Two years ago, when I first moved to Paris, I remember telling my partner and his parents that my main goal with learning French was to be able to watch French movies without subtitles. A goal I have sort of achieved. Sort of.
Still, there are certain movies I know I won’t be able to completely understand because of the excessive use of wordplay and jokes that only the really Frenchified foreigners will get. A good example of that is the movie le dîner de cons. That movie is a 90’s classic and I know I can take my time and wait until I feel like I’ve reached a level of excellence in terms of language learning. Let’s give it a year.
What bothered me a lot when I first moved here, was how much I wanted to see certain French movies in the cinema, but couldn’t because they had no subtitles. I had the option of going to the cinema and understand absolutely nothing, or waiting patiently until the DVD-release of the movie and illegally download it from whatever sketchy website, and add subtitles found on other virus infected sites – and risk ending up with not just a computer virus, but also very poor subtitles.
Before moving to France, I used to watch a lot of French movies on Netflix…but as you may know, changing location changes your Netflix’ location and suddenly none of those movies have subtitles anymore. How frustrating is that?
My obsession with French cinema – and France in general – started when I first saw Le Fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain when I was in high school. Yeah, THAT movie. The movie made Paris look like the most romantic and charming place on earth. I didn’t care if it was realistic or not, I was in love with the idea of Paris. I wanted to live in a small apartment on Montmartre and I wanted to become a Parisian waitress. Forget about being a wealthy businesswoman, supermodel or a future president. I wanted to wait tables in Paris, cut my hair short (which does not suit me at all) and see the world through Instagram’s Valencia filter (to set the mood right, I’ve added some of my photos of Paris – all Valencia filtered).
Since my first taste of French cinema, I’ve been moved by Intouchables, laughed and felt slightly disturbed by les infidèles, felt inspired by Coco avant Chanel, re-lived the ups and downs of being an expat through l’auberge espagnole, fallen in love with un homme à la hauteur.
The last French movie I saw, was when I went to the cinema a couple of weeks ago, when Lost in Frenchlation invited me to the screening of compte tes blessures – a brilliant movie about grief, anger, love and acceptance.
So what is Lost in Frenchlation?
As quoted from their website; “Lost in Frenchlation opens up the world of French cinema to the international community of Paris by screening the latest French films with English subtitles, and hosting drinks before or after the screening so that the international crowd can meet each other and native Parisians”.
Manon Kerjean, co-founder of Lost in Frenchlation was quite busy mingling with all the guests when I was there for the screening, and introverted little me usually go hiding in the corner while attending social events, so I don’t blame her for not noticing my presence. But we managed to get an interview via e-mail, in the end – a really good one too. It just goes to show that if you’re truly passionate about something, you can make your dreams come true – and I can’t wait to visit their future full-time Parisian cinema and bar/cafe!
Tell me about Lost in Frenchlation. How did you come up with the concept?
Lost in Frenchlation was born from the frustration experienced by Matt, the co-founder who is Australian, when he came to live in Paris after we met in Berlin while studying on exchange. I wanted to share my passion of French cinema with him and realized that there wasn’t a single cinema in Paris showing French films with English subtitles. We thought it was such a shame considering how many international students, expats and tourists come to Paris, and because French cinema is such a huge part of French culture, so we decided to do something about it!
Who picks out the movies?
Most of the time I pick the movies, but Matt helps me understand what expats are likely to want to see. I studied French cinema and I want to help people discover more art-house independent films, but Matt tends to choose movies that are most attractive to the international community, such as films that are being widely advertised around Paris and talked about in peoples’ workplaces or schools etc.
What is the reason for selecting a specific movie? Personal taste, current news events, political climate etc.?
It’s actually a mix of all of that! We ask ourselves what everyone else in Paris would like to see, and then try our best to offer that experience to the international community. We want them to be as integrated into French culture as possible, so if their colleagues at work are speaking about politics and political films, then Chez Nous (This Is Our Land) for example, a controversial film about France’s far right Front National, is a great way for them to learn about contemporary French politics. We screen a variety of genres though – comedies, thrillers etc. – in a nutshell, we just try to provide our audience with what we think is the best of French cinema!
How do you envision the future of the company? Are you planning to expand?
A part of what we’re trying to do is help our audience discover great independent cinemas in different parts of Paris, so we may look to start working with cinemas in Le Marais, Champs-Élysées, or Le Quartier Latin in additional to our home cinema in Montmartre… we’ll see! More long-term and aspirationally, we’d love to one day have our own cinema where we bring French films to the international community all day, every day, maybe with a bar or cafe which could act as a hub for the international community. We may also look to start screenings with subtitles for various languages, but a full time cinema and additional languages are possibilities for the distant future at the moment!
What does an average workday at Lost in Frenchlation look like?
