconnectedness that I was unaware of in the nineteen eighties when this song was produced in the still existing, and I presumed still closed, society of the Soviet Union.

Nautilus Pomplilius (Наутилус Помпилиус)

It turns out that this song–A Look from the Screen (Vzglyad s Ekrana, which google-translate gives as “Sight Screen)–by the group Nautilus Pompilius, was inspired by, and is even described as a “free translation” of, the song Robert De Niro’s Waiting, by the 80’s British pop band Bananarama. The line repeated in the chorus of the Brit song—”Robert De Niro’s waiting, talking Italian”becomes, in the Russian song, “Alain Delon is speaking French” (Alen Delon govorit po Frantsuzkiy).

Banarama-inspiriation for alain delon speaks French by Nautilus Pompilius

Bananarama

 

The translation is, however, very free; there are major differences. For example, in the Banarama song the hero/actor is “waiting”, while in the Russian he is “drinking a double bourbon”, and  not “eau-de-cologne.”

And absent from Robert De Niro’s Waiting is the trope used in Soviet art for decades, and found in Vzglyad s Ekrana—juxtaposing images of life in the U.S.S.R with the those of “life” in the West as a strategy for getting away with criticism of Communist Party leadership, as well as of society.

So I thought it would be fun to write an English translation of this Russian song about a French film star speaking French, that was inspired by a British song about an American film star speaking Italian.

A Look from the Screen
Vyacheslav Butuzov and Ilye Kormiltsev

She read the world like reading a book
And the story seemed to be about him
Neighbors out on the driveway-
Guys whose scruples are grim

A stroll in the park with no dog
For you the squeeze might become too strong
Mother learns by heart how to dial the morgue
When she must stay away from her home for too long

Father, as he passes, does not see the door
And spits in the dinner she made
She–older than his mother
He should save her from being a maid

The first try at battle against sweaty hands
Always comes when the soldier’s still green
Love–it is just a face on the wall
Love–it’s a look from the screen

Alain Delon is speaking in French
Alain Delon is speaking in French
Alain Delon, Alain Delon doesn’t drink eau-de-cologne
Alain Delon, Alain Delon drinks double bourbon
Alain Delon is speaking in French

Guys may try in girlfriends’ apartments
She spends time there too
But she doesn’t give a damn about anything
Except for the daily morning T.V. crew

But the scene is entirely different at home
She looks directly into his eyes
And fantasies come tumbling into her womb
More real than anyone with whom she has ties

Alain Delon is speaking in French
Alain Delon is speaking in French
Alain Delon, Alain Delon doesn’t drink eau-de-cologne
Alain Delon, Alain Delon drinks double bourbon
Alain Delon is speaking in French 

VIDEO- Vzglyad c Ekrana (A View from the Screen)

VIDEO- Bananarama, Robert Di Nero’s Waiting

 

2 thoughts on ““Alain Delon is Speaking French” (in Russian)

  1. Hey, just stumbled upon this in my efforts to find a song from my childhood. Nice observation about the cultural commentary in regard to communism. As a Russian dude I thought some of the translation was a bit off, I am not sure if you used google, but thought maybe you would appreciate a Russian’s translation of the lyrics:

    She read the world like a romance novel
    But it turned out to be a drama/story
    The neighbors of the building,
    Were guys with a conscience with zits.

    A walk in the park without a dog
    May cost too much for you,
    She memorizes the morgue’s phone number,
    When she stays away from her home for too long.

    When father comes home he can’t find the door,
    And spits in the dinner she prepared,
    She is older than his mother,
    He is obligated to become her husband.

    Alain Delon is speaking in French
    Alain Delon is speaking in French
    Alain Delon, Alain Delon doesn’t drink eau-de-cologne
    Alain Delon, Alain Delon drinks double bourbon
    Alain Delon is speaking in French

    Guys may try in girlfriends’ apartments
    She spends time there too
    But this doesn’t give her anything,
    Other than morning dramas

    At home it’s a different movie,
    She looks into his eyes,
    And fantasies come tumbling into her womb
    More real than anyone with whom she has ties.

    Alain Delon is speaking in French
    Alain Delon is speaking in French
    Alain Delon, Alain Delon doesn’t drink eau-de-cologne
    Alain Delon, Alain Delon drinks double bourbon
    Alain Delon is speaking in French

    Subtle differences, but I though you might appreciate them. Anyway cheers, glad to know you liked the song, it is a rare breed indeed.

    Alex

    • Alex, that is awesome, thank you. This exactly the kind of response I hope to generate on this site: other peoples translations of things I translate. Your comment inspired me to go back and take a look at my translation; something I haven’t done for long time. Did I really put “Alain Delon is speaking in French”? I had to pause in considering whether Alain Delon speaks, vs. is peaking, but why I had felt I had to put “in” in there, I can’t recall.
      I liked seeing that we both came up with “And fantasies come tumbling into her womb.”

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