Film Title Translation into French, a few Methods and Strategies





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II.2. Lengthening out (two titles in juxtaposition, English and French)



Examples:



Year


Original title


French title


Director(s)

1932

Freaks

Freaks - La monstrueuse parade

Tod Browning

1933

King Kong

King Kong, la huitième merveille du monde

Merian C. Cooper, Ernest B. Schoedsack

1944

Lifeboat

Lifeboat - les naufragés

Alfred Hitchcock

1978

Halloween

Halloween, la nuit des masques

John Carpenter

1979

Alien

Alien - le huitième passager

Ridley Scott

1985

Out of Africa

Out of Africa - Souvenirs d'Afrique

Sydney Pollack

1986

Aliens

Aliens - Le retour

James Cameron

1986

Down by Law

Down by Law - Sous le coup de la loi

Jim Jarmusch

1986

Stand by Me

Stand by me - Compte sur moi

Rob Reiner

1990

Miller's Crossing

Miller's Crossing - Un cadavre sous le chapeau

Joel and Ethan Coen

1991

Fisher King

Fisher King - Le roi pêcheur

Terry Gilliam

1993

Short Cuts

Short Cuts - Les Américains

Robert Altman

1994

Clerks

Clerks, les employés modèles

Kevin Smith

1995

Babe

Babe, le cochon devenu berger

Chris Noonan

1995

Get Shorty

Get Shorty (Stars et truands)

Barry Sonnenfeld

1999

Sleepy Hollow

Sleepy Hollow - La légende du cavalier sans tête

Tim Burton

2000

Snatch.

Snatch - Tu braques ou tu raques

Guy Richie

2001

The Man Who Wasn't There

The barber - L'homme qui n'était pas là

Joel and Ethan Coen

2002

Analyze That

Mafia blues 2 - La rechute!

Harold Ramis

2002

Anything Else

Anything else, la vie et tout le reste

Woody Allen

2002

Punch-Drunk Love

Punch-drunk love - Ivre d'amour

Paul Thomas Anderson

2004

Jarhead

Jarhead - la fin de l'innocence

Sam Mendes

2005

Closer

Closer, entre adultes consentants

Mike Nichols

2005

Land of the Dead

Land of the Dead - Le territoire des morts

George A. Romero

2005

Serenity

Serenity - L'ultime rébellion

Josh Whedon

2006

Cars

Cars - Quatre roues

John Lasseter, Joe Ranft

2006

Click

Click - télécommandez votre vie

Frank Coraci

2006

Inside man

Inside man - l'homme de l'intérieur

Spike Lee

2007

Diary of the Dead

Diary of the dead - Chroniques des morts-vivants

George A. Romero

2007

Live Free or Die Hard

Die hard 4 - Retour en enfer

Len Wiseman

2007

No Country for Old Men

No country for old men - Non, ce pays n'est pas pour le vieil homme

Joel and Ethan Coen

2007

Stardust

Stardust, le mystère de l'étoile

Matthew Vaughn

2008

The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight: Le Chevalier noir

Christopher Nolan

2009

Adentureland

Adventureland - Job d'été à éviter

Greg Mottola

2009

Watchmen

Watchmen - Les gardiens

Zack Snyder


The title selection includes the original title and a juxtaposed French title which is referred to as the French subtitle or the secondary title. There are however several kinds of French titles. I will discuss them through various translation methods categories.

II.2.1. Faithful translation:


The original titles are followed by their faithful translation. The viewers have both the original title and its French equivalent.

As these titles offer the original title and its translation, I will not discuss this subclass further and thus I will only give a list of the French titles that matches this category:

Down by Law - Sous le coup de la loi; Fisher King - Le roi pêcheur; Punch-drunk love - Ivre d'amour; Land of the Dead - Le territoire des morts; Inside man - l'homme de l'intérieur; Diary of the dead - Chroniques des morts-vivants; No country for old men - Non, ce pays n'est pas pour le vieil homme; The Dark Knight: Le Chevalier noir; Watchmen - Les gardiens.

II.2.2. Lengthening out:


The French juxtaposed title is an Etoffement translation of the original title. I will now study a few cases in point.

  • Clerks, les employés modèles

Besides the faithful translation, there's an addition of the word "modèles" which forms the expression "employés modèles". This term adds a sense of humour as it is clearly ironical. This title goes along with the genre of the movie: a comedy.

  • Freaks - La monstrueuse parade

This French juxtaposed title can be translated by "The freaky parade" or " The freak show". This movie is about a circus composed by "freaks": people that are deformed.

  • Anything else, la vie et tout le reste

In this case, the French title can be translated by "Life and everything else". The addition consists of the words "La vie" that becomes the key idea. One can notice the difference between "Anything else" (that is closer to the French translation "Tout sauf ça") and "everything else" (that is closer to the French translation "tout le reste").

  • Cars - Quatre roues

A simple French title would have been "Voitures", but the distributors chose to go with another way of naming a car: "Quatre roues" ("four wheels" in word by word English). This goes along with the protagonists (cars) as this expression is more impersonating.

II.2.3. Alternative French title:


This is the most important category. The French juxtaposed title is partially changed or even completely different in most of the cases. As my list displays eighteen examples that belong in this category, I will study only some of the most interesting ones.

