Apr 14, 2014

Very Bad Trip: Tomme Capra


I'm not into the Oscars much, but it's even harder when not only have I not seen the movies, I haven't even ever heard of them. That's because movie titles aren't the same here, of course. It takes me a while to connect "American Bluff" with this "American Hustle" everybody's talking about.

all photos taken from promotional posters

Some of it is a translation problem. One of the more famous examples is Home Alone which became Maman J'ai Raté l'Avion (Mom, I Missed the Plane). The full title of the sequel, succinctly called Home Alone 2 in the US, was called in France Maman, J'ai Encore Raté l'Avion -- et Je Suis Perdu à New York (Mom, I Missed the Plane -- and I'm Lost in NY).

And while we're on planes (or not on planes), I also like the mouthful French title for Air Plane II: The Sequel: Y’a t-il Enfin un Pilote dans l’Avion ? (Is There Finally a Pilot on the Plane?)

Every online English-language source I can find says that The Matrix was released with the ridiculous title "Les Jeunes Gens Qui Traversent les Dimensions en Portant des Lunettes de Soleil"  (Young People Who Traverse Dimensions While Wearing Sunglasses). It's a great story, but when I check the French sources, the movie is, in fact, called The Matrix in French. I suspect one person made that up years ago and has been laughing his ass off as he sees this rumor get repeated as fact.

My favorite example of movie title translation to French is actually Jaws which became Les Dents de la Mer (Teeth of the Sea). What I particularly love is the fact that Jaws 2 couldn't simply be called "Les Dents de la Mer 2" because when you say "Mer Deux (2)" out loud, it sounds exactly the same as "Merde!" or "Shit!" Which is of course exactly what you'd say if you encountered Jaws in the sea.

Funny enough, sometimes the movie titles for the French market are translated from English into...English. Hangover became Very Bad TripVery Bad Trip is actually a very good pun, and much easier for the French to understand: two simple, commonly used English words, as opposed to the word "hangover" which is clearly for advanced-English-speakers only.


Of course, they could have simply named it Gueule de Bois, which means Hangover (literally "wooden mouth" and yes, of course the French have ways of saying "hangover"), but sometimes English sells.

And when it doesn't sex certainly does:
No Strings Attached leaves even less to the imagination with the French title Sex Friends.
Shortcut to Happiness = Sexy Devil
Not Another Teen Movie = Sex Academy
Wild Things = Sex Crime
and Step Up = Sexy Dance
I guess the translators assume that "sex" is one English word that's firmly in the French vocabulary.

And speaking of sex, the movie Capote became Truman Capote (2005) here. The word "capote" means a hood, or glove, and -- as you can easily imagine -- is therefore also used to mean "condom". I'm not sure "Truman Condom" is that much better, but since it's a biographical movie, it's not like they can simply change his family name.

THE CHEESE: Tomme Capra

Tomme Capra is a small disc of raw goat's milk cheese from Saint Bardoux in Drome in southeast France. It's an artisanal cheese that's exclusively made at the Pozin farm (which also goes by the name Fromagerie La Tomme Capra, though they also make other cheeses), a third-generation family business. I find mine at the Laurent Dubois shop in Paris, since M. Dubois is a lover of unusual, farmhouse and artisanal, hard-to-procure cheeses.

The tomme in this case is small, about the size of a paper weight and just as solid. The flavor is solid, too. It's a hard, creamy, sliceable, rich raw goat's milk cheese. The flavor is not strong or pungent, but it does nevertheless have a hint of the farm animal in it. The cheese is surprisingly sturdy, and the farm claims it sometimes exports it to other countries. If you ever see one of these little guys, I recommend giving it a whirl.


You movie buffs have the connection already, of course. Capra -- as in Tomme Capra, the cheese, and also as in Frank Capra, the famed movie director/producer. In this case, however, the cheese is not named for the movie director but rather from the same Latin root as the word "caprine" mean "of goats". For all I know, Italian immigrant Frank Capra's name comes from the same source; perhaps his old Roman ancestors were goat herders.

In French, Mr. Smith doesn't go to Washington, in general, instead he goes more specifically to the Senate: Mr. Smith au Sénat. You might be less likely to recognize some of his other movies in France, such as Pocketful of Miracles (Milliardaire Pour un Jour, -- literally "Millionaire for a Day") and Here Comes the Groom (Si l'On Mariait Papa, which means "If One Married Daddy"). And you might be surprised if you try to rent the most famous of his films, It's a Wonderful Life. Here in France, it was translated as La Vie Est Belle which is also the title of the 1998 holocaust film Life is Beautiful, since that is actually what "la vie est belle" means.


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