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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

So the Comédie-Française today has around

soixante comédiens dans sa troupe,

sixty players in its troupe,

parmi les plus célèbres comédiens français.

among the most famous French actors.

Captions 40-41, Mathilde - La Comédie-Française

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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.

Caption 43, Mathilde - La Comédie-Française

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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

Molière supposedly died onstage 

en interprétant le rôle mythique d'Argan

while interpreting the mythic role of Argan

dans une de ses plus célèbres pièces...

in one of his most famous plays...

Captions 36-38, Mathilde - La Comédie-Française

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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": des metteurs en scène prestigieux d'ailleurs qui ont des prix...

...and eminent film directors, incidentally, who won prizes...

Caption 27, Festival du cinéma chinois - Coup d'envoi à Richelieu

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Et pour rendre hommage à ces femmes

And to pay homage to these women

si chères au cœur du cinéaste...

who are so dear to the filmmaker's heart...

Caption 40, Festival du cinéma chinois - Coup d'envoi à Richelieu

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...en présence du réalisateur et de son actrice Anouk Aimée. the presence of the director and of its actress Anouk Aimée.

Caption 43, Festival du cinéma chinois - Coup d'envoi à Richelieu

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


...mais surtout scénariste de bon nombre

...but more importantly screenwriter of a good number

de films signés Lelouch.

of films signed "Lelouch."

Caption 10, Festival du cinéma chinois - Coup d'envoi à Richelieu

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


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Sous-titre 38, 37, 36, 43, 41, 40

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