Saturday, March 01, 2008

Subtitles ... Sous-titres

If you want to find French movies with English subtitles in Paris, you're pretty much out of luck.

It's a pity for the millions of Anglophone visitors who pass through Paris annually but are unable to experience France's world-renowned 7e Art; and equally a shame for hundreds of thousands of non-francophone Paris residents whose language skills en francais don't yet allow them to follow 100% of the dialogue in French movies.

However, if your French is not-too-bad, but you normally find it difficult to understand two hours of all-French dialogue, there is one option in Paris that will let you experience at least some French films on their native soil! MK2 Quai de Seine, in the 19e arrondissement, shows certain French films subtitled in French for the hearing-impaired. So you can hear and see the words. Not a bad way to ramp up your French, either.

Currently, Cedric Klapisch's Paris is being shown at MK2 with French subtitles, every day at 11:10 a.m., and 1:50, 4:30, 7:10 and 9:50 p.m.
Best to check the website to confirm dates and times.

MK2 Quai de Seine
14, quai de la Seine
75019 Paris
métro : Stalingrad

Meanwhile, if you are fortunate enough to be in New York City this week, you can see many recent French movies -- including the just-released Paris -- all subtitled in English, at the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema, which began yesterday. (Also, other annual French film festivals abound worldwide.)

I'm still yearning to have someone explain to me why in Paris there are so many idiotic Hollywood films with French subtitles but none of the excellent French films with English subtitles. Seems kind of ironic for English-speakers in Paris to be excluded from seeing Paris. Is it one of those c'est interdit laws (or political hot-button issues) that no one talks about but everyone knows tacitly?

HT to Carrie and Ariane for the film festival info.


Anonymous said...

I don't know how good it is to learn French by watching French movies with the French subtitles turned on. I've tried that, and often there is a bit of disparity between what is said and what is written. The subtitles leave out little phrases like "of course", "you know", and sometimes far more important things. And then a lot of phrases are watered down -- you'll hear many different phrases that all show up as "okay!" in the subtitles.

swiss miss said...

Thanks for the tip. I'm between 60 and 90% comprehension when I see a movie or a play in French. Having the subtitles would certainly increase my percentages! I enjoy your blog.

Unknown said...

What a strange irony! I had a French exchange student stay with me last summer, and I couldn't believe that she had seen more stupid American movies than I had. And also knew the lyrics to dozens of ridiculous American pop songs, rap songs, you name it. But of course, all the while, she hated "America." :-)

Polly-Vous Francais said...

Dryanna, I'm pretty fluent in French, but sometimes at dinners or other live conversations I wish there were subtitles! Now there's a money-making idea...

Stix, Yes the subtitling isn't perfect. But I find that if the French subtitles are in place and it's helping me get the gist of the conversation, it's better than not watching any French movies at all. I do that with DVDs and -- well, it works for me.

jennifer, there are lots of American shows dubbed in French on TV, and my guess is that about half the movies in theatres are not French. I go see lots of the French ones and some of the big American ones.

Autolycus said...

How many American or British cinemas show English-language movies with foreign-language subtitles for visitors/residents who might not have English as a first language? It's not a "c'est interdit" law, merely a basic law of economics. No-one thinks there's a market for it: of course, you could try setting up a dedicated cinema.....

Polly-Vous Francais said...


I agree completely about the economics; and yet the Tourism office, City of Paris, etc., all understand the need for spoken English here, not just for native Anglophones but also for the large population -- in the millions -- of other visitors for whom English is their only second language. They make reference to the need for English in reports and have language requirements for B&B owners, just for two examples. They repeat "English is the international language of tourism." And Paris is one of the top tourist detinations in the world. Many museum exhibits are in French and English. Letting visitors enjoy the culture even if they don't understand the language is a positive step, in my opinion.

That said, just today I was thinking maybe someone should open "Cinema Touristica" where films were shown in original French with English subtitles -- or surtitles on the backs of the seats, like at the Opera, with different language options -- what you so aptly call a dedicated cinema.

I believe statistic would agree that there is a huge market for it. Opening French movies in France to non-francophones has been one of my personal crusades; I admit that in true Yank fashion, I've even written impassioned emails to French cinema companies about it. (No response.) Then I gave up, figuring that there was something fundamental I just wasn't getting. See my rant post called "Let's (All) go to the Movies" last year.

Polly-Vous Francais said...

The rant:

Anonymous said...

Do you have the quote at the end of the movie in French? I just saw it today, it was really good.

Polly-Vous Francais said...


I hope you enjoyed it! I only wrote down what I remembered from the film. I got it almost right... I found this video clip where you can hear most of what he says at the end of the film. "Ils mangent, ils courent, ils respirent..."

P.S. I have a few other favorite moments in this film -- when Romain Duris and his sister's work colleague are beginning to embrace awkwardly and she says "Alors, a plus tard," as if they were disappearing to another zone. Also the segment when Romain's character is babysitting and he has the kids dancing to music with English lyrics nonstop "f*ck this f*ck that," which the innocent kids have no idea of; they happy and exuberant!

Steve Scottsdale said...

A few years back, my wife and I caught a first run of Kidman/Cruise "Eyes Wide Shut" at the cinema just off Bastille. Having limited French capability, it was English with French subtitles.

Philippe said...

I was at the "Cinema du Panthéon" ( yesterday and there was a French movie (La fille du 14 juillet) with English subtitles. Apparently they regularly do that.

Polly-Vous Francais said...


I'm so glad to hear that! I hope this happens more and more, and also at some of the larger cinemas (Gaumont, etc.)

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