First we’ll catch up on any French film releases, and articles/videos about Cinema or Paris that might interest our followers. Then, we’ll watch any new trailers because as we’ve recently discovered, it takes a lot of work to come up with one film per week! There are also A LOT of emails to send to communicate each screening to as much of the English-speaking community of Paris as possible. We usually have one or two meetings a day to find new partners too, and that’s my favorite part of the day because we meet such interesting people who have the same energy and the same objectives as us. From 5pm, we focus on social media. It’s not my favorite part of the job, and there’s actually a good metaphor for it – when you want to have an active Facebook page, it’s like you created a hungry monster which you need to feed all the time!
What are your Top 3 favorite French movies – and why?
I would say Betty Blue/37°2 Le Matin by Jean-Jacques Beineix: This is my absolute favourite film. It’s also my favourite book! It’s a classic French movie from the 80s about passion and pain. It’s very powerful, and I think it really shows the intensity of French people with life and relationships. It’s quite a full on movie to begin your exploration of French film with, but it’s probably a good place to start anyway… it’s a real masterpiece. There’s the director cut DVD which is about 3 hours long, but it’s really worth it! – Jeux d’enfants (Love Me If You Dare) by Yann Samuell: Cap/Pas cap (Game on or not?) is a game that the characters start at the beginning of the film and which will last for their lifetimes. It determines every decision they make together. The chemistry between the stars Guillaume Canet and Marion Cotillard is perfect, and the couple actually went on to get married in real life after meeting during filming! Julien’s monologue as he is driving before the accident is a must-see – every romantic French person knows it! – La guerre est déclarée (Declaration of War) by Valérie Donzelli: Valérie Donzelli, the director, co-wrote the movie with the father of her son, Jérémie Elkaïm, and both star in the film which was inspired by their own personal experiences. It’s about a child who is diagnosed with a brain tumor and how his young parents, Roméo and Juliette, must come together to fight for his survival. Both actors give poetic performances and the film looks at the family bond as a beautiful declaration of love rather than war. Expect the Vivaldi music (Four Seasons – Winter) to keep playing in your head for a while…
What do you think is the main difference between French cinema and Hollywood?
I think that French cinema is original and closer to reality than many other kinds of movies. That’s probably due to the freedom left to the director, whereas sometimes in the US I think the producer has too much power over the film. In France there’s more independent, counter-stream cinema, the ‘cinéma d’auteur’, and more art-house cinema, ‘cinéma d’art et d’essai’… I also feel like some French movies tend to give more importance to the content rather than to the style of the film, and I like that. There’s typically less action, things are less obvious, and the spectator has to do a little bit more work to understand what’s going on. Because the psychology of French films is more complicated, it’s less Manichean than American cinema – there’s no black and white, but many shades of grey (excuse the pun!). I feel like I can really understand the characters and identify with them, but then again… I’m French!
How realistic do you find Hollywood’s portrayal of Paris?
Funny you ask that – actually there was a video released by the City of Paris not long ago to bring tourists back after the attacks – Paris Je T’aime. It really wasn’t typically French at all, it was very ‘Hollywood’ and fake. Two French directors responded with this an excellent video showing the real Paris – Paris, on t’aime aussi. We much prefer this second vision of Paris because it’s the one we really live in, and it’s the one we love because it’s more diverse and more exciting. We agree with the sentiment of the City of Paris though – we want the tourists to come back too!
What advice would you give to someone who wants to move to Paris?
Paris is an expensive city – do any job you can while trying to land your dream one so that you’re not burning through your cash. Make sure all of your documents are in order, e.g. your rental agreement, work contract etc. otherwise opening a bank account – or doing anything else administrative – will be an absolute nightmare. Always consult your French friends or colleagues if you’re not sure what to do – you might be instructed to do something in a particular way, but it might be widely known that there is a much faster and commonly used method for getting that task done.
Which French phrase, idiom, joke or even word would you say is impossible to translate?
‘C’est la vie’. Literally translated, it means “it is the life”, but it is more commonly used to as an expression for ‘oh well, shit happens!’ There are a lot of hidden meanings to it though and you can use it in many contexts… it’s in a lot of songs and movies!
And last but not least… why should tourists and expats watch French movies?
French cinema is undeniably a massive part of French culture. France hosts the Cannes Film Festival, and its film industry is the most active in terms of both shootings and cinema attendance – it is the world capital of cinema and French movies are one of France’s greatest arts. Tourists, expats and the rest of the international community want to experience as much French culture as possible – it’s why they’re here! With French movies, you are participating in France’s cinema culture while learning more about the French language, style, humor and general way of life. Besides being some of the highest quality cinema in the world, French movies are also highly informative and educational! And the best way to discover them is in one of our amazing art-house and typically Parisian cinemas.
Get in touch with Lost in Frenchlation for more information on upcoming events!