And people say that foreign film is inaccessible.

enrol

Banned
Japanese - Japan
Someone was telling a friend of his about a Japanese movie he thought they should both watch. He described it to him, whereupon his friend replied, "And people say that foreign film is inaccessible."

Shouldn't it have been "...foreign films are inaccessible"?
 

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  • boozer

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    Well, the way it is worded, the sentence has a different meaning:
    And people say that that foreign film is inaccessible - that foreign film in particular, not some other
     

    enrol

    Banned
    Japanese - Japan
    Oh, I see. Thanks!
    I thought he meant, "And people say foreign film is inaccessible." and it didn't make any sense to me. I thought it should have been "And people say foreign films are inaccessible."
    But now you've cleared it up. Thanks again!
     

    elroy

    Moderator: EHL, Arabic, Hebrew, German(-Spanish)
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    the way it is worded
    What do you mean? :confused:
    And people say that that foreign film is inaccessible - that foreign film in particular, not some other
    That reading is highly unlikely.
    I thought he meant, "And people say foreign film is inaccessible." and it didn't make any sense to me.
    That is how I understand it too, and it makes perfect sense. "Foreign film" here is a category/genre (like "fiction" or "porn").
     

    boozer

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    That is how I understand it too, and it makes perfect sense. "Foreign film" here is a category/genre (like "fiction" or "porn").
    In which case the original sentence would be nothing short of ungrammatical. Never mind the fact that 'foreign film' (singular) is inelegant when describing a category films (plural) - it should be either 'foreign', on its own, or 'foreign films' (plural).
     

    elroy

    Moderator: EHL, Arabic, Hebrew, German(-Spanish)
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    In which case the original sentence would be nothing short of ungrammatical.
    Nope. It's perfectly grammatical.
    Never mind the fact that 'foreign film' (singular) is inelegant when describing a category films (plural)
    No, it's not. It's perfectly natural.
    it should be either 'foreign', on its own, or 'foreign films' (plural)
    Again, no. The genre is foreign film. Foreign films are individual films. Foreign on its own is incomplete.

    You seem to be under the mistaken impression that film can only refer to a single, individual film. It can also refer to the art form. People study film, not films.
     

    boozer

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    No, it's not. It's perfectly natural. Again, no. The genre is foreign film.
    Then why not 'fiction film' or 'porn film', instead of 'fiction' or 'porn' alone? Why this inconsistency - fiction, porn, but 'foreign film'?

    If you see 'foreign film' as a category, the original becomes acceptable. Otherwise it is ungrammatical.
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    I agree with elroy. The tiger is talking about "foreign films" in general. I also agree with boozer that the singular is a little weird, to teh point of being ungrammatical. Perhaps film buffs talk about "foreign film" in this affected way?
     

    elroy

    Moderator: EHL, Arabic, Hebrew, German(-Spanish)
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    Then why not 'fiction film' or 'porn film', instead of 'fiction' or 'porn' alone? Why this inconsistency - fiction, porn, but 'foreign film'?
    Because language is not consistent. ;) Just because we say "porn" doesn't mean we can't say "foreign film" (I don't think "fiction" is used to refer to films/movies).
    If you see 'foreign film' as a category, the original becomes acceptable. Otherwise it is ungrammatical.
    "Foreign film" is definitely a category/genre, and the original is definitely acceptable.

    Here are some examples of this usage (the first one is from a guide for students of cinema art):

    Responding to Film
    Reframing Theology and Film
    http://www.wearemoviegeeks.com/2011/03/i-saw-the-devil-the-review/
     
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    I agree with all the points made by elroy. "Foreign film" in the OP is a genre.
    "Studying foreign film is a good way to get going, looking up films by people like Akira Kurosawa, Ingmar Bergman..." ("How to Become a Film Critic", Brian Gosden.)
     

    elroy

    Moderator: EHL, Arabic, Hebrew, German(-Spanish)
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    I also agree with boozer that the singular is a little weird, to teh point of being ungrammatical. Perhaps film buffs talk about "foreign film" in this affected way?
    Interesting! I don't find it weird or affected in the least, and certainly not ungrammatical.

    You're okay with "I study film," aren't you? In terms of naturalness, in what significant way is that different from "I study foreign film"?
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    It's different. Perhaps this is an AE thing. In BE, we (people not connected to the industry) tend to talk about "foreign cinema", rather than "foreign film" for foreign films in general. Also "the French cinema, Italian cinema" rather than "French film" or "Italian film".

    Edit: Most ordinary people (but not tigers perhaps) would have used the plural form.
     
