In Audio-Vision: Sound on Screen the French composer and film theorist Michel Chion's discusses some of the differences between French and Italian dubbing cultures. He suggests that Italian dubbing is not of a low standard, as is often assumed, but rather operates according to a different standard or set of principles from the French. It is “looser,” being more concerned with synchronising the voice with the entire performance gesture, to the body as much as the mouth, presumably in line with the commedia dell'arte and opera traditions.
It's a useful insight and makes me wonder how far the criticism of the dubbing in Italian filone product within the UK in particular is down to the greater importance / awareness of French than Italian language film theory and practice within British film culture, that the voices which have been raised here are more likely to be speaking French or at least with a metaphorical French accent.
It also raises questions, I think, of what is happening to Italian horror and gialli now with subtitled DVD releases, in that we then have the combination of a “low” cultural form – i.e. things which are read as horror films – in a “high” culture package – i.e. in a foreign language, with subtitles. How far does the growing respectability of these films, such as it is, with official / institutional film culture parallel this? Which films and film-makers with the filone “win” and “lose” through such processes? How are our appreciations and understandings of them altered? Is there such a thing as an authentic, original language text in the case of a multi-lingual co-production also made with foreign sales in mind anyway? Too many questions, too few answers?