I’ll be the first to sing the praises of the Netflix streaming service, but you’ll only be able to watch foreign films on Instant Streaming if you’re lucky, or if you just don’t care about quality.
I was sick over the weekend. It’s unfortunate, but it happens. I can’t blame that one on Netflix. I can blame them for failing to aid my recovery, though.
When I’m sick, I go straight to the couch, I cover myself in a big blanket, and I watch movies. It’s a great time to get around to the movies on my pile of shame – those films that I’ve got on my queue but haven’t yet had a chance to watch.
I decided to polish off three of such films this weekend. The ‘Vengeance’ trilogy from Chan-wook Park (or Park Chan-wook, depending who you ask) has been high on my list for a long time. It’s hard to find time to sit down to those challenging movies, but I had all day.
I pulled up my Netflix queue, hit play on the first film, ‘Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance‘, and waited for my mind to be blown. My mind was blown, but for a completely different reason. The Korean film ‘Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance’ didn’t have subtitles.
Don’t misunderstand me, it’s not that the movie was dubbed over instead of subtitled. It’s presented with the original Korean dialog and no subtitles. The only way I could properly watch this movie is to learn Korean.
A friend of mine told me that while the movies are a trilogy, they can each be watched individually. I decided to heed his advice and move on to ‘Old Boy‘, the most famous of the three. I fast forwarded to the four minute mark so I could see what the deal was.
I quickly realized that the movie was dubbed over, which isn’t an immediate problem for me. The dubbed voices seemed a little silly, though. The man holding the phone sounded a lot like Fred Willard. This would be a plus in a comedy, but it just doesn’t seem like a good thing in a movie that’s dark and serious.
‘Lady Vengeance‘, the third film in the trilogy, was subtitled. I didn’t end up watching it, simply because I wanted to watch the films in order and was already resigned to getting the DVDs.
Of the three films in a popular foreign trilogy, one was subbed, one was dubbed and the other was simply Korean.
This kind of inconsistency makes it difficult to enjoy foreign films on Netflix, and it makes me instantly shy away from adding them to my queue. Moreover, the lack of thought that went into putting these movies up is inexcusable.
I’m almost certain that each of the DVDs features the option to watch the movie in the original Korean with English subtitles, even if they don’t all have dubs. It seems like common sense to put them all up in the same format.
This is a big problem for Netflix, and it goes farther than just foreign films. It’s the problem of quantity over quality. It’s an issue of trying to get more movies up without paying attention to how they’re going up.
The optimal solution, in my mind, is to put up full rips of the DVD which include alternate audio and subtitle tracks. That way we could easily select our preferred setup. I don’t know how feasible it is technically, but giving users the option would make me even more of a Netflix fan than I already am.