France is rightly known as the birthplace of the Septième Art. French films regularly make the top of year-end best-of lists, win prestigious prizes and are shown all over the world, dubbed or subtitled into the audience’s local language. Which creates an interesting dilemma for non-French speakers in France.
How to enjoy the best of French cinema if you have trouble following the plot and dialogue?
That’s where Lost in Frenchlation comes in. Founded in December 2015, this genius idea brings the best of French cinema to Paris’ international community, showing French films with English subtitles in some of the city’s most beloved independent cinemas, often accompanied by convivial drinks beforehand and a discussion with the filmmakers afterward.
On their seventh anniversary, as they expand their offerings to other cities like Caen and Biarritz, INSPIRELLE spoke with co-founder Manon Kerjean to find out the inspiration behind Lost in Frenchlation. She explained how it sustains its tight-knit community of cinephiles, and what’s in store for the future, including an INSPIRELLE movie night scheduled for January 30 at 7pm.
See below for details on INSPIRELLE’s movie night!
How did you first get the idea to create “Lost in Frenchlation” for English-speaking film buffs in Paris? What was the process like to make it happen?
Matt (Lost in Frenchlation’s co-founder) and I came up with the idea seven years ago when we were both living in Paris, but Matt didn’t speak French. We searched everywhere for a cinema showing French films with English subtitles and couldn’t find one, so we decided to do something about it! We met during our student exchange in Berlin and didn’t speak German – I remember going to a cinema that showed German films with English subtitles and thought it was a great way to discover the culture and feel more immersed in the city.
Why is it better to watch a subtitled movie rather than listen to a dubbed version?
Firstly, to respect the filmmakers’ work. The dialogues are written for a particular language, and for specific actors, I think it’s a cinematic sin to watch a dubbed film! I remember booking tickets for a screening of Gone Girl dubbed in French by mistake with Matt – I had to translate the whole film to him! It was quite ironic.
Secondly, it helps to practice the language – hearing French in action, with different speech rates, accents, slang… But if your level of French is good enough, the best option is to add French subtitles.
How do you choose which films to screen and where?
I choose our films based on the director, the actors, and what is available from the distributors. I like to surprise our audience, but I also base my decision on what I think they would like to see – with surveys and polls on social media. Importantly, I want the evening to offer a sample of the French cinema experience, whether it is a comedy, drama, classic or recently released, fiction or documentary.
I only work with small, independent, arthouse theatres, which have a bar inside to make it possible to have drinks before or after the film and mingle with other spectators – the community aspect is very important. At the moment I work with 4 theatres, in chosen neighborhoods of Paris (Champs-Elysées, Saint-Germain des Prés, Montparnasse, Le Marais).
Your screenings often feature “extras” like an apéro, a Q&A with a filmmaker or actor, or a cinema tour of Paris. How do you come up with these related activities? Are there any you dream of doing but haven’t yet?
I try my best to organize activities around the film, so that it’s not just about the movie-going experience, but completely new access to the French culture – stand-up comedy, film-inspired French food, dance shows, concerts… anything the theme of the film inspires in me! It’s a great way to support other small businesses like mine, often run by young women, it mixes and strengthens our audience. I dream of organizing immersive cinema experiences, mixing cinema and theater, like Secret Cinema in London. Maybe soon…
What is the live interaction like between your guests and the international audience? Any special moments that pop into your head?
Film crews enjoy coming to our events as the audience is very different from the French one, and their point of view on their film is very important for them.
When you do 50 Q&As to promote your film in French, one Q&A in English can be very refreshing!
It’s also a good way to get a word of mouth outside of the French territory. Our audience is very thankful to get the opportunity to meet them in person, so the quality of the dialogue is often very valuable.
Recently, French actor Damien Bonnard asked where everyone was coming from, more than 20 countries were represented in the theater. He said he imagined the Lost in Frenchlation community living in a big house together watching French movies all day!
How does French cinema distinguish itself from Hollywood and other film industries?
France is where cinema was born, and where it continues to thrive with more freedom than anywhere else. In Hollywood, the producer has a lot power over the finished product, whereas in France there is a lot of liberty given to the director. This has created the norm of independent, counter-stream, and art-house cinema in France. The best way to explain the difference between the film industries is that American cinema is more black and white in terms of comprehension while French cinema lives in the gray area. There is also a greater emphasis on content/plot in French films than a commitment to aesthetic style.
Tell us about your three favorite French films and why?
37°2 Le Matin (Betty Blue) by Jean-Jacques Beineix. I think it really shows the intensity of French people towards life and relationships.
Mon Roi (My King) by Maiwenn, because it’s a roller coaster of emotions with just enough happy and funny moments thrown into the overall somewhat tragic story to make sure you’re enjoying the film and having fun.
Les Demoiselles de Rochefort (The Young Girls of Rochefort) by Jacques Demy, the most cheerful film in French cinema history (I know we have the reputation for making quite depressing films!) it’s like a Hollywood musical set in France in the 60s, starring Catherine Deneuve. I play the soundtrack at each Lost in Frenchlation event!
What can we expect next from “Lost in Frenchlation”?
We just celebrated our 7-year anniversary in Paris in December with a comedy night, and have other special events planned, including Q&As with film crews, and a collaboration with Women of Paris as well as with the association Serve the City Paris. We’ll also be exporting the concept in Normandy at Le Café des Images as well as in Charente at CinéMarthon, and we’ll continue our collaboration with cinema “Le Royal” in Biarritz!