MovieChat Forums > Le fond de l'air est rouge (1977) Discussion > I disagree with the remarks in the Trivi...

I disagree with the remarks in the Trivia section

OK, this title is translatable, but it helps to know some French. The first thing is to realize that the words "le fond de l'air" taken as a whole is idiomatic which means that even if you know the individual words, you're still not clear as to what the entire expresion means.

Here's the entry from the French dictionary, Le Petit Robert":

7¨ Fam. Le fond de l'air : ce qui semble être la température réelle, de base, indépendamment des accidents momentanés (vent, ensoleillement). Le fond de l'air est frais.

The above entry says that the expression "Le fond de l'air" refers to the actual temperature of air, independant of any such brief occurences as from wind gusts or sunbreaks.

So, according to the above, the title of this movie would translate as, "The Real Temperature is Red". This simple translation lacks the force of the original words since the original contains a variation or a play on words from an idiomatic expression.

Also at work in the original title is the use of the adjective "red" in a sense that goes beyond its normal sense, and that color red really brings up images of blood and the revolutionary flag.

The remarks in the Trivia section miss the point if you do a literal translation of the title which lieavs you looking for something in the air which cannot be since it has no substance, so the movement has no substance...

I suppose explains why other translations "Grin without a Cat" and "Base of the Air is Red" have been offered. The former is an attempt to capture the spirit of the original but declares the movement a pathetic failure, the latter simply a literal translation which makes no sense.

To say that the title of this movie suggests that the revolution was in the air but not on the ground is not an accurate statement that I would expect from anyone who knows French.

If Marker really wanted to name the film in a way that would say that the struggles of the left had been a failure, he might have used "black" instead of "red".


I may have misread your comment, but I believe the trivia section does not mean the TITLE refers to the real temperature independant of windchill. but I think it just tries to explain that the fond de l'air as in the base of the atmosphere...where the people are...the capitalists are in the the people on the STREEETS are like you said blood, revolution...I dont think the french title attempts to capture the failure but moreso the political atmosphere.

The english title grin without a cat has a totally different meaning...why they choose something that implies something different is beyond me, but I still like it. Grin without a cat is probably equivalent to all bark and no bite....but cat has capitalist connotations because of the term "fat cats" so the english title is ironic in that sense...

I may have misunderstood you though. Good topic though,, YAY FOR US KNOWING FRENCH. I love both titles though. This movie is incredible. where the F is the dvd?


I agree with both your comments on the title in French. It is a play on an idiomatic expression. The conveyed meaning is "there's sth revolutionary in the air", ie all the conditions are set for sth to happen - even though whether it will or not, and what it is exactly is not determined.
"Le fond" however is not link to altitude (pavement vs skyscrapper). Neither does the title sound pessimistic in French - on the opposite, it sounds either like an thrilling invitation or like sth threatening (depending on whichi side you're on).
I'm french myself, but i gather the English title is a reference to Marker's passion for cats, and in particular his systematic reference to the Cheshire cat. It conveys both the idea of sth imperceptible (a smile or sth revolutionary is floating in the air), smiling, and the challenge to common sense (Carroll's nonsense or revolutionary aspirations - sth different is possible).
I'm looking for the dvd as well. I used to have a VHS of the film too bad i seem to have lost. Let's keep e.o. posted on this!


My two cents to this thread.

I am french and I just want to point out that at least in the 60s and 70s I remember the expression "le fond de l'air est frais" as an almost jocular expression, a cliché used jocularly. If it's cold, and you have nothing to say but feel like you have to say something, you're bound to use one of those clichéed phrases to talk about the weather. "Le fond de l'air est frais" is (was) one of them. It just means that it is cold, colder than one would expect or think (the atmosphere seems warm at first but you gradually realize it's actually quite cold). You would expect an old person to say something like that. There was a french comic book character who always used that phrase (usually with no relevance to the situation). In a nutshell, the point of the title is the sudden change of the quiet, everyday quality of the well-known expression into something more "bloody" and political (red). That's why it's a very good title, except now I guess the expression it's based on isn't so much in use, so the "joke" must be lost on the younger generations if they ever see this title.

"You go to certain death.
- All death is certain!"