Saturday, February 16, 2008

Williams in French

One of my all-time favorite movie speeches was written by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck for their 1997 movie "Good Will Hunting." It's the speech that Robin Williams's character, Dr. Sean Maguire, gives to Damon's Will Hunting when they're sitting by the lake the week after their first encounter, an encounter during which Will trashed Sean's painting and flayed his personal life. A cynic might note that, as movie moments go, the Maguire speech is a bit corny, but I'm a huge fan of that film and don't mind the overt didacticism. Here's how it begins:

So if I asked you about art, you'd probably give me the skinny on every art book ever written. Michelangelo, you know a lot about him. Life's work, political aspirations, him and the pope, sexual orientation, the whole works, right? But I'll bet you can't tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. You've never actually stood there and looked up at that beautiful ceiling, seen that.

While searching YouTube for a Robin Williams clip to show my students-- the moment in Williams's 2005 Broadway standup routine where he bashes the French-- I found a clip of the above Maguire speech, but dubbed in French. I guess someone in some francophone country was also impressed by the speech. I'm tempted to transcribe the French here, but that might take more time than I have today. In any case, click this link and enjoy the version fran├žaise of the Sean Maguire speech.*

Williams does speak French, though as you see in this Inside the Actor's Studio clip, he's got a fairly strong accent, as does his interviewer, James Lipton, whose French I thought would be spot-on, given how much time he spent in France.

*I'm tempted to call this a soliloquy, but as you watch the scene you'll note that Sean Maguire isn't talking to us, he's talking to Will, and Will is reacting during the speech. Soliloquy doesn't seem like quite the right word despite the "soliloquistic" format of the speech.


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