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

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.

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

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Dieu 1 and 2 had zero filters, just as the French would like, using clichés and stereotypes that would be considered outdated and too far for the British and Americans.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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French films with English subtitles to watch in November

As days get shorter and temperatures drop, November is a great month to enjoy a warm and comforting moment at the cinema. Here’s a round up of the French movies with English subtitles to see in Paris this month.

Cinema in France
Photo: Loic Venance/AFP

The cinema group Lost in Frenchlation runs regular screenings of French films in the capital, with English subtitles to help non-native speakers follow the action. The club kicks off every screening with drinks at the cinema’s bar one hour before the movie, so it’s also a fun way to meet people if you’re new to Paris.

These are the events they have coming up in November.

Friday, November 5th

Boîte Noire – What happened on board the Dubai-Paris flight before it crashed in the Alps? In this thriller Matthieu, a young and talented black box analyst played by Pierre Niney (star of Yves Saint-Laurent among other movies) is determined to solve the reason behind this deadly crash, no matter the costs. 

The screening will take place at the Club de l’étoile cinema at 8pm. But you can arrive early for drinks at the bar from 7pm. 

Tickets are €10 full price, €8 for students and all other concessions, and can be reserved here.

Sunday, November 14th

Tralala – In the mood for music? This new delightful French musical brings you into the life of Tralala (played by Mathieu Amalric), a 48 years old, homeless and worn-out street singer, who one day gets mistaken for someone else. Tralala sees an opportunity to get a better life by taking on a new personality. He now has a brother, nephews, ex-girlfriends, and maybe even a daughter. But where is the lie? Where is the truth? And who is he, deep down?

The night will start with drinks from 6pm followed by the screening at 7pm at the Luminor Hôtel de Ville cinema. There is also a two-hour cinema-themed walk where you’ll be taken on a “musicals movie tour” in the heart of Paris, which begins at 4pm.

Tickets cost €10, or €8 for students and concessions, and can be found here. Tickets for the walking tour cost €20 and must be reserved online here.

Thursday, November 18th

Illusions Perdues – Based on the great novel series by Honoré de Balzac between 1837 and 1843, this historical drama captures the writer Lucien’s life and dilemmas who dreams about a great career of writing and moves to the city to get a job at a newspaper. As a young poet entering the field of journalism, he is constantly challenged by his desire to write dramatic and eye-catching stories for the press. But are they all true?

The evening will kick off with drinks at L’Entrepôt cinema bar at 7pm, followed by the movie screening at 8pm. Tickets are available online here, and cost €8.50 full price; €7 for students and all other concessions.

Sunday, November 21st

Eiffel – Having just finished working on the Statue of Liberty, Gustave Eiffel (played by Romain Duris) is tasked with creating a spectacular monument for the 1889 Universal Exposition in Paris. It’s ultimately his love story with Adrienne Bourgès (Emma Mackey) that will inspire him to come up with the idea for the Eiffel Tower.

After a first screening last month, Lost in Frenchlation is organising a new one at the Luminor Hôtel de Ville cinema, with pre-screening drinks at the cinema bar. 

Tickets cost €10, or €8 for students and concessions, and can be found here

Thursday, November 25th

Les Héroïques – Michel is a former junkie and overgrown child who only dreams of motorbikes and of hanging out with his 17-year-old son Léo and his friends. But at 50 years old, he now has to handle the baby he just had with his ex, and try not to make the same mistakes he has done in the past. 

The film will be followed by a Q&A with the director Maxime Roy who will discuss his very first feature. 

Tickets cost €10, or €8 for students and concessions, and can be found here.

Full details of Lost in Frenchlation’s events can be found on their website or Facebook page. In France, a health pass is required in order to go to the cinema.