Lost in translation: French titles of films in English
Cannes Film Festival starts on Wednesday – here we look back at the some of the surprising choices for translations of film names
Mystified by the name of the Beatles’ “mockumentary” film A Hard Day’s Night , the French translators gave up and called it Quatre Garçons dans le Vent (Four Trendy Boys).
These days the French distributors of English-language films often do not even make as much effort as that: increasingly they just assume their audiences know enough English to cope without them bothering at all. For example Fantastic Mr Fox and Kick-Ass left untranslated, or token efforts like Mytho-Man: The Invention of Lying (a mythomane is a compulsive liar), where something was added to the English name.
At other times a title is left in English but modified because of a tricky expression or word (Harsh Times = Bad Times, Step Up = Sexy Dance), or a possible unfortunate connotation in French (Capote = Truman Capote).
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Then some film titles are translated fairly literally into French, such as La Guerre des Etoiles (Star Wars) or Autant en Emporte le Vent (Gone with the wind).
Others, however are less obvious.
Can you guess what films or series the following were?
Agence Tous Risques (literally “the all-risks agency”, from assurance tous risques, comprehensive insurance)
L’Or se Barre (“the gold clears off”, a pun on se barrer and une barre, a [gold] bar)
Maman, j’ai Raté l’Avion (“Mum, I missed the plane”)
S.O.S Fantômes (SOS ghosts)
Chapeau Melon et Bottes de Cuir (“bowler hat and leather boots”)
Les Dents de la Mer (“the teeth of the sea”)
…and a couple that were only used in Quebec (which tends to be stricter on avoiding anglicisms than France):
Du Soleil Plein la Tête (“a head full of sun”)
Mon Fantôme d’Amour
The A-Team, The Italian Job, Home Alone, Ghostbusters, The New Avengers, Jaws, Dr. Strangelove, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Ghost.
(This article first appeared in a previous edition of Connexion).