Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

on October 28, 2008 by Steve Simels

Long story short: Found myself, improbably enough, in Paris this week (sojourning with the Ignoble Frog) and I was privileged to visit one of the most impressive museums ever. No, I don't mean the Louvre (although that was cool, too). I refer instead to the Cinemateque Francaise, where I took in a quite wonderful permanent exhibition devoted to the work of early cinema pioneer George Melies, as well as the absolutely revelatory exhibition Dennis Hopper and the New Hollywood, which makes a convincing case for the Easy Rider director/star as an important painter, sculpter and photographer above and beyond his contributions to the movies. The Hopper show will be playing in Paris through January of next year; apparently, it's coming to the States at some point, and if it plays anywhere near you most definitely check it out.

While here in the City of Lights I also found myself musing on the the ways American films are recieved abroad, specifically the way they are or aren't retitled -- inspired by this little encounter between me, Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe in the Paris Metro.

As you can see, that's an ad for the current American hit Body of Lies, playing in France as Mensonges D'Etat, which translates to Lies of State. Why that might be superior to the English original is a mystery that may never be solved, as is why some other American flicks -- Appaloosa, Quantum of Solace, W., and the immortal High School Musical 3 -- are in theatres here under their familiar American titles. A conspicuous exception is Get Smart; I found a giant subway poster for it yesterday featuring the less than evocative moniker Max the Menace. Here's the French trailer for a taste of a Gallic Steve Carrell.

In any case, as amusing as that is, it can't hold a candle to the back-in-the-day Asian version of Eleni, Peter Yates's 1985 adaptation of the eponymous non-fiction besteller. Eleni tells the story of a real-life Greek-American journalist, played by John Malkovich, who returned to his ancestral village as an adult to solve the murder of his mother during the Greek Civil War. In most countries, her name sufficed for the film's title; in Japan, however, studio executives changed it, for whatever unfathomable reasons, to the head-scratchingly literal Revenge For My Mom After Many Years.

As always, I guess the French have a phrase for it -- vive le difference.


Tags: George Melies, Easy Rider, Dennis Hopper, Leonardo DiCaprio, Russell Crowe, Appaloosa, Quantum of Solace, W., Steve Carrell, Revenge For My Mom After Many Years

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