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    elroy

    Moderator: EHL, Arabic, Hebrew, German(-Spanish)
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    It's different.
    Can you try to pinpoint the difference? ;)
    Perhaps this is an AE thing.
    Perhaps, although johngiovanni seems to be okay with it.

    I should probably add that not only does "I study foreign film" sound perfectly natural to me, but "I study foreign films" sounds bizarre (unless the meaning is that I literally take individual foreign films and study them one by one!).
     

    boozer

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    We do not know who said the sentence and how good their English is. We can always give the sentence an interpretation that justifies its weirdness, but I cannot be persuaded that it is more natural than
    People say that foreign films are inaccessible. (talking generally)
    or
    People say that that film is inaccessible. (talking about the particular film)
     

    elroy

    Moderator: EHL, Arabic, Hebrew, German(-Spanish)
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    We do not know who said the sentence and how good their English is.
    LOL. This is Calvin and Hobbes, one of the most famous US comic strips around!

    Either way, the sentence is a perfectly grammatical and idiomatic English sentence.
    We can always give the sentence an interpretation that justifies its weirdness
    I don't think anyone here is doing anything of the sort. I am not "giving" the sentence an interpretation, nor do I find the sentence in any way "weird." When I read it, I immediately understood the meaning with no effort whatsoever.
    I cannot be persuaded that it is more natural than
    People say that foreign films are inaccessible. (talking generally)
    or
    People say that that film is inaccessible. (talking about the particular film)
    The second sentence has a totally different meaning so comparing it to the original in terms of which is more natural doesn't make sense. As for the first, no one said the original is necessarily more natural. Both sentences are equally natural, and they basically mean the same thing, although there's an ever-so-slight difference in nuance, because "foreign film" is the genre whereas "foreign films" are the individual films (seen as a group, of course). It's the same as the difference between "I like fiction" and "I like fiction books."
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    In my opinion the tiger in the cartoon is talking pretentious, like a cinema critic or student of the cinema. Ordinary people don't normally use the term that way in Britain. I suppose he's no ordinary tiger.
     

    boozer

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    Someone was telling a friend of his about a Japanese movie he thought they should both watch. He described it to him, whereupon his friend replied, "And people say that foreign film is inaccessible."
    The description in the OP makes it quite clear that they are talking about a particular Japanese film, not about a whole category of films. For the speaker "that Japanese film", as already described, may easily be "that foreign film". I do not see how the second sentence may be discounted as 'not making sense' in the context given.
    The second sentence has a totally different meaning so comparing it to the original in terms of which is more natural doesn't make sense.
    It makes perfect sense to say "that foreign film is inaccessible" when talking about a film that has already been defined.
     

    Scrawny goat

    Senior Member
    English - Ireland
    It's perfectly clear to me too. It's a sarcastic comment about a genre of film, of which the particular godzilla-esque movie is but one example.

    It's also a particular style of communication- a comic strip. Economy of words is the norm.

    Cross posted and edited to rebut boozer's most recent.
     

    elroy

    Moderator: EHL, Arabic, Hebrew, German(-Spanish)
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    I do not see how the second sentence may be discounted as 'not making sense' in the context given.
    I never said it didn't make sense; I said it was highly unlikely. (I think you misunderstood the "not making sense" part of my last post, but it doesn't matter.)

    Actually, now that I think about it, I do think that reading doesn't make sense! The only thing that Calvin tells Hobbes about the movie is that it has a "Japanese cast"; he doesn't specify which particular movie it is. How could Hobbes know what "people say" about that particular movie if he doesn't even know which movie it is?! All he knows is that it's a Japanese movie, so he makes a statement about foreign movies in general.

    Another important point is that in American English, we rarely use the word "film" to mean "movie."
    Economy of words is the norm.
    If only this principle had been applied more thoroughly by omitting "that," we wouldn't be engaged in this debate. :p
     

    Scrawny goat

    Senior Member
    English - Ireland
    I never said it didn't make sense; I said it was highly unlikely. (I think you misunderstood the "not making sense" part of my last post, but it doesn't matter.)

    Actually, now that I think about it, I do think that reading doesn't make sense! The only thing that Calvin tells Hobbes about the movie is that it has a "Japanese cast"; he doesn't specify which particular movie it is. How could Hobbes know what "people say" about that particular movie if he doesn't even know which movie it is?! All he knows is that it's a Japanese movie, so he makes a statement about foreign movies in general.

