Sunday, January 3, 2010

French to English: Film Titles, Part 1

Aside from eating leftovers and returning gifts you don't like, what other activity do you do during the holidays? 

You guessed correctly.  Watching movies!  In an officially bilingual country like Canada, many English film titles are changed to French titles, but not all films get a French title.  Films with proper nouns - names of people, cities and special events - usually retain their original titles.  The film Julie and Julia is an example.  Another is Gia - a film about a top fashion model, Gia Carangi, whose tragic life ended because of drugs and a terminal disease.  Her life was excellently portrayed by Angelina Jolie. 

As for changed titles, the film "It's Complicated" starring Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin was released on Christmas Day.  If you want to watch it in French, don't ask for "C'est Compliqué" which is the literal and most obvious translation.  Instead, you should ask for "Pas Si Simple."

I have this fascination for movies - I can't ever end my day without watching a film.  I even have a greater fascination with how they drum up catchy French titles.  At the same time, I wonder why some film titles are left as they are, like Avatar and Twilight.  It probably has to do with box office success.  If a film rakes in millions on its initial release, film owners would of course have it sub-titled in multiple languages but prefer to keep the title as is.

Film subtitling, by the way, is a fiercely competitive industry.  Once upon a time, London was the center of subtitling activity, but with the advent of DVDs and other advanced technologies, American media outfits started buying European and British subtitling companies in 2001.  If you're interested in a subtitling career, you should visit the web site of The Subtitlers Association of London:  It has a wealth of information for aspiring candidates.

A helpful reference written by Jorge Diaz-Clintas entitled Audiovisual Translation: Subtitling (Translation Practices Explained) is available on Amazon and might be of interest to you if you're a student of translation and are thinking of pursuing a career in subtitling!

This is the first set 12 of films produced in English with their titles changed in French:

À vif
In the Cut (2003)
Drôle de monde
Funny People (2009)
À l'autre bout du fil
The Other End of the Line (2008)
À l'épreuve de la mort
Death Proof (2007)
Balles en feu
Balls of Fury (2007)
Bataille à Seattle
Battle in Seattle (2008)
Beethoven et la copyiste
Copying Beethoven (2007)
Bien sûr, peut-être
Definitely, Maybe (2008)
Bienvenue à Bruges
In Bruges (2008)
Armored (2009)
Bon Dimanche
First Sunday (2008)
Bouge de là
How She Move (2008)

That last film, "How She Move", is not a typo.  I first put "How She Moves", but the correct English title is "How She Move."  Why there's a bit of wrong grammar here, I don't know, but even song lyrics don't have to be grammatically correct...for effect.

Care to answer the poll on the right side bar?  Thank you!

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