As we all know, the French language has many merits and for centuries has been widely regarded as a beautiful language.
But for some reason, when it comes to translating the title of a new English language movie, there is a strong tendency in the French film industry to stick to English; but not in the way you would think!
Instead, they create a diluted, more direct version of the title, aiming to reach the French audience with limited English vocabulary but retaining the ‘cool’ feeling of the English. I can only describe it as a ‘translation’ into France-friendly English.
Let me give you a few examples:
- The Hangover
Direct translation: La Gueule de Bois
Chosen ‘translation’: Very Bad Trip
Improvement suggestions: The Morning After, Bachelor Party Disaster, Las Vegas Trouble. To be honest, almost ANYTHING else would be better.
- No Strings Attached
Closest translation: Sans Attaches
Chosen ‘translation’: Sex Friends
Fun Fact: ‘Sex Friends’ is an understood phrase in French to describe friends with ‘benefits’. So you can understand why they chose the title, but it lost all subtlety in doing so.
- Cruel Intentions
Direct translation: Intentions Cruelles
Chosen ‘translation’: Sexe Intentions
Again, France, where is your subtlety? I know you’re all romantic and everything, but stop giving away the storyline in the title!
- Step Up
Closest translation: Accélérer le Pas
Chosen ‘translation’: Sexy Dance
Ok. Fine. Just keep on throwing in the word ‘sex’ and hope for the best. It doesn’t improve the title though. Trust me.
- Date Night
Closest translation: Soirée en Amoureux
Chosen ‘translation’: Crazy Night
Well I guess you can’t complain that it doesn’t describe the film. And at least they’ve managed to avoid using the word ‘sex’ for a romantic movie, so that’s something.
- The Other Guys
Direct translation: Les Autres Mecs
Chosen ‘translation’: Very Bad Cops
You read ‘The Other Guys’, you think, ‘I wonder what this intriguing title could be referring to, I must watch this film.’ You read ‘Very Bad Cops’, and you just think, ‘oh right, this is a film about terrible policemen. Could be funny I guess’.
- Cool Runnings
Direct translation: To be fair, this one is untranslatable (Courir Froid? Course Cool? No.)
Chosen ‘translation’: Rasta Rockett
I actually have no issue with this one. It makes the film sound awesome, like Rastafarians in a spaceship.
- Silver Linings Playbook
Closest translation: Manuel d’Optimisme
Chosen ‘translation’: Happiness Therapy
To the point. The original is perhaps too cryptic (why ‘playbook?’), so maybe the French have the right idea with this one.
There are examples of the same thing happening in reverse, where English speakers wanted to keep the French but without the complexity of understanding French:
The original title of ‘La Vie en Rose’ is actually ‘La Môme’, which roughly means ‘The Kid’, and was an affectionate term for Edith Piaf in France. The rest of the world would not be aware of this, but everyone knows the title of her most popular song!
‘Amélie’ is a title that non-French people enjoy pronouncing in their best French accent. It is simple and short and classy. But the original title is actually ‘Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain’. Good luck pronouncing it now.
What do you think of these title choices? Can you think of better titles for these films?
Why not use your love of other cultures to work and travel? ?