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French Theater and Film Words

Our new videos this week feature a wealth of vocabulary related to the performing arts. In the first, our newest presenter Mathilde talks about the Comédie-Française, one of France's most iconic state theaters. Though the theater has the word comédie in its name (and was founded by one of France's greatest comic playwrights, Molière), it stages all kinds of theater pieces, both comic and tragic. In fact, the word comédie doesn't only mean "comedy." It can also mean "acting" in general. Likewise, un comédien/une comédienne is not merely "a comedian":

 

Donc la Comédie-Française aujourd'hui a environ soixante comédiens dans sa troupe, parmi les plus célèbres comédiens français.
So the Comédie-Française today has around sixty players in its troupe, among the most famous French actors.
Cap. 40-41, Mathilde: La Comédie-Française

 

You can also simply say un acteur/une actrice for "actor/actress." And if you want to specify that you're talking about a comic actor (i.e., a comedian), you can say un/une comique or un/une humoriste

 

The phrase jouer la comédie means "to act" or "to be an actor." Sometimes it's just shortened to jouer (which also means "to play"):

 

Ils jouent aussi pour d'autres théâtres. 
They also act for other theater companies.
Cap. 43, Mathilde: La Comédie-Française

 

Don't confuse that expression with faire de la comédie, which means "to make a fuss" or "a scene."

 

In this tragic tidbit about Molière's final performance, we find two interesting theater-related words: 

 

Molière serait mort en scène en interprétant le rôle mythique d'Argan dans une de ses plus célèbres pièces...
Molière supposedly died onstage while interpreting the mythic role of Argan in one of his most famous plays...
Cap. 36-38, Mathilde: La Comédie-Française

 

While une scène can refer to a scene in a play, it also refers to the stage on which the play is performed. The word for "play," une pièce, is short for pièce de théâtre (theater piece). 

 

Our second video takes us from the world of theater to the world of film. It documents a Chinese film festival in the town of Richelieu headed by one of France's most famous film directors, Claude Lelouch. The video contains not one but three different words for "director": 

 

...et des metteurs en scène prestigieux d'ailleurs qui ont des prix...
...and eminent film directors, incidentally, who won prizes...
Cap. 27, Festival du cinéma chinois: Coup d'envoi à Richelieu

 

Et pour rendre hommage à ces femmes si chères au cœur du cinéaste...
And to pay homage to these women who are so dear to the filmmaker's heart...
Cap. 40, Festival du cinéma chinois: Coup d'envoi à Richelieu

 

...en présence du réalisateur et de son actrice Anouk Aimée.
...in the presence of the director and of its actress Anouk Aimée.
Cap. 43, Festival du cinéma chinois: Coup d'envoi à Richelieu

 

On the other hand, there's only one word for "screenwriter"—scénariste (from scénario, "screenplay" or "script"):

 

...mais surtout scénariste de bon nombre de films signés Lelouch.
...but more importantly screenwriter of a good number of films signed "Lelouch."
Cap. 10, Festival du cinéma chinois: Coup d'envoi à Richelieu

 

Thanks for reading! If you have any questions or comments, feel free to write to us at newsletter@yabla.com or tweet us @yabla.

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