  • Alien - le huitième passager

The French juxtaposed title which can be translated as "the eighth passenger" refers to the Xenomorph that was planted in the body of one of the seven members of the spaceship's crew. This title was selected from one of the taglines of the film when it was released in 1979 in the United States of America: "It's Alien, the 8th passenger."

  • Out of Africa - Souvenirs d'Afrique

The original title comes from the latin locution: "Ex Africa semper aliquid novi" which means "Out of Africa always something new" (Toujours quelque chose de nouveau en provenance de l'Afrique"). It is interesting enough to note that this film is largely based on the eponymous book written by the Danish author Karen Blixen. In France, this book was entitled La Ferme africaine based on the beginning of the book and its settings: "I had a farm in Africa at the foot of the Ngong Hills". The French distributors chose to select a different subtitle, inspired by the novel's autobiographical kind that was written years after the events took place.

  • Aliens - Le retour

James Cameron's film was entitled Aliens instead of "Alien II" which was the working title. The French juxtaposed title is used for underlining that this movie is the direct sequel of Ridley Scott's film.

  • Stand by me - Compte sur moi

The French title undergoes a shift of point of view. Indeed, the faithful translation of the original title could have been "Soutiens-moi" or "Reste à mes côtés". The distributors decided to choose a phrase that is closer to the film's plot ("Count on me" in English). They chose to keep the original title, respecting Rob Reiner's choice, as he shifted the title from The Body (the working title from the eponymous Stephen King's novella) to Stand by Me which comes from Ben E. King's song (which is played during the credits).

  • Miller's Crossing - Un cadavre sous le chapeau

Here, the French title consists of the original title followed by the Quebecker one. The later is inspired by the plot which revolves around the misunderstanding and thus the mystery of a dead body's identity. As the original title is the name of a place, the French subtitle is a good way to complete the title instead of translating or transposing it.

  • Sleepy Hollow - La légende du cavalier sans tête

Tim Burton's movie is based on Washington Irving's short story called The Legend of Sleepy Hollow which was translated in several French titles: La Légende de Sleepy Hollow or La Légende du Val dormant or La Légende du cavalier sans tête. The later was selected as the secondary French title. Once again in this example, the original name of the place is not translated in favour of a French alternative title.

  • Snatch - Tu braques ou tu raques

The French distributors chose to use a title with familiar verbs that rhyme. This goes along with the genre and the characters of Guy Richie's film.

  • Jarhead - la fin de l'innocence

The original title comes from the nickname that the new army recruits are given after their head is shaved. It can be translated literally into French by "Tête de bocal". Sam Mendes film is based upon Anthony Swofford's autobiographical eponymous novel which relates a young American Marine's arrival in the "Operation Desert Shield" in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait during the Gulf War. The French subtitle focuses on the youth of the American soldier freshly enlisted confronted with the war, as it plays a central part in the plot.

  • Stardust, le mystère de l'étoile

Stardust can be translated faithfully into French by "Poussière d'étoile". However, Neil Gaiman's eponymous novel was released in France under its English original title. As for the movie adaptation, the French distributors chose to add a subtitle to Matthew Vaughn's film that fits the genre (fantasy, adventure).

  • Adventureland - Job d'été à éviter

The original title is more connoted by the amusement park and the children that go along with a family and adventure genre of film. However, this film is a romantic comedy destined to teenagers and adults, and that is one of the reasons why the French subtitle diverges from the family movie genre to attract its targeted audience.

  • Additional examples:

King Kong, la huitième merveille du monde; Lifeboat - les naufragés; Short Cuts - Les Américains; Babe, le cochon devenu berger; Get Shorty (Stars et truands); Closer, entre adultes consentants; Serenity - L'ultime rébellion; Click - télécommandez votre vie.

II.2.4. Alternative English title:


In this category, the original title is replaced by another English title, and followed by either a French translation of the original title or an alternative French title.

  • The barber - L'homme qui n'était pas là

The English alternative title is followed by the faithful translation of the original title: The Man Who Wasn't There. The main English title, The barber, characterizes the profession of the main protagonist played by Billy Bob Thornton (diegetic information). Besides, it is worth noticing that "The Barber Project" was the working title before its release.

  • Mafia blues 2 - La rechute!

The original English title of Harold Ramis' film is Analyze That. This is the sequel of the film entitled Analyze This that was released in France under the title Mafia blues. The French subtitle that was chosen is inspired by the tagline of the film: "Back in therapy". Both the alternative English title and the juxtaposed French one underline the fact that this is a sequel.

  • Die hard 4 - Retour en enfer

In France, each title of the Die Hard trilogy - Die Hard (1988), Die Hard 2 (1990) and Die hard with a Vengeance (1995) was released under an alternative French title (respectively: Piège de crystal; 58 Minutes pour vivre; Une journée en enfer).

The fourth episode of the saga was released in 2007 with the title Live Free or Die Hard. As the Die Hard trilogy was a success around the world, the French distributors chose Die Hard 4 as the main title for the 2007 movie. The French subtitle insists that it is a sequel of the saga. Besides, the French juxtaposed title is clearly inspired by the third French title: Une journée en enfer.
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