How did the idea of Lost in Frenchlation come about?
Manon: It was born out of the frustration that Matt and I felt when we couldn’t go to the cinema together to see the French films advertised all over Paris. While I’m French, Matt is Australian and his French is… developing! The language barrier means that the international community of Paris are excluded from enjoying an important element of French culture and one of France’s greatest arts. It’s a shame and that’s why we decided to start Lost in Frenchlation.
Matt: It was actually the Canadian-French film ‘Mommy’ from Xavier Dolan which gave us the ‘lightbulb moment’. We searched every cinema in Paris to try to find that movie with English subtitles but had no luck. That’s when we realised that we mustn’t be the only ones feeling this frustration.
With that in mind, finding a cinema to agree to screening with English subtitles couldn’t have been easy?
Matt: We were actually extremely lucky with finding our first cinema, the beautiful Studio 28 in Montmartre which houses the oldest cinema room in Paris. Manon grew up close to Studio 28 and always dreamed of working with them, so we naturally reached out to them first and fortunately they were really receptive to the idea. Finding additional cinemas to work with has proved more difficult – we’ve had cinema owners laughing at the idea of showing French films with English subtitles because they were sure that no one would come… we dodged a few bullets there! We’re now also working with the charming and typically Parisian cinema, Le Brady, located on Boulevard de Strasbourg.
Manon: Studio 28 has always been my favourite cinema in Paris. Luckily the owner was really happy to work with young people and to renew his audience with people coming from all over of the world.
And it’s been plain sailing since?
Matt: As you’d expect, it took a short while for the international community to learn about what we do, but we were surprised by how quickly people warmed to the idea. By our third screening, ‘Mon Roi’, we sold out for the first time which was a great feeling. It hasn’t all been plain sailing though… it was a bit tough over the summer months because of the beautiful weather outside, but we tried to adapt by working with the ‘Mairie du 11ème’ during their annual ‘La Chaise et L’Ecran’ outdoor cinema festival where 3 short films were screened with English subtitles so that the international community could also participate in the event.
Manon: We celebrated Lost in Frenchlation’s 1st birthday a few weeks ago and we’re very proud of what we’ve achieved so far! Of course we’ve had some ups and downs, particularly with finding copies of the films we want to show with English subtitles. There are typically only a couple of subtitled copies of French films, if subtitled copies exist at all, and distributors are often confused when they find out that we want a copy for a screening in Paris!
How is the event structured?
Manon: At Studio 28, tickets officially go on sale at the cinema at about 8pm. We also start selling our film-themed cocktail at 8pm, so people can enjoy a drink and catch up with friends while waiting for the cinema room doors to open. At around 8:30pm/8:45pm, it starts getting very busy and we’re often sold out by this time! We start to let people into the cinema room between 9pm and 9:15pm when we do a little speech to introduce Lost in Frenchlation and the film.
Matt: At Le Brady, the second cinema we’re now working with, things are a bit different. Tickets are only available online, so people tend to arrive closer to the start of the film which is normally at 7pm. Unlike Studio 28, our screenings at Le Brady have drinks after the film rather than before.
Clearly there’s an interest in French cinema among expats…
Matt: There is a lot of interest from the international community, and we think it comes back to the fact that most people come to Paris to experience its culture, and French cinema is an important part of that which just wasn’t accessible before Lost in Frenchlation… or the opportunity to experience it within a Parisian cinema wasn’t anyway! It’s not only that though – the way that the French are so successful with balancing art and entertainment in their films is really something impressive which keeps people wanting to experience more and more.
Manon: I’ve noticed that a lot of expats actually know French cinema pretty well, but it’s from online platforms like VOD or Netflix etc., so they’ve never had the Parisian cinema experience which is so typical for native Parisians. On the other hand, we also have a lot of expats at our events who have never watched a single French film before coming to our events – apart from ‘Chocolat’, which actually isn’t even French (and wasn’t released in France!).
There’s more to it! In December’s screening of ‘Divines’, director Houda Benyamina personally introduced the movie to the audience…
Manon: Indeed! I reached out to her to tell her how much we and everyone enjoyed her movie and how thankful I was to her because we need more movies like ‘Divines’ in France. I also asked if she would be willing to come to talk with our audience who were so stunned and impressed after our previous screening that no one got out of their seats for about 5 minutes – I had never seen this happen before! She agreed and the Q&A session was really interesting; Houda was so natural and close to people, even after winning the Caméra d’Or prize at the Cannes Film Festival this year! It was amazing.
Matt: That was actually the second time we’ve had an opportunity. For Lost in Frenchlation’s first screening we chose to show ‘Amélie’ because it’s one of France’s most famous films and because it was based in Montmartre, like Studio 28. One of the advantages of showing ‘Amélie’ was that the screenwriter was also a local and was kind enough to agree to come and introduce the film for us!
2016 was a great year for Lost in Frenchlation, what can we expect to see in 2017?
Matt: We’re going into 2017 with 2 screenings a month with the view to again increase the frequency of our events throughout the year. Ideally, we’d like to finish 2017 with 4 screenings a month, but that will depend entirely on if we can continue to fill cinema rooms with twice as many events happening! Irrespective of how many screenings we’re doing though, the international community can continue to expect us to bring them the French cinema experience and the best French films.
Manon: A part of what we’re trying to do is help our audience discover great independent cinemas in different parts of Paris, so there is also the chance that we’ll start working with cinemas in Le Marais or Le Quartier Latin as well… we’ll see! More long-term and aspirationally, we’d love to one day have our own cinemas 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 expats etc… We may also look to start screenings with subtitles for languages other than English, but both of these are very far away!
Favourite line from a movie?
MATT: ‘Je te connais pas en fait, on se connaît pas en fait’ (‘I don’t know you actually, we don’t know each other actually’) from ‘Mon Roi’ (‘My King’) by Maiwenn.
MANON: ‘Qu’est-ce que c’est, dégueulasse?’ (‘What’s a scumbag?’) from ‘À Bout de Souffle’ (‘Breathless’) by Godard.
Favourite French Director?
MATT: Houda Benyamina. She might have only made one feature film, but her talent is so clear in ‘Divines’ and she spoke with amazing passion when introducing the film at our event.
MANON: Cédric Klapish. I just love his vision of Paris.
Favourite French movie?
MATT: ‘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.
MANON: ’37°2 Le Matin’ (‘Betty Blue’) by Jean-Jacques Beineix. I think it really shows the intensity of French people with life and relationships.
Favourite French Actor?
MATT: Louis Garrel. He is hilarious in ‘Mon Roi’ and also showed his true talent and acting agility when playing a completely different role in ‘Mal de Pierres’.
MANON: Valérie Donzelli. Especially in ‘La Guerre Est Déclarée’. She also is the director of the film which is inspired by her own life.
Favourite snack during a movie?
MATT: Maltesers and salty popcorn… at the same time.
MANON: I don’t snack during movies! French people hate that, it’s very American. As a matter of fact, we don’t sell popcorn at the cinema which some of our audience
struggles to understand!