Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Dateline: Paris (Movie Title edition)

I have absolutely no doubt that we mangle the titles of foreign films when we get them over in the US. (And I'd be delighted if anyone wants to jog my memory about some of these no-doubt howlers.) But I have now seen this from the other side, in two fine examples.

First, Leap Year. A nothing of a film (not great, not offensive either), with a clever premise, as these things go, about a young woman who sees her chance to make a wedding happen by proposing to her boyfriend on February 29th. Apparently, in the wacky world of the movie, a woman can only do this in Ireland and only on that day. God forbid that she could be so bold on any other day, in any other place.

I don't know what the French for "leap year" is, but it must not be evocative enough. The French title is: "Donne-moi ta main." Give Me Your Hand. Is it possible that in French even an imperative command can sound romantic? Am I missing something?

And then we have a translation of a translation. Stieg Larsson's second book in the Millennium trilogy was originally called "Flickan som lekte med elden," which translates to its English title: The Girl Who Played With Fire. The second movie is out in the US with that same title. In France, though, an attempt to be literal turns into this clunker: "Millennium 2: La fille qui revait d'un bidon d'essence et d'une allumette". Just trips off the tongue, doesn't it? The Girl Who Dreamed of a Can of Gas and a Lighter.

So the next time I roll my eyes at the English translation of some foreign film (snob that I am), I'll have to remember that it goes both ways.

Q: Any movie-title howlers you'd like to share?

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