Film Title Translation into French, a few Methods and Strategies





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II.1. Unchanged or truncated titles (deletion)

II.1.1. Unchanged titles:






Year


Original title


Director(s)

1941

Citizen Kane

Orson Welles

1942

For Me and My Gal

Busby Berkeley

1943

Cabin in the Sky

Vincente Minnelli

1950

Annie Get Your Gun

George Sidney

1961

West Side Story

Jerome Robbins, Robert Wise

1964

Goldfinger

Guy Hamilton

1964

My Fair Lady

George Cukor

1969

Easy Rider

Dennis Hopper

1970

Love Story

Arthur Hiller

1983

Scarface

Brian De Palma

1986

Platoon

Oliver Stone

1987

Full Metal Jacket

Stanley Kubrick

1988

Beetlejuice

Tim Burton

1988

Rain Man

Barry Levinson

1991

Trainspotting

Danny Boyle

1993

Jurassic Park

Steven Spielberg

1996

Mars Attacks!

Tim Burton

1998

Snake Eyes

Brian De Palma

1998

The Big Lebowski

Joel and Ethan Coen

1999

American Beauty

Sam Mendes

2000

Memento

Christopher Nolan

2000

Requiem for a Dream

Darren Aronofsky

2002

Insomnia

Christopher Nolan

2002

Minority Report

Steven Spielberg

2003

Big Fish

Tim Burton

2003

Mystic River

Clint Eastwood

2004

Garden State

Zach Braff

2004

Million Dollar Baby

Clint Eastwood

2004

Shaun of the Dead

Edgar Wright

2005

Broken Flowers

Jim Jarmush

2005

The Constant Gardener

Fernando Meirelles

2005

The Descent

Neil Marshall

2005

The Jacket

John Maybury

2006

Little Miss Sunshine

Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris

2006

The Fountain

Darren Aronofsky

2007

Hot Fuzz

Edgar Wright

2007

Into The Wild

Sean Penn

2007

There Will Be Blood

Paul Thomas Anderson

2008

Burn After Reading

Joel and Ethan Coen

2008

Slumdog Millionaire

Danny Boyle, Loveleen Tandan

2008

The Wrestler

Darren Aronofsky

2009

A Serious Man

Joel and Ethan Coen

2009

Lovely Bones

Peter Jackson

2010

Kick-Ass

Matthew Vaughn

2010

Shutter Island

Martin Scorsese



The original title is preserved. The potential audience does not necessarily have the title's indication (due to an approximate understanding of the English language), but in compensation, they are more and more guided by various film reviews.

Most of these examples can easily be translated faithfully. This results from the fact that they are composed either by transparent words, either by accessible words. This phenomenon is observed in titles such as: Love Story ("Histoire d'amour"), Jurassic Park ("Le parc du jurassique"), Mars Attacks! ("Mars attaque !" or "Les martiens attaquent !"), Requiem for a Dream ("Requiem pour un rêve"), Insomnia ("Insomnie"), Minority Report ("Rapport minoritaire"), The Fountain ("La fontaine"), etc.

Concerning the less obvious original titles that have been kept in France, I will suggest some French titles, using literal and faithful translation, Etoffement, or alternative titles.

  • Full metal jacket

Faithful translation: "Balles blindées".

Alternative title: "Le Merdier" (from Gustav Hasford's novel translated by "Le Merdier" into French).

  • Beetlejuice

Literal translation: "Jus de Scarabée".

Faithful translation: "Bételgeuse".

Etoffement: "Beetlejuice: jus de cafard".

  • Big Fish

Etoffement: "Big Fish: un film aux proportions mythiques" (from Daniel Wallace's novel Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions).

  • The Jacket

Faithful translation: "La camisole".

Etoffement: "La camisole de force".

  • Into The Wild

Alternative title: "Voyage au bout de la solitude" (from the French title of Jon Krakauer's book) or "Retour à la vie sauvage" or "L'appel de la nature".

  • There Will Be Blood

Literal translation: "Il y aura du sang".

Faithful translation: "Du sang coulera" or "Le sang va couler".

Alternative title: "Pétrole !" (This is the literal translation of Upton Sinclair's novel Oil!, from which Anderson's movie is based on) or "Du pétrole et du sang".

  • Slumdog Millionaire

Faithful translation: "Le millionnaire du bidonville".

Etoffement: "L'enfant des bidonvilles et les millions".

  • The Wrestler

Literal translation: "Le catcheur".

II.1.2. Truncated titles:

II.1.2.1. The:






Year


Original title


French title


Director(s)

1971

The French Connection

French Connection

William Friedkin

1980

The Shining

Shining

Stanley Kubrick

1981

The Elephant Man

Elephant Man

David Lynch

1981

The Evil Dead

Evil Dead

Sam Raimi

1984

The Terminator

Terminator

James Cameron

1985

The Breakfast Club

Breakfast Club

John Hugues

1994

The Last Seduction

Last Seduction

John Dahl

1995

The Crossing Guard

Crossing Guard

Sean Penn

1995

The Usual Suspects

Usual Suspects

Bryan Singer

1996

The Rock

Rock

Michael Bay

1999

The Matrix

Matrix

A. and L. Wacowsky

1997

The Butcher Boy

Butcher Boy

Neil Jordan

1997

The Ice Storm

Ice Storm

Ang Lee

1997

The Postman

Postman

Kevin Costner

1999

The Ladykillers

Ladykillers

Joel and Ethan Coen

1999

The Virgin Suicides

Virgin Suicides

Sofia Coppola

2003

The Matrix Reloaded

Matrix Reloaded

A. and L. Wacowsky

2003

The Matrix Revolutions

Matrix Revolutions

A. and L. Wacowsky

2006

The Da Vinci Code

Da Vinci Code

Ron Howard

2006

The Last Kiss

Last Kiss

Tony Goldwyn

2009

The Girlfriend Experience

Girlfriend Experience

Steven Soderbergh

2010

The Wolfman

Wolfman

Joe Johnston


The principle is to remove "The" from the beginning of the original title. No translation is done thereafter. They are mostly accessible and rather short titles. This method may be used in order to simplify the titles' alphabetical classification.

II.1.2.2. Other:






Year


Original title


French title


Director(s)

1984

This Is Spinal Tap

Spinal Tap

Rob Reiner

1995

Beyond Rangoon

Rangoon

John Boorman

2000

O Brother, Where Art Thou?

O’Brother

Joel and Ethan Coen

2004

Finding Neverland

Neverland

Marc Forster

2004

A Love Song for Bobby Long

Love Song

Shainee Gabel

2009

Up in the Air

In the Air

Jason Reitman


One or several words were truncated from the original title. We can notice several functions concerning these truncations:

  • A simple shortening

There is a deletion of some words that do not affect the meaning of the title: This Is Spinal Tap was released in France with the title Spinal Tap and Up in the Air under the title In the Air.

  • One word deletion

Out of two words, the French title keeps the main one which is also the easiest to understand (Beyond Rangoon becomes Rangoon; Finding Neverland becomes Neverland).

  • Deletion

Only the main idea is kept in the French title, everything else is judged as being useless (O Brother, Where Art Thou? Was entitled O’Brother; A Love Song for Bobby Long was changed to Love Song).

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