petite anglaise

August 10, 2004

lost in translation

Filed under: Uncategorized — petiteanglaiseparis @ 4:35 pm

Browsing on for a present for the Frog (shhh!), I was struck by the rather random titling policy which applies when English language films are released in France.

For some films, inexplicably, translation of the title is not considered necessary: e.g. Seven, Pretty Woman, Kill Bill. Of course the pronunciation leaves something to be desired. ‘Speeeederman 2’ is showing at the moment.

Others are translated, but end up sounding unspeakably naff in French. Case in point: “Eh mec, elle est où ma caisse?” for “Dude, where’s my car?”

The French don’t seem to tolerate films named after their protagonist, so they add a by-line to give a flavour of who the character is, or what they are up to. Erin Brokovich was ‘seule contre tous‘ (alone against the world); ‘Alfie’ became ‘Alfie: le dragueur‘ (the chat-up artist). Place names receive a similar treatment, as in ‘Coup de foudre à Notting Hill‘ (Love at first sight in Notting Hill). You must admit that the French title does capture the inherent cheesiness of the film rather nicely, n’est ce pas?

Then of course there are names which are changed beyond all recognition, for no apparent reason: Die Hard = ‘The Crystal Trap’. Die Hard 2 = ‘58 minutes to live’. I couldn’t understand why the Frog had never heard of ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ and accused him of being a philistine, until one day I realised that this film is known as ‘Diamants sur canapé’. So there are mitigating circumstances (although I suspect he may still be none the wiser).

My favourite French translation of a flilm title was a by-line spotted on the poster for ‘Finding Nemo’, which included a clin d’oeil to Jaws – ‘Les Dents de la Mer’ (Teeth of the Sea).

‘Némo: Les Dents de Lait de la Mer’, the milk teeth of the sea. Aww.


  1. milk teeth of the sea, that’s SO cute! we get the same, on the “Ollywooood” channel, they give things the oddest names and then I miss ’em. bastards.

    Vitriolica Webb |08.10.04 – 5:17 pm

    Comment by Vit — October 8, 2004 @ 8:57 pm

  2. I always loved the fact that The Avengers was retitled to Chapeau Melon et Bottes de Cuir for the French market.

    Spookily enough I was decluttering some boxes from the attic last weekend and came across a pile of film poster postcards from France and Belgium (I used to collect them). And yes, Dents de Mer was there.

    You might like the Polish posters site -a huge collection of posters created by Polish artists for film, theatre, etc. Not only are the titles of imported films translated and/or changed, posters are created, often far surpassing the original artwork.

    Daisy | 08.11.04 – 3:15 pm |

    Comment by Daisy — October 8, 2004 @ 8:58 pm

  3. That’s how we ended up with a film called “The Man who whispers to the ears of the horse” because we don’t have a proper translation for “Horse Whisperer”.

    Chninkel | 08.11.04 – 4:15 pm |

    Comment by Chninkel — October 8, 2004 @ 8:58 pm

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