Saturday, October 29, 2005

L'Amour dans tous ses états

Last night, I had the great privilege of seeing Manon Landowski and André Nerman in concert. The show, entitled L'Amour dans tous ses états (Love In All Its Forms), was an enthralling series of theater vignettes interspersed with classic chansons. I especially liked Manon's rendition of Mon amant de Saint-Jean; she gave it just the right amount of sweetness and sadness.

The show itself was wonderful--the songs and scenes chosen were perfect for showing the different ways that love plays out, from the couple who just needs a good argument to make them realize how in love they are, to the golddigging woman who has convinced herself she is in love with a rich man until she finds he's really penniless.

The issue I had--and, as I think we've all learned by now, I wouldn't have a blog if there weren't an issue--was with the show's title. L'Amour dans tous ses états was the most fitting title I could think of, after having seen the show. For advertising purposes, however, the Alliance Française decided to change the title to Bons baisers de Paris, translating it as From Paris, With Love.

This upsets me on multiple levels: First, the original title (and its direct translation) was absolutely perfect for conveying the content of the show. Why mess with that? Second, the translation between Bons basiers de Paris and From Paris, With Love is loose at best--and doesn't really convey what the show is about. Lastly, those two titles tend to reinforce something I find undesirable about Americans: namely that they think that everything that is French must come from Paris by default.

Of course, this is not so, but when you say you've lived in France, Americans automatically ask if you were living in Paris. Last I checked, France had many more major cities that could be asked about. I can't tell you how many of my friends and acquaintances still refer to my time abroad as "When you were living in Paris." This bothers me, as France has many more cities to offer with tourist destinations more exciting and awe-inspiring than the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre.

So, I was disappointed in the title-swapping that went on...the show was geared toward francophiles to begin with, so why even try to market it to a wider audience? We had the theater pretty much packed as it was--I don't think changing the title had anything to do with ticket sales. There was a table of two elderly couples immediately in front of me that evening, and they were very vocal about the fact that they couldn't understand a thing. I don't know where they got the idea that the show would be in English...oh, wait--MAYBE it was because the TITLE was in English! I think they were expecting Maurice Chevalier-style "French" songs, which consist entirely of heavily-accented English.

Needless to say, they had four very unsatisfied customers at the theater last night.

photo: Manon Landowski, from


Sangroncito said...

There is so much of France that I want to see....I'm afraid I haven't seen much outside of Paris..yet.

Neil said...

I agree with you, but it isn't a specifically American thing. Have you ever seen how book and movie titles are translated into other languages, trying to make the title cultural specific to that country? I think most people around the world think most Americans either live in New York or Texas.

Melanie said...

You're probably right--most people asked me if I lived in New York, and I had to tell them that PA is "pretty close" to NYC, even though it's really not. But in the French mind, there are four states in the US: New York, Louisiana, California and Texas. They think that Washington DC is floating somewhere in the middle of those four.

You wouldn't believe how popular Tex Mex restaurants are over there!

Lauren said...

Paris overshadowing the rest of France pisses me off too. I would go on a rant, but you already did, so, you know, ditto.