French film blog: Why a movie can be hilarious in France but rejected in the US

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French film blog: Why a movie can be hilarious in France but rejected in the US
The Serial Bad Weddings films were a hit at the French box office. Photo: AFP

If you ever resisted the urge to laugh during an inappropriate time or at serious subject matter, it’s safe to say that you’re probably not French, writes Khaila King from Lost in Frenchlation.


When it comes to jokes and giggles, the French don't hold back, which is why the the raunchy romantic French comedy Qu’est-ce qu’on a Encore Fait au Bon Dieu (Serial Bad Weddings 2) brought 2.15 million spectators to the theaters within its first week of release this January and 6 million within a month of its release.

The original film, Qu’est-ce qu’on a Fait au Bon Dieu, (Serial Bad Weddings) released in 2014 and directed by Philippe de Chaveron, tells the story of the Verneuils, a family composed of a Gaullist father, a Catholic mother and their four daughters finding love in very different places.

The Verneuil daughters are each married to men of a different ethnic, racial and religious backgrounds: an Algerian Muslim, a Sephardic Jew, a Han Chinese with an open perspective on religion and a Catholic West African.  


Audiences in America found the films' take on race and religion to be uncomfortable, while French audiences largely enjoyed it. Photo: AFP

They have all found love and compatibility in their partners, however, their parents have trouble coming to terms with the racial and religious differences.

After pretending to accept their sons-in-law for so long, the implicit biases eventually come to light…with the help of a a glass of wine.

Although its method of tackling topics of race and religion as a form of comic relief left some movie goers wondering, for most of the French, a couple satirical jabs at someone’s race or religion is no more offensive than a knock knock joke.

This is due to their value of “wit,” as opposed to Anglo-Saxon “humour.”

Wit is often more brutal, below the belt and mocking of others. On the flip side, Americans and the British tend to laugh at themselves as opposed to laughing at others. Anglo-saxon humour is considered to be more gentle, emotional, and genial.

The trailers of Bon Dieu 1 and 2 had zero filters, just as the French would like, using clichés and stereotypes that would be considered outdated and too far for the British and Americans.

Instead of being torn to shreds on social media, the release of the movie has received a lot of praise and accolades for its box office results.

Box office Analysis Tweeted: “Bon Dieu 2  collected $3.12m at French box-office this weekend taking its total to $53.5m. It's sequel to French blockbuster Bon Dieu which collected a little over $100m.”

A satirical music video was also released for the promotion of Bon Dieu 2 before the movie actually hit the theatres.

The video of the Verneuil sons-in-law reached over 400,000 views on YouTube and more than 9,000 likes, praised by viewers for its use of traditional French wit.

The directness used when tackling prejudice and racism aligned with French wit, appealing to many French viewers as a form of bringing individuals of different backgrounds together by recognising differences, addressing them and finding a common ground.

Contrary to the popular opinion, some French viewers found the film distasteful and they are not alone.

When the first version of the film was in the process of being released in America under the title Serial Bad Weddings, the racial and religious commentary and rhetoric intended for laughter was found questionable by US distributors. In fear of stirring up controversy, the film never actually made it to the big screen in America.

The differences in culture and political climate that exist between the French and Americans make it very easy for film plots and humor to get lost in translation.

However, despite the controversy, the two box office hits were able to get millions of viewers from different walks of life together in front of the big screen for a night of laughter and critique.

Lost in Frenchlation screen new French films at cinemas in Paris with English subtitles. To see their upcoming events, visit their website here.




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