    Another important point is that in American English, we rarely use the word "film" to mean "movie."
    If only this principle had been applied more thoroughly by omitting "that," we wouldn't be engaged in this debate. :p
    Exactly. Plus, it's a joke. It's only funny if it's a generalisation.
     

    elroy

    Moderator: EHL, Arabic, Hebrew, German(-Spanish)
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    Plus, it's a joke. It's only funny if it's a generalisation.
    That's actually probably the most powerful argument against boozer's reading, but also the most difficult to prove. Logical and lexical arguments aside, boozer's reading simply falls flat and just doesn't work. It was only after analyzing the sentence and context metalinguistically that I identified the other arguments I presented. This one I intuitively felt.
     

    Pietruzzo

    Senior Member
    Italian
    The description in the OP makes it quite clear that they are talking about a particular Japanese film, not about a whole category of films.
    It's unlikely he's heard people speaking about the accessibility of that specific film since he didn't even know the film existed before his friend mentioned it. More likely, "film" is uncountable in this case, as per the Oxford LD's definition:
    [uncountable] (especially British English)(usually North American English the movies[plural]) (British English also the cinema) the art or business of making films/movies
    to study film and photography
    the minister responsible for film and the theatre
    the film industry
     

    boozer

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    :confused:
    What I do not understand is how you people know so much about the context...
    When I saw the original post, I read the explanation given, then I clicked on the icon and it opened an image the size of a coin - completely useless, so I closed it.
    I still have no idea what tiger you are talking about, never mind what category of films...
    The only thing I saw, and still see, is a dubious sentence said/written by God knows who.
     

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    ...I cannot be persuaded that it is more natural ...
    Oh, come on, Boozer, make a little effort! Elroy, Velisarius, Johngiovanni and Scrawny Goat have all tried to persuade you that "foreign film" is a perfectly normal expression. I agree with them. At what point will you accept you might have been mistaken?
     

    boozer

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    When you press the thumbnail, you get nothing but the thumbnail. :D
    When you press the link, however, a cartoon opens. Had no idea there it made any difference.
    Your link is dead for me, too, but I have seen it now.
     

    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    From the OED:
    film
    I 10 b.

    As a mass noun: the making of films considered as an art form, genre, or industry. Also sometimes in pl. Cf. cinema n. b.
    cinema
    b.
    Cinema films collectively, esp. considered as an art-form; the production of such films. Also, material suitable for presentation in or as a cinema film.
     
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    Scrawny goat

    Senior Member
    English - Ireland
    When you press the thumbnail, you get nothing but the thumbnail. :D
    When you press the link, however, a cartoon opens. Had no idea there it made any difference.
    Your link is dead for me, too, but I have seen it now.
    Drumroll....... and have you changed your mind now that you have seen the context?
     

    elroy

    Moderator: EHL, Arabic, Hebrew, German(-Spanish)
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    In BE, we (people not connected to the industry) tend to talk about "foreign cinema", rather than "foreign film" for foreign films in general. Also "the French cinema, Italian cinema" rather than "French film" or "Italian film".
    Ah. In American English, we almost never use the word "cinema."
    When you press the thumbnail, you get nothing but the thumbnail. :D
    This might be a browser issue. I'm using Safari and clicking the thumbnail opens up the comic for me.
     

    Scrawny goat

    Senior Member
    English - Ireland
    Maybe we could lure Bill Watterson out of retirement if we sent him a link to this thread. I feel sure he would at least get a kick out of it.
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    I think we've lost sight of the question.
    Shouldn't it have been "...foreign films are inaccessible"?

    I would say that in BE normally we would prefer to say exactly that for this particular sentence in an ordinary conversation between two ordinary film-goers. I think the tiger was being a bit facetious.


    I'm curious. Would most people go for the plural in AE as well, or are both equally likely?
     

    elroy

    Moderator: EHL, Arabic, Hebrew, German(-Spanish)
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    Would most people go for the plural in AE as well, or are both equally likely?
    Trying to answer this makes my head hurt. I'm teetering between "equally likely" and "plural somewhat more likely."
     
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    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    I would say that in BE normally we would prefer to say exactly that for this particular sentence in an ordinary conversation between two ordinary film-goers.
    I agree.
    I think the tiger was being a bit facetious.
    Part of the joke lies in the contrast between the boyish eagerness for sensational violence and the mature reflection on the limitations of people's attitudes.

    Using the singular emphasises the adult nature of the comment by making it about the art form rather than individual films.
    Perhaps in the UK the cartoonist would have said 'oriental cinema'.
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English (US - northeast)
    I'm curious. Would most people go for the plural in AE as well, or are both equally likely?

    As an AE speaker, the sentence by Hobbes (the tiger) is correct, and clear, and commonplace. I have seen any uses of the phrase "foreign film" in general statements about non-USA films. I am fairly sure I have seen "foreign film" said to be "inaccessible" in serious discussions by film critics.

