MICHELE NORRIS, Host:
There's a new movie called WAH-WAH opening today. And an older movie called YI- YI being released on video, which may explain why film critic Bob Mondello is seeing double.
BOB MONDELLO: Double, double, titles and trouble. Hollywood studios are forever trying to set their pictures apart, and saying a title twice certainly makes it easier to remember. But Jerry Lewis's BOEING BOEING notwithstanding, doubling up on a marquee can be tricky. With WAH-WAH, the filmmaker does have an excellent reason. One of his major characters is completely exasperated with British aristocrats.
(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE WAH-WAH)
Unidentified Woman #1: Why do they all speak in this snotty baby talk all the time? Blah, blah this. Tada that. Hobly, jobly, hoity, toity, tudaloo, ding dong? Sounds like a lot of a wah-wah.
MONDELLO: It's the duplication that makes her point, or at any rate, makes it stronger, which is maybe why studios go for double-titles. The Taiwanese film YI-YI, for instance, is simply the Chinese word for "one" repeated twice, perhaps because the film is singularly serious.
But sometimes foreign titles are tougher to figure. Spain had the comedy JAMON JAMON, which basically means "ham ham." And France had both the love story JE T'AIME JE T'AIME and the mystery OLIVIER OLIVIER, neither of which, alas, starred French actress Miou-Miou. OLIVIER OLIVIER's director also made the German film EUROPA EUROPA.
And other place names given that treatment include NIAGRA NIAGRA, SINGAPORE SINGAPORE and of course Liza Minelli's if you could make it there, you'll make it anywhere musical.
(SOUNDBITE OF NEW YORK NEW YORK)
MONDELLO: NEW YORK NEW YORK co-starred Robert DeNiro, whose buddies Dustin Hoffman and Al Pacino were in ALFREDO ALFREDO and AUTHOR AUTHOR, respectively. And they lead a small galaxy of stars featured in twice-told titles. GIGI, being just one word, doesn't really count as a double, though if it did, you could add LILI and PEPE, both of which starred, believe it or not, Zsa Zsa.
These films don't always look good on your resume. Joanne Woodward got an Oscar nomination for RACHEL, RACHEL, but Whoopi Goldberg couldn't get arrested for CORRINA, CORRINA. And Jayne Mansfield almost did get arrested for nudity in PROMISES! PROMISES!, which is not to be confused with the Broadway musical.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSICAL PROMISES PROMISES)
MONDELLO: Broadway has never been as fond of double titles as Hollywood is, though it did have the long-running hits CAN-CAN and MARY MARY. And TV didn't follow Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman with Mork and Mindy, Mork and Mindy. Of course, there was that running joke on Seinfeld about a fake movie.
(SOUNDBITE OF SEINFELD)
JASON ALEXANDER: What are you doing now?
JERRY SEINFELD: What am I doing now? My whole night's ruined. I didn't do any sex. I didn't get to the movies.
ALEXANDER: Come on, we can still catch most of ROCHELLE ROCHELLE.
SEINFELD: ROCHELLE ROCHELLE? Huh.
ALEXANDER: A young girl's strange erotic journey from Milan to Minsk.
MONDELLO: Perhaps ROCHELLE ROCHELLE sounded plausible because similar titles go back all the way to silent era and ZOU-ZOU. But ROCHELLE ROCHELLE also just sounds funny, because double titles do sound funny, hence the comedies BUDDY BUDDY, PARTY PARTY, and THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING, THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING.
And if two's comedy in Hollywood, three's a scare, as in DIE! DIE! DIE! and KILL KILL KILL, not to mention SHOCK! SHOCK! SHOCK!, which was a salute to b- movies of this sort. Of course that leaves the terrible war flick TORA! TORA! TORA! at sea, as it were.
But triple titles are obviously overkill. And actually, double ones can be too. There was a terrific comedy back in the 1970s, a sort of one-film double- feature called MOVIE MOVIE, that I swear was killed by that title. The first half was a spoof of boxing flicks, the second half a wonderful riff on movie musicals.
So the title MOVIE MOVIE seemed perfect, but only after you'd seen it. Beforehand, it didn't even suggest that you might go ga-ga, which in showbiz is the ultimate no-no.
I'm Bob, Bob. I'm Bob Mondello.