    The joke here is that the boy is speaking in childish language about what appeals to a small boy: monsters and stuff. The tiger is imitating adult conversational style, as he often does. The contrast is amusing.
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    I have seen "foreign film is inaccessible" in serious discussions by film critics.
    Yes, so have I and that was my point. It's the "people say" that made me stop and think, because I don't think that in Britain "people say" exactly that.
     

    elroy

    Moderator: EHL, Arabic, Hebrew, German(-Spanish)
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    Hm, "people say" here just means "people are of the belief that." It's not about the actual words people use.
     

    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    I have seen "foreign film" said to be "inaccessible" in serious discussions by film critics.
    Yes, so have I and that was my point. It's the "people say" that made me stop and think, because I don't think that in Britain "people say" exactly that.
    Using 'people say' as a reference to critics elevates the speaker to a position which dismisses the critics as ordinary people, pedestrians on the cultural highway.
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    I don't think it's the critics that say foreign film is inaccessible. I'm reluctant to try to analyse the thought processes of an American talking tiger though.:D
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    The significant word is "film" - this is AE not BE. Why didn't the tiger say "movie" if he meant "that film"? It is because he speaks American... in which "film" can easily be uncountable.

    In BE, "film" (other than in reference to the film placed in cameras) is strongly countable.

    Had the War of Independence not been fought, the line would have been "And people say that foreign cinema is inaccessible." or "And people say that foreign films are inaccessible."
     

    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    The two definitions in post 31 appear to be equivalent, but I think there is a different nuance to each.

    'Cinema' as a countable noun normally means the cinema hall, or theatre, and thus in the abstract expresses the whole experience of going to the cinema.
    'Film' in the countable sense is an individual movie and as a mass noun denotes films collectively.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    'Cinema' as a countable noun normally means the cinema hall, or theatre, and thus in the abstract expresses the whole experience of going to the cinema.
    Not to me, and apparently others:
    OED
    Cinema: 1.b. Cinema films collectively, esp. considered as an art-form; the production of such films. Also, material suitable for presentation in or as a cinema film.
    1918 Webster's New Internat. Dict. Eng. Lang. Add. Cinema,..moving pictures collectively.
    [...]
    1952 Sunday Times 25 May 7/7 It would be foolish to try to judge ‘Mourning Becomes Electra’ (Carlton) as a piece of cinema.
    1952 Sunday Times 25 May 7/7 None of this amounts to cinema.
    1959 Observer 8 Mar. 16/7 The pity is that cinema, as an art, was and is capable of a greatness that TV has never approached.
    I tend to agree with the OED.
     

    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    I tend to agree with the OED.
    So do I. That is why first, in post 31, I quoted meaning (b) (abstract); and secondly. in post 46, I was taking meaning (a) (countable) into consideration as well:
    a. A popular abbreviation, and now the usual form, of cinematograph n.; hence (short for cinema hall n. at Compounds 1, etc.), a building in which cinematographic films are exhibited.
    Both definitions of 'cinema' are valid. My suggestion is that the countable meaning lends the abstract meaning of 'cinema' a nuance which is not quite matched by 'film'.
     
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    siares

    Senior Member
    Slovak
    What a completely unusable category!;) Does the tiger include British or Australian in foreign?

    Can I substitute 'cinematography' for 'cinema'/ uncountable 'film'?
     

    Juhasz

    Senior Member
    English - United States
    Does the tiger include British or Australian in foreign?

    Probably not. But then, Hobbes (the tiger) also only jokingly included a Japanese monster movie in the category foreign film. In 1986 when the comic was written, the term foreign film would have connoted European (and maybe Asian) art cinema, i.e. the films of Italian neorealism, the French new wave, and the similar movements in other countries. These films were not only (and perhaps not primarily) inaccessible to the average American movie-goer because they were subtitled, but also because they defied the conventions of Hollywood film making (arguably). Watch the opening scene of Béla Tarr's The Turin Horse (which you can find on YouTube) for a good example of (arguably) inaccessible foreign film with no language barrier.

    The joke is that not all films that are geographically foreign could be lumped into the category of foreign film. James Bond films would never be found in the Foreign Film section of a video rental store (when they existed). Godzilla movies probably weren't in that section either.


    Can I substitute 'cinematography' for 'cinema'/ uncountable 'film'?

    No. Cinematography refers to only one aspect of film making. The Wikipedia article on the subject gives a good definition: "Cinematography is the science or art of motion-picture photography by recording light or other electromagnetic radiation, either electronically by means of an image sensor, or chemically by means of a light-sensitive material such as film stock